At just 32 years old, Andrew Miller has already built a Scouting résumé that rivals some of the movement’s most tenured Scouters.
He helped develop a Merit Badge University at Harvard, wrote the syllabus for a first-year camper program, served at the region level on the NESA scholarship committee and at the national level on the Camp Standards Task Force.
So it’s no surprise that last week he received the Silver Antelope, the regional-level distinguished award of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s the second-highest award the BSA gives adult Scouters (after the Silver Buffalo).
What is a surprise is his age.
The Scouters I talked to agree that if Miller isn’t the youngest Silver Antelope recipient ever, he’s among the youngest in history. I’m not aware of a way to confirm a recipient’s age at the time he or she earned the award, but there probably aren’t many getting this award in their early 30s.
I sat down with Miller at the BSA’s National Annual Meeting last week in Nashville, Tenn., and could not have been more impressed with the man. If he’s the type of volunteer who will be leading the BSA in 20 or 30 years, the future of our movement is in great hands. Read on for Miller’s story.
Miller just finished earning his MBA at Dartmouth; he graduates June 8. After that, he’s landed a job at the Philadelphia office of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
The skills that helped him get into such a prestigious school and company were formed in Scouting, the Eagle Scout says.
Miller earned Eagle in 8th grade and stayed in Scouting after, staffing summer camp annually at the Atlanta Area Council’s Bert Adams Scout Reservation.
Some Scouts lose touch with Scouting for a few years during college, but when Miller went off to study history and geology at Harvard, his passion for Scouting didn’t leave. It grew.
At a district committee meeting, the activities chairman handed Miller a calendar of events and asked where he wanted to help. Miller pointed to Merit Badge University and offered to teach a class.
“The chairman said, ‘Why don’t you run it?’ It was a classic case of how you hook a volunteer,” Miller said.
While looking for space for the event, Miller realized student organizations at Harvard are guaranteed the right to use space on campus. What better place for a Merit Badge University than the oldest institution of higher learning in the country?
There wasn’t a Scouting-focused student organization there, so Miller started Harvard Friends of Scouting with six Eagle Scouts, including his roommate. (The group lives on today, by the way.)
The location secured, Miller needed counselors.
You probably can guess where he found them: at Harvard. A University Health Services worker taught Public Health, a Geology professor taught Geology and so on.
Seventy Scouts attended that first Merit Badge University in January 2002. Eventually, other Merit Badge Universities within the council folded their operations into the one Miller had started.
These days, the Boston Minutemen Council’s Merit Badge University draws 400 Scouts and offers 25 to 30 different merit badges, including new ones like Game Design. After that first one, Miller changed the focus away from Eagle-required badges.
“Troops have been producing Eagles for a while,” he said. “I wanted to focus on the ones more difficult to get.”
A proud ‘father’
When Miller received the shrink-wrapped version of the 129-page First-Year Camper Program Guide he had written, he couldn’t help but take a picture with his smartphone.
“A lot of people have photos of their kids on their phone,” he said. “I have a photo of my kit.”
Jokes aside, this syllabus is a seriously great resource and has been nationally approved. Later work on the Camp Standards Task Force, chaired by Eric Hiser, has won Miller similar national acclaim.
His goal when assembling best practices for summer camps is to give boys an experience they can’t get in their troop.
“There are 52 weeks in a year. A Scout is with his troop for 51 of those weeks,” he said. “What does the Scoutmaster have trouble teaching on his own? They’re probably not having trouble taking Tenderfoot Scouts camping. I looked at the requirements and tried to teach the most value add while keeping it fun.
“Scouts don’t want a summer school with bugs.”
Thanks to Andrew Miller for taking the time to talk with me, and to 2012 Silver Buffalo recipient Neil Lupton for introducing me to Andrew and his story.