When ‘thanks’ just isn’t enough: 13 ways to recognize retiring Scoutmasters

Scoutmasters can retire or move away, but their legacy lives on.

You’ll find this imprint in the troop’s traditions, in signature meals and in frequently visited camping destinations. And it remains even after every Scout who was there during the Scoutmaster’s tenure has grown up.

This week, a Scouter from Pennsylvania told me his troop’s longtime Scoutmaster is retiring soon. He’s looking for meaningful and memorable ways to say thanks to the man who led his troop for more than 20 years.

Find 13 ideas, and add your own, after the jump.

smthanks-11. Set up a campership fund

Create a fund to send one boy to camp every year in the Scoutmaster’s honor. Consider making each recipient required to write the Scoutmaster a thank-you letter about his camp experience.

(Idea from Christopher Connolly)

smthanks-22. Give a James E. West Fellowship Award

This recognition, named for the BSA’s first Chief Scout Executive, is available for gifts of $1,000 or more to a council endowment fund. It includes a nice certificate and square knot for the recipient. Anyone can earn it for himself/herself, or (as in this case) a troop could pool its money together and present it in a Scoutmaster’s honor.

(Idea from Michael Woehlert)

smthanks-33. Hold a surprise ceremony

A “living monument” in which you contact as many of his former Scouts, regardless of their rank or how long they were in the troop, and invite them to a surprise ceremony. This shows him how many lives he touched. Think Mr. Holland’s Opus.

(Idea from Patrick Burke)

smthanks-44. Have a party outside

Chances are most of the best memories with the Scoutmaster were outdoors. So Mary Hynes’ Oklahoma troop “had a big cookout at the local lake, reminisced about past campouts, events, etc.” They presented the outgoing Scoutmaster, an avid fisherman, with a new fishing rod, ate cake and shared memories. “He gave a heartfelt speech of fond memories. A few tears, but a ton of laughs and great memories shared.”

(Idea from Mary Hynes)

smthanks-55. Make a slideshow

A slideshow interspersed with video interviews of Scouts and former Scouts honoring the Scoutmaster and recalling fun memories. Find someone with experience using video editing software and encourage former Scouts, including those who have moved away, to submit a video. Post the finished product to YouTube after the ceremony.

(Idea from Mark Crater)

smthanks-66. Give a meaningful, Scouting-related gift

A nice wooden hiking staff, or a framed Norman Rockwell painting, would be a nice gift. “Not too expensive,” says Pat Lynch.

(Idea from Pat Lynch)

smthanks-77. Present a retired troop flag

Buy a new flag each time you have a new Scoutmaster, and present the outgoing Scoutmaster with the troop flag that flew during his or her tenure.

(Idea from Stephanie Helman Muller)

smthanks-88. Convince BSA to create a new position: Scoutmaster Emeritus

This one’s a little tougher, but I like the idea. Scouter Michael Balot says, “I still think the BSA should institute a new position of Scoutmaster Emeritus for a Scoutmaster who has served 20 years or has served as the first Scoutmaster of a troop for 10 years.”

(Idea from Michael Balot)

smthanks-99. Give a gift that isn’t Scouting-related

The Scouter is winding down his time as Scoutmaster, so it might make sense to present him or her with something to use now that he’ll/she’ll have so much more free time! “I recently stepped down as Scoutmaster and my troop honored me with a very nice gift card at an elegant restaurant for me and my wife to enjoy,” writes Mark Chadwick.

(Idea from Mark A. Chadwick)

smthanks-1010. Create an award in the Scoutmaster’s name

If he or she had been the Scoutmaster for a significant time, you could create an award in his/her name that is awarded annually to a deserving Scouter in your troop.

(Idea from Eric McCollom)

smthanks-1111. Engrave and/or sign something

Personalize an axe, a knife, a walking stick or something else with the name of the troop and the years in which the Scoutmaster served. You could also do as Phil Stout’s troop does, which is have all the young men who earned Eagle Scout during the Scoutmaster’s tenure wood-burn or sign their name on the item.

