What they’re saying about our 2 millionth Eagle

June 19, 2009

St. Paul Pioneer Press ran an article today on Anthony Thomas of Lakeville, Minnesota, the Scout designated the 2 millionth Eagle Scout.

Caption from the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press:  Anthony Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, will encourage other Scouts to work towards the Eagle rank. (Pioneer Press: JOHN DOMAN)

Caption from the St. Paul, Minnesota, Pioneer Press: Anthony Thomas, 16, of Lakeville, will encourage other Scouts to work towards the Eagle rank. (Pioneer Press: JOHN DOMAN)

In a sort of luck-of-the-draw deal, Thomas has been named Scouting’s national youth ambassador for Scouting’s 100th anniversary in 2010.  He’s scheduled to meet with President Barack Obama, to ride in the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, and for dozens of other less well-known affairs.

On Wednesday, he helped Northern Star Council celebrate the opening of a new Scout Camp, at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

It was a special day, according to coverage at Northern Star Council’s website:

History was made as Thomas was introduced as the BSA’s two millionth Eagle by Minnesota State leaders. Making the presentation were Associate Justice Christopher Dietzen, Representative Kate Knuth and Representative Cy Thao.  Each shared their reflections on the importance of Scouting in their lives and then read a Proclamation from Governor Pawlenty declaring June 17 as “2 Millionth Eagle Scout Day” in Minnesota.

Scouting began awarding Eagle badges in 1912 — Thomas Eldred was the first Eagle.  The 1 millionth Eagle was awarded in 1982, 70 years later.  It’s been 27 years for the second million.  About 100 million boys are or were Boy Scouts since 1910.

You’d think this news would be a bigger deal.  Why isn’t this news going farther, faster?

Send this to your local newspapers and television stations — ask them to make a note of Thomas’s achievement, to encourage local kids.

More news stories:

Other resources:

Never hike alone

April 30, 2009

Not even if you’re an Eagle Scout.

Scott Mason of Halifax, Massachusetts, survived three nights on snowy Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.  He nursed his sprained ankle, and kept warm with fires he started using hand sanitizer.

(Boston Globe) Mason later told his mother that he had tweaked his leg during the hike and that it was bothering him. As a precaution, he was taken to the Androscoggin Valley Regional Hospital, where he was evaluated and released.

Back in Halifax, his troop issued a statement, “Boy Scouts of America Troop 39 Halifax, Massachusetts, is extremely pleased with the positive outcome of this incident. Scott is a bright young man and our most experienced hiker. We have no doubt that he put all of his training and skills to use in order to come through this ordeal.”

Mason received an award two years ago for collecting more than 3,200 pounds of food for the Greater Boston Food Bank and the Pine Street Inn. For his Eagle Scout project, he collected the food by leaving boxes at Halifax area businesses. He has been a Boy Scout since he was 11.

Not only is Scouting an adventure, it prepares you to get out of even your own mistakes.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Randy Possehl on the Scouts-L list.

Scout earns all 121 merit badges, in Ardmore, Oklahoma

March 22, 2009

Another Scout joined the exclusive club of those who earned all the possible merit badges.

Wes Weaver, already an Eagle Scout, added the last of his merit badges late last month, according to KXII Channel 12 in Sherman, Texas (covering the border area around Lake Texoma).

“In 2008, there were 20 scouts across the county who had gotten all 121 merit badges. I’m adding my name to that list,” Wes says.

Eagle Scout Wes Weaver, of Ardmore, Oklahoma Troop 121 - earned all 121 merit badges - Ada Evening News photo

But Weaver’s accomplishments don’t end with badges. The teen also earned his Eagle Scout award by building a 112-foot bridge over a creek bed in Lake Murray State Park. It was no easy task with the rugged terrain

“Just digging the holes I was thinking I’m never going to be done. All my weekends are going to be spent out here digging holes,” Wes says.

“It was scheduled to take between two to three months. It ended up taking a year and 6 months,” says Wes’s father, Rusty Weaver.

Rusty helped his son plan out the bridge and construct it, along with the rest of Troop 112. Now all kinds of area bicyclists, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the state park a little more.  [video available here]

Keeping with an interesting if perplexing tradition, bugling was the last merit badge he earned.  Weaver had aimed for 121 since he first became a Boy Scout, and his Scoutmaster, David Mannas challenged the troop to earn their Eagle rank and then go beyond the 44 merit badges Manass had earned.

