Ask anyone who’s been a Scout, and they’ll tell you just as surely as they can recite the Scout Oath and Law: to reach Eagle Scout, you must fulfill all requirements before your 18th birthday. Period. And yet, recent news coverage highlighted one man, Hugh White, who received his Eagle Scout Award at age 65. (And no, this isn’t a “Bald Eagle” Scout like Joe Kita in Men’s Health, who recreated the path to Eagle as an adult, but did not receive the actual award.) Then how is this possible, you ask?
The story is not as confusing as it may seem … As required, Hugh White completed all the necessary steps for the Eagle Scout Award at age 15 – well before his 18th birthday – but a change in his troop’s leadership and scheduling issues impeded the final board of review. Fifty years passed until White stumbled upon his completed Eagle Scout application in his mother’s attic. He submitted the application as documented evidence of his completed requirements to the National Service Center. Once the application was verified, White was granted a board of review by the National Service Center to be conducted by the local council. Subsequently, advancing to Eagle Scout.
What the Guide to Advancement Says
In 2011, the Guide to Advancement (formerly known as the Advancement Committee Policies and Procedures) was released to clarify existing policies and procedures. Today, the Guide to Advancement 2015 includes updated information on the board of review, special circumstances, and responsibilities for leaders at the council, district and unit level, along with many other topics.
For matters such as White’s, section 22.214.171.124 explains, “It is possible for those who completed the requirements for the Eagle Scout rank in their youth, but never received it, to obtain credentials necessary for acquiring it. If a board of review was not held, and the individual met the BSA membership eligibility rules in effect at the time, then a board of review may be requested. In any case, all requirements must have been completed before age 18.”
To further understand how a Scout could possibly earn his Eagle, decades after his 18th birthday, Scouting Wire caught up with National Advancement Committee Advisor Mike Lo Vecchio to shed some light on Hugh White’s unique case.
SW: How rare is this type of case?
ML: We have multiple accounts of belated eagle requests. However, many of the requests are denied because they cannot substantiate the completed requirements with concrete evidence (blue card, completed Eagle Scout application, newspaper articles, etc.). A small percentage of requests are granted, but in Mr. White’s case, he found his application. It was filled out, signed and dated. We keep records of all approved, dismissed and denied cases.
SW: Any examples that come to mind?
ML: In fact, we had one gentleman who was in his board of review, his father however, was in the hospital dying. The Scout’s mother interrupted the board of review and said he needed to get to the hospital. He left right then and there – never completing the board of review. So, circumstances vary. For example during the war time, young men were called in to serve and never had their board of review. In both cases, all requirements leading up to the review were fulfilled. Thus, they were granted a board of review and advanced to Eagle.
SW: What’s the Eagle Scout process like?
ML: Eagle Scouts must complete their merit badges, service project, a position of responsibility and unit leader conference. Furthermore, the Scouts must prepare the Eagle Scout Service Project Workbook and complete the official Eagle Scout Rank Application with appropriate signatures included. A copy of the application should then be delivered to the Council Service Center (which does not need to be submitted before the 18th birthday). If everything is proven authentic, the council provides a verification signature and sends the documents to the designated board of review chair/volunteer.
SW: Why is it so important to uphold the integrity of the award?
ML: Since 1912, the Eagle Scout rank has represented a milestone of accomplishment that is recognized across the country. Eagle Scout is not just an award; it’s who you are. It’s important to maintain the rank’s renown prestige with a formal application process. Policies are in place to ensure that the integrity of the award is protected. We tell councils and volunteers to have the advancement guide available for that reason.