(Idea from Phil Stout and Stephen Dillon)

smthanks-1212. Name something for him or her

If your troop needs a new canoe or troop trailer, why couldn’t it be the “Scoutmaster Bob Trailer” or the “Scoutmaster Jane Canoe”? Speaking of trailers, inside the trailer door you could inscribe the names of all the troop’s past Scoutmasters. Or why not name an annual camping trip for the Scoutmaster? Years later, a Scout will ask why the troop’s January trip is called Frank’s Favorite Trip, and that’ll give you a perfect excuse to describe the great former Scoutmaster.

(Idea from Michael Balot and Holly Barger Graffius)

smthanks-1313. Pass the Scoutmaster patch to the next Scoutmaster

This week I blogged about a troop that has each Scoutmaster sign the back of the Scoutmaster position patch. This patch is passed from one Scoutmaster to the next, each time taking with it the memories and wisdom of its previous wearer.

14. Your idea here

How does your troop recognize outgoing Scoutmasters? Scouters in packs, teams or crews with longtime Cubmasters, Coaches or Advisors are welcome to share their ideas as well.

Photos: 1, Some rights reserved by Max Wolfe; 2, BSA Archives; 3, Some rights reserved by hermans_4; 4, Some rights reserved by jeffreylcohen; 5, Some rights reserved by andrewrennie; 6, Norman Rockwell; 7, Some rights reserved by stevebkennedy; 8, Some rights reserved by DaveWilsonPhotography; 9, Some rights reserved by 401(K) 2013; 10, ScoutStuff.org; 11, Some rights reserved by Joe Shlabotnik; 12, Courtesy Troop 1776; 13, Photo illustration via ScoutStuff.org 

22 thoughts on “When ‘thanks’ just isn’t enough: 13 ways to recognize retiring Scoutmasters

  1. One thing that you might do is arrange for a flag to be flown over the US Capitol and the state capitol on that day. or a day important to him. Most congressmen will arrange this for the US flag (it is a small cost,less than $40 for the US flag). It comes with a certificate which attests to its authenticity. Go to their website [generally .house.gov. For the state, go to your local state rep. If possible, have the rep at a ceremony to present it to him.

    Present the flags folded in a presentation case.

    Conduct presentation like you might an Eagle COH.

    • Sm award of merit has been replaced. Most Scoutmasters would not qualify for silver beaver. The AOM has to be done while serving, so it can’t be done after leaving.

      • The Silvery Beaver award is basically your confirmation ceremony into the club of your local council as someone they are buddies with. Silver Beaver winners usually have no major accomplishment behind them other than holding various chair positions over council level events. It’s sad. It should be an award given to highlight the best of scouting, but you’ll see a 300 pound woman get the award for doing fundraisers.

        Call it “The Ten Year Knot.”

        • I am not going to comment on this for fear of starting a flame war, other than to say these are very hurtful words…

        • I’m sorry you feel that way – in the council I am in, I have seen the Silver Beaver awarded to those who have dedicated their life to scouting. It is an award, at least in our council, that recognizes years of outstanding service at a number of levels…could there be some “sour grapes” motivating your comment?

  2. I was “just” a Scoutmaster for three years, but one thing I invented was a troop award I called the “Outdoor Four” — a $100 college scholarship — which was given when a Scout earned Hiking, Backpacking, Cycling, and Canoeing merit badges. Besides wanting to intensify Scouts’ interest in physical fitness and the outdoors, I wanted to create an award that wasn’t a sidetrack or a dead end. Obviously Scouts could use any or all of those merit badges for Star, Life, and Eagle.

  3. I was Scoutmaster in one Troop from 1991 to 1995 and another from 1996-2002. The second troop was folding as I left (I had changed jobs and no one else was willing to step up), but two of my prized possessions are from the first troop.

    To my left, here in my home office, are two picture frames. One has a “First Day of Issue” collectable council strip — which was a fund raiser for our OA Lodge in 1990. My troop’s SPL (also an Eagle and at the time Lodge Chief) picked it up at a lodge auction in 1995 and gave it to me as a personal gift.