Many of Weaver’s merit badges were earned in the traditional fashion, at the many summer and winter camps he attended over the years. Weaver’s father, Rusty Weaver, became the Scoutmaster of Troop 112 and is a Climbing Director for Arbuckle Area Council. “My dad would be at camp two to four weeks a summer so I stayed at camp and took all the merit badge classes I could. Before I knew it, I had 80 merit badges.”

He attends Plainview High School concurrently with Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics, Regional Center and looks forward to finalizing his college plans.

Weaver was recognized for his rare achievement at the Arbuckle Area Council Annual Recognition Banquet, Feb. 28 at Camp Simpson in Bromide. His parents are Trish and Rusty Weaver, Ardmore.


Previous notes at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

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Amarillo Scout: 121 merit badges, and more

January 2, 2009

Here’s a good story we missed back in September.  This is one more example of outstanding achievement by a good kid, a Scout, that slips by largely unremarked.

Amarillo Scout Coleman Carter got his 121st merit badge in his troop’s court of honor.  He had earned his Eagle Rank in September 2004.

Carter’s 121st badge?  Bugling.  He doesn’t play the trumpet or bugle, so it was difficult. Bugling was also the last badge earned by the New York Scout, Shawn Goldsmith.  Is this a trend?  My recollection is that at least one other member of 121-Merit Badge Club got bugling last.

Amarillo Eagle Scout Carter Coleman - Amarillo Globe photo

Amarillo Eagle Scout Carter Coleman - Amarillo Globe photo

Earning every merit badge in the book is just one of Carter’s achievements, however.  He’s a National Merit Scholar, ranked #1 in his class at Tascosa High School, and studentbody president.  You can read several of his acheivements here, in the Amarillo Globe-News — and remember, this was before his junior year (he’s a senior this year).

Better, go read what Globe-News columnist Jon Mark Beilue wrote on September 24, 2008, “Scout blows it out.”

Coleman is a member of Troop 87, sponsored by St. Thomas the Apostle ChurchAmarillo is in the Golden Spread Council, BSA, which serves the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

Mr. Coleman is not the first to accomplish this feat, nor will he be the last, I suspect.  I do wish that troops, districts and councils would do more to spread the news of such outstanding feats by Scouts.  A press release kept online, with photos, would have been nice.  (While we’re ranting, would it be so difficult for the Amarillo Globe-News to put its name on its website?  Or has the Globe-News gone out of business?)

Beyond what is required: Another Scout earns all merit badges

December 30, 2008

From Oceanside, Long Island, New York, we get brief reports of an Eagle Scout, Shawn Goldsmith, who earned all 121 merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America.  He finished work on his last badge, for bugling, in November.

Eagle Scout Shawn Goldsmith, Troop 240, Greater New York Council - Goldsmith earned all 121 Merit Badges - Photo from GNY Council

Eagle Scout Shawn Goldsmith, Troop 240, Greater New York Council - Goldsmith earned all 121 Merit Badges - Photo from GNY Council

From WBBH, Channel 2, an NBC affiliate television news operation on Long Island:

Goldsmith says he took about five years to earn his first 62 badges and then nearly doubled that number in a matter of months. He did it with the encouragement of his grandmother, who died shortly before he reached his goal. He was awarded his final badges on Dec. 19.

Goldsmith is a freshman at Binghamton University and hopes to become a businessman and politician.

Shawn is a member of Troop 240, Greater New York Council (Bronx), whose chartered organization is Riverdale Presbyterian Church.  Shawn was editor of his high school’s newspaper, and he served as an intern in the Long Island office of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

More information:

Related posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:

Update – other mentions:

Earning every Boy Scout merit badge

July 14, 2008

Dan Bates served on the staff at Camp Maple Dell for at least the part of one summer when I was on junior staff there, in Utah’s Payson Canyon (1969? 1970?). Maple Dell is a Boy Scout camp operated by the Utah National Parks Council, B.S.A.

I remember Dan because he was one of those overachieving guys who had earned every possible merit badge — 121 at the time, if I recall correctly. By comparison, there are 21 merit badges necessary to earn Eagle Scout (which Dan is, also).

