List of Notable Scouting Alumni A-DListed Alphabetically by Last Name
Agre, Peter Courtland Agre
It’s tempting to draw a line between Dr. Peter Agre’s Chemistry merit badge—the first merit badge he earned—and his Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Unfortunately, that line would have to run through the D he was earning in high school chemistry before he dropped the course.
In any event, Scouting taught Agre far more important lessons than chemistry—lessons about values, leadership, and self-reliance. It also instilled in him a deep love for adventure in the wilderness that he shared with his son’s Boy Scout troop. As an assistant Scoutmaster, Agre also led numerous trips to one of the BSA’s high-adventure bases.
When he wasn’t leading Scout trips, Agre was leading research teams at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he served as a professor in the departments of Biological Chemistry and Medicine. It was there that he and another researcher discovered a protein that regulates how water moves in and out of cells. That discovery earned him and his colleague the 2003 Nobel Prize.
Agre likes to congratulate new Eagle Scouts on their accomplishment, and he often tells them, “The Nobel was cool, but being an Eagle Scout was cool. That was just as cool.”
Armstrong, Neil Alden
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong walked into the pages of history by stepping onto the moon’s surface. And then he did something almost as remarkable: He retired to become a college professor and private citizen, declining offers to cash in on his celebrity. As one Ohio neighbor told The Cincinnati Enquirer in 2009, “He just wanted to be a citizen in the community and take his place.”
Armstrong grew up in rural Ohio, moving 16 times for his father’s job. In 1947, he enrolled in Purdue University’s aerospace engineering program but soon joined the U.S. Navy. A naval aviator at age 19, Armstrong flew 78 missions over Korea. After his service, he completed his degree at Purdue and then became a civilian test pilot with NASA, logging 900 hours in a variety of aircraft.
In 1962, Armstrong joined NASA’s astronaut corps. He served as the pilot on the Gemini 8 mission and then became commander of the historic Apollo 11 mission.
Armstrong received countless honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. His description of himself was more modest: “I am, and ever will be, a whitesocks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer.”
Banks, William Augustus Banks III.
Some athletes approach sports with deadly seriousness, but not Willie Banks. One of America’s greatest triple jumpers, Banks fired up spectators before competitions and mingled with them afterwards. During some jumps, the flamboyant athlete’s sheer joy erupted into laughter.
Some of that joy stemmed from Banks’ triple-jump success. He set his first American record in 1981 at 56 feet, 7¾ inches and went on to beat that record six times, improving by more than 2 feet. In 1985, he set a world record of 58 feet, 11½ inches.
During his career, Banks represented the United States in 18 international competitions, including world championships in 1983 and 1987 and the Olympics in 1984 and 1988. He won a silver medal in 1983 and was named the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete of the Year in 1985. He joined the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1999.
“I have been fortunate enough to receive many awards and accolades,” Banks says. “In retrospect, I believe none of my achievements could have been accomplished without the lessons of desire, determination, and dedication learned from Scouting. My struggle to become an Eagle Scout provided me the necessary resources to be a success in sports, academics, and business.”
Bechtel, Stephen David Jr.
As a child, Stephen Bechtel Jr. took frequent trips to the Hoover Dam, a massive structure that his family’s business—the Bechtel Corporation—was building in the Nevada desert. As an adult, he became president of the company, growing it into one of this country’s leading engineering and construction firms. When he retired as CEO in 1990, the company had 32,500 employees working on 1,700 projects in 77 countries.
Among his many accomplishments, Bechtel built the Channel Tunnel, the largest U.S. nuclear power plant, and a 360-square-mile industrial city in Saudi Arabia. In Scouting circles, however, he is known for another project, The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia, which serves as a high adventure base and the permanent site of the national Scout jamboree. In 2009, Bechtel’s family foundation donated $50 million to help purchase the 10,600-acre property.
Bechtel’s civic involvement has ranged far beyond Scouting. He served on presidential committees and national commissions for three presidents—Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford—and he led the National Academy of Engineering as its first chairman from 1982 to 1986. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush awarded him the National Medal of Technology, America’s highest honor for technical achievement.
Berger, Lee Rogers
As a paleoanthropologist, Dr. Lee Berger has made groundbreaking discoveries in South Africa, where he has lived since 1989. In 1991, he and his team discovered early hominid remains at a site called Gladysvale, the first such discovery in southern Africa since 1948.
Berger received the first National Geographic Society Prize for Research and Exploration in 1997 and the first Friedel Sellschop Award for Young Researchers two years later. He frequently appears on the National Geographic Channel, and his research has twice been cited by Discover magazine for being among the top 100 science stories of the year. His discovery of Homo naledi landed him on the cover of National Geographic in 2015.
Berger grew up in Georgia, where he became an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Georgia Southern University and attended Harvard University before moving to South Africa to pursue doctoral studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. He has been active with numerous organizations, including the Palaeoanthropological Scientific Trust, the Jane Goodall Trust South Africa, and the Royal Society of South Africa.
In addition to receiving the Eagle Scout Award, Berger has received the BSA’s Honor Medal. While working as a news photographer in Savannah, Georgia, in 1987, he tossed aside his camera and jumped into a river to save a drowning woman.
Breyer, Stephen Gerald
Stephen Breyer was named to the United States Supreme Court by then-President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and is usually considered part of the court’s liberal wing. But Breyer is more interested in serving the people than any political party. As he wrote in his book Active Liberty, the U.S. Constitution outlines a form of government that lets citizens “make up their own minds about how they want to live together in their communities.”
Breyer made up his own mind about community in San Francisco’s Troop 14. As a Scout, simple acts like cleaning up campsites or doing service projects became life lessons for Breyer and his brother Charles, himself an Eagle Scout and a federal judge.
After earning degrees from Stanford and Oxford universities, Breyer entered Harvard Law School, where he edited the prestigious Harvard Law Review. He later taught at Harvard for many years. Breyer’s government service began in 1964, when he clerked for Associate Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg. After stints at the Justice Department and as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Breyer was named to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit in 1980. He served as chief judge of that court from 1990 until his elevation to the Supreme Court in 1994.
Cody, Iron Eyes
A famous actor was never a scout as a kid. But as an adult, he did a lot of work as a scouter in Southern California.
Iron Eyes Cody was born in 1904 in Kaplan, Louisiana. His birth name was Espera DeCorti.
He started acting in wild-west shows before getting a break in pictures and moving to California. In one of his first films he used the stage name Tony DeCorti…his father’s name. He later changed it to Tony Cody before transforming himself into Iron Eyes Cody.
He worked as an entertainer from 1919 to his death in 1999. He appeared in more than 200 movies during his 80 years. But he was perhaps best known for as the “Crying Indian” in the 1970’s Keep America Beautiful TV advertising campaign.
Iron Eyes Cody married a Native American woman named Birdie in 1936. And they adopted three Native children.
A lot of his Boy Scout history has been lost by time. But we know he was tapped out for Order of the Arrow by the Thunderbird District of the Verdugo Hills Boy Scout Council in Glendale and Burbank, California.
He became an OA advisor and taught dance, drums, and the Indian culture to the scouts. Then in 1993….the council renamed the Thunderbird district to the Iron Eyes Cody District.
Iron Eyes Cody died at the age of 94 and is buried in Hollywood.