    The second is much better — and ironically, the same Scout had a hand in it. The old Baden-Powell Patrol Award was similar, but much harder to earn than the current National Honor Patrol Award. So when the Scorpion Patrol earned it in 1993 (with the same young man who’d later be SPL as the Patrol Leader) we pulled out all the stops. The only award for earning this is a star to go next to the patrol medallion on uniforms. We made a 4 inch, 5-pointed star in felt for the patrol to sew to their patrol flag. We also printed a certificate for each member of the patrol. The patrol duplicated several of the certificates, had a snapshot taken of the patrol with their flag after the star was sewn on, and each signed the picture. The photo, a certificate and a Scorpion Patrol medallion were put into a frame, and they were presented to each member of the patrol, to the troop’s SPL, to the Committee Chair, the Scoutmaster and each Assistant Scoutmaster — the PL said “We couldn’t have done it without you”

  4. On “Scoutmaster Emeritus,” hey, it worked for Lem Siddons, didn’t it?

    Our troop celebrated its 40th Anniversary a few years ago. As part of this three-day event, a special “Founders Court of Honor” (and crackerbarrel) was held to honor all the previous Scoutmasters (12 in all) and other troop alumni we could reach. Each Scoutmaster had the opportunity to reminisce about the troop he remembered before the audience; after the speeches, each Scoutmaster was presented with a specially engraved and personalized 40th Anniversary knife thanking them for their service to Scouting; those who could not attend were sent their knives following the event. All considered it a touching and useful commemorative.

    One Scoutmaster recently passed away due to cancer; our troop donated $200 to the hospice in his name.

  5. Another of our leaders, who served as Committee Chair during the troop’s formative years, passed on a while back. In his will he had donated an amount to the troop to use in whatever way we chose. This individual never wanted to see a Scout left in the parking lot due to the lack of his family’s ability to pay for camp, so with this money the troop established a standing campership fund in his name. Now as part of our annual budget this fund is replenished as needed. We could have bought new tents or other equipment, or the Scouts could have had an exceptional outing or dream trip, but everyone felt this was a way to keep his memory alive and pay it forward.

  6. Our immediate past SM logged 172 nights camping during his 6 years in position so, in addition to typical gifts, we took up a collection to allow him to take his wife somewhere for a luxury weekend. We thought it only fair that they two of them got to do something on a weekend for a change.

  7. Why not look for photos etc from previous Scouts and events to create his own personal scrapbook. We honored our Scoutmaster at 25 years (he was continuing with us as he started at a young age). One thing we did was have cards for people to write memories and put them in a box that was created for the event. We also found a staircase and took a group photo of all the Assistant Scoutmasters that attended-probably 30+. It was great that we did that as 2 years ago he was killed by someone who was texting. At least he knew what he meant to us and our Scouts.

  8. As a Scoutmaster that is planning to step down after 15 years, I would like to see as many scouts from the last 15 years as possible come to my last meeting. Similiar to Follow Me Boys.

  9. Our Troop(11) here in Jefferson City Mo, recently had a 25th aniversary dinner. We had all but two former Scoutmasters(myself included) present. They surprised me with a very nice laser ingraved metal plaque with all current Scouts signatures on it. Very nice knowing how much influance a Scoutmaster can have on a young mans future. Very rewarding expereance.

  10. I was SM of a 45’sh Troop from 2004 thru 2012. My last official duty (actually honor), as SM was a 1/5/13 Eagle Court of Honor. After the ECOH was over and cake and punch done, people were still milling around which bewildered me. Then I was escorted to the rear of the church sanctuary and lo and behold people filled the church and they held a COH for me. A total surprise that I never caught on to. Our state and US rep was there and presented me with flag that flew over the capitals and then many people came up and shared their stories, feelings, etc about me. Some that caused tears and others that brought laughs. Since it was over the holidays and college break, many former scouts were there and I heard how my mentoring made the difference in their quest for Eagle and their lives. THAT was by far the most wonderful things I heard and I am forever grateful. Oh, one more thing. Over that time period I had mentored 38 scouts to Eagle and on the altar they had 38 candles in a glass globe lined up and lit. To this day I am so very humbled. Later that evening the Council drafted me for the Advancement Committee so I never really retired!!!!

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