It didn’t go to his head at all. Dan was a great guy, from Heber, Utah, a small town up Provo Canyon in one of the world’s most beautiful valleys. Heber used to be separated from much of Utah by snow every year, but the roads are kept clear these days.

Once I asked Dan what possessed him to get every merit badge, and without pausing long, he said, “What else do you do in Heber in the winter?” It was a flip answer unexpected from the usually more sober Bates.

I think about Dan this time of year when the news stories start appearing about a new Scout, somewhere, who has earned every merit badge. One of the common themes of these stories: Has anyone else ever done it?

Eagle Scout Travis Cochran, California, holder of every merit badge

Eagle Scout Travis Cochran, California, holder of every merit badge

In The Press-Enterprise in San Bernardino, County, California, for example, the June 25 issue reports the achievements of Travis Cochran:

If Don Townsend was a betting man he’d put money on the fact that Travis Cochran is the only Boy Scout to have earned every merit badge and the Bronze and Silver Hornaday Medals.

Cochran, 18, of Cedarpines Park, earned 122 merit badges during his scouting career. Twenty-one merit badges must be earned to reach the rank of Eagle Scout.

There is a qualification in this story — Cochran also earned the Bronze and Silver Hornaday Conservation Medals — but you see the drift.

Alas, there is no central location for information about such achievements that I have ever found. Tracking the achievements of Boy Scouts, like the tremendous accomplishments of Scouts Dan Bates and Travis Cochran, generally falls to the local unit. Sometimes a local Boy Scout Council will have some information, but usually not.

History sneaks away so often because no one bothers to invite it to stick around.

Do you know of other Boy Scouts who earned every possible merit badge? We had one such Scout in the Circle 10 Council (Dallas) last year. How many others sneaked by without the hoopla they deserve?

Dan Bates, where are you these days?

Update, August 2009:  Dan Bates has been found!

Dan wrote in from Mesa, Arizona, and the Grand Canyon Council — see his note in comments, below.  Turns out I remembered it incorrectly — he had 100 merit badges, but not all of them.  His brother got them all.  Glad for the correction.  Happier to have found Mr. Bates.

Other resources:

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Science history slips away: Ralph Alpher and Big Bang

September 20, 2007

Looking for something else in an old newspaper, I came across a small obituary for Ralph Alpher. Alpher died August 12, 2007, in Austin, Texas, at the home of his son, Dr. Victor S. Alpher.

Ralph Alpher, physicist who co-hypothesized the Big Bang

Ralph Alpher, physicist who co-hypothesized the Big Bang

Ralph Alpher gave us the Big Bang. We let him slip away, almost unnoticed. Odds are you don’t recall ever hearing of Alpher. Here’s your mnemonic: The alphabet paper.

In 1948, as a graduate student under George Gamow at the George Washington University, Alpher and Robert Herman of Johns Hopkins laid the groundwork for what would become Big Bang theory, calculating how matter could arise in the Universe. Gamow, exhibiting the sense of humor for which physicists are famous, listed the authors of the paper as Alpher, Bethe, Gamow and Herman — a play on the Greek alphabet’s first three letters (alpha, beta, gamma), and a joke invoking the name of the great physicist Hans Bethe. Bethe liked the joke, consulted on the paper, and the theory of Big Bang was published.

Ralph Alpher, in Florida, 2006; Alpher home page

The name “Big Bang” was applied a few years later; Sir Frederick Hoyle and his colleagues favored a “steady state” universe, and at the time both hypotheses could accurately predict most of what was observed, and neither could be disproven. Hoyle, hoping to poke ridicule at the competing hypothesis, belittled it as “a big bang.” The name stuck. The name misleads the unwary; the theory posits a rapid expansion at the beginning of the universe and time, but not an explosion, per se.

Alpher wrote the mathematical model; the model predicted Big Bang, and specifically, it predicted the cosmic background radiation that would have been left over; it was this background radiation, the “echo” of Big Bang, that Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson stumbled across in 1965. Robert H. Dicke had invested several years in trying to discover this signature, and had to explain to Penzias and Wilson what they had found. Penzias and Wilson won the Nobel Prize for their discovery; Dicke, Alpher, Herman and Gamow, did not get Nobel Prizes. This is generally regarded as one of the great miscarriages of justice in Nobel Prize awards, not that Penzias and Wilson did not deserve an award, but that the chief theorists and the man who unveiled the discovery were overlooked.

This is another story of rejection leading to great discovery; it is also a rather sad story of a momentous achievement, mostly overlooked through the years.

Alpher was the son of Jewish émigrés from the Russian pogroms. His high school achievements merited a scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in 1937. MIT had a rule at the time that scholarship recipients could not work outside the school. Alpher assisted his father in building houses in the Washington, D.C. area; the family had little money, and Alpher would be unable to pay room and board without working. Discussions with MIT broke down — the offer of a scholarship was withdrawn, according to most accounts when MIT discovered he was a Jew. As so many great people of the post World War II era, he enrolled at the George Washington University.

At GWU, Alpher found Gamow as a mentor, and much of the rest is history.

The New York Times:

The paper reported Dr. Alpher’s calculations on how, as the initial universe cooled, the remaining particles combined to form all the chemical elements in the world. This elemental radiation and matter he dubbed ylem, for the Greek term defining the chaos out of which the world was born.

The research also offered an explanation for the varying abundances of the known elements. It yielded the estimate that there should be 10 atoms of hydrogen for every one atom of helium in the universe, as astronomers have observed.

Months later, Dr. Alpher collaborated with Robert Herman of the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University on a paper predicting that the explosive moment of creation would have released radiation that should still be echoing through space as radio waves. Astronomers, perhaps thinking it impossible to detect any residual radiation or still doubting the Big Bang theory, did not bother to search.

The Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper, or αβγ paper, as explained by the American Institute of Physics:

When Alpher and Gamow prepared a paper on the subject, Gamow mischievously added the name of the noted nuclear physicist Hans Bethe to the list of authors so it would be called the “Alpher-Bethe-Gamow paper,” mimicking the “alpha-beta-gamma” of the first letters of the Greek alphabet. Unknown to Gamow, Bethe was a reviewer for the journal to which Gamow submitted the article. Bethe took it in good humor, later explaining, “I felt at the time that it was rather a nice joke, and that the paper had a chance of being correct, so that I did not mind my name being added to it.” Gamow also urged Herman to change his name to Delter to match delta, the next letter in the Greek alphabet. Despite Herman’s refusal, in a paper in a major scientific journal Gamow referred to “the neutron-capture theory…developed by Alpher, Bethe, Gamow and Delter.” Not least among his notable characteristics was his sense of humor.

Alpher continued in this work for a time, but joined General Electric’s labs in the 1950s. When he retired from GE, in 1986 he joined the faculty at Union College in Schenectady, New York, and taught there until 2004.

Alpher was largely overlooked for awards even while his theory was big news in astronomy and physics for the last 40 years of the 20th century. I regret that I was wholly unaware he was in Austin; how many other great contributors to science and history live among us, unrecognized, uncelebrated, and their stories unrecorded?

Alpher, Herman and Gamow - and the famous Cointreau bottle

Photo caption from AIP: A 1949 composite picture with Robert Herman on the left, Ralph Alpher on the right, and George Gamow in the center, as the genie coming out of the bottle of “Ylem,” the initial cosmic mixture of protons, neutrons, and electrons from which the elements supposedly were formed. [The Cointreau bottle from which the three drank a toast upon the acceptance of the paper, is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.]

Alpher was an Eagle Scout. I wonder whether anyone has a history of his time in Scouting?

While the Nobel Prize eluded Alpher, he collected a host of other prestigious awards and honors. Earlier this year, President Bush announced that Alpher had been awarded the National Medal of Science, which is administered by the National Science Foundation and is the highest honor for science.

. . . [T]he citation reads in part:

“For his unprecedented work in the areas of nucleosynthesis, for the prediction that universe expansion leaves behind background radiation, and for providing the model for the Big Bang theory.”

Note from George Gamow, on confirmation of Big Bang Gamow’s humor again on display — an undated note from Gamow upon the confirmation of the Big Bang, with a punny reference to Steady State backer Sir Frederick Hoyle. Image from the American Institute for Physics.

Online sources for Ralph Alpher:


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