Above, Wayne Brock talks with Scouts during a recent jamboree
Scouting New Frontiers
Wayne Brock taps traditional values leading
the Boy Scouts of America in new directions
By Steve Tuttle '09 '12
title is chief scout executive, but Wayne Brock ’70 really is the CEO of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Working from the BSA national headquarters in Irving, Texas, Brock manages a $1.2 billion budget, supervises 8,000 employees, directs 1.2 million adult volunteers and delivers services to 2.6 million dues-paying members.
'The first Boy Scout handbook had a section
in it about how to stop a runaway horse.
Today we have a merit badge for video game
design. The challenge today is to stay relevant
to young people while staying true to what we are, our mission.'
BSA Chief Scout Wayne Brock
Surprisingly, he isn’t trained in management or finance.
“Whenever people see my bio they are surprised to see a music major running a major nonprofit,” Brock says.
“You probably would expect someone in this job to come from a business or political science background,” he adds.
“I was a (music) education major and what really interested me was conducting. When you’re conducting, you have a big orchestra that you need to get performing in harmony with each other.
“I tell people there is a great parallel (between his liberal arts education and his business career). We (the BSA) have a big orchestra out here around this country with employees and volunteers trying to work in harmony with each other.”
His job is easier than it may seem, Brock says, because the orchestra he conducts is composed of people who live and breathe Boy Scouts.
“They are passionate about scouting, either from their own experiences as a child, or from a family member. I can’t tell you the number of testimonies I’ve gotten from people over the years talking about the impact that scouting had on their lives.”
It also helps that Brock had 40 years experience as a professional scouter when he became the BSA’s 12th chief executive last September. He’s had only one other job, as a school band director.
Commuting from Kinston
Brock grew up in the Hazlewood community in Lenoir County and says some of his fondest memories are of his days as a Boy Scout there. After he earned his Eagle badge and graduated from South Lenoir High School, he and his high school sweetheart, Ernestine Rouse Brock ’71, came to East Carolina. The lived on campus and dated for a year, then got married their sophomore year. For the next two years they commuted to college together.
“We were neighbors growing up. I had never dated anybody else and she had not dated anyone other than me.”
College life was great. “I had a great experience at ECU,” he says. “I had a professor, James Houlick. My major instrument was saxophone, and he was my saxophone instructor. He took an interest in me and encouraged me. It makes a lot of difference if someone believes in you.”
After graduation, he worked for a year as the band director for Emporia, Va., schools, teaching students from fifth grade to high school. Then, “my sister married a man who was a district scout executive. That’s when I realized you could get paid to do this,” he laughs.
In 1972 Brock became the district executive for the regional scout council in New Bern. He discovered that he had a knack for leading and motivating groups of volunteers, a talent he demonstrated in subsequent jobs in ever-larger markets. From New Bern he moved to join the BSA staff in Knoxville, Tenn., then was scout executive in Athens, Ga., and later in Orlando, Fla. He was promoted to regional director of the BSA’s southern region. In 2009, he was tapped to be deputy chief scout executive, the BSA’s No. 2 job. Forty years after he first became a professional scouter, he was named to the top post.
He and his wife have a grown son, Ritchie. “My wife and I were his co-den leaders when he was a Cub Scout. He has two degrees from Georgia Tech and a daughter who is 16 now who wants to become a veterinarian.”
Left: Brock as a junior in 1969
Since September he’s been on the road about half the time, visiting local and regional scouting leaders across the country and overseas. In March his schedule took him to the East Carolina Scout Council offices in Kinston, where he sat for an interview for this article.
“What I try to do is to be out of the office just two days a week. I don’t always make that goal. For instance, I’ve been gone for two weeks straight now,” he says. “So it works out to about 50 percent of my time in the office and 50 percent traveling.”
This day on the road is better than most, he says, because the East Carolina Council, which serves all BSA troops east of I-95, is where his career began. He still has family in the area and close friends nearby, including Ray Franks ‘75, who is district executive of the local council and Brock’s host for a few days. He was looking forward to a meeting with Phil Hodges ’79 ’84 of Greenville, the Metrics Inc. president who, along with his wife, Lisa ’83, recently donated $600,000 to the Boy Scouts. See story below
“My wife still has a brother and a sister who live in Havelock and I have many friends here from high school,” Brock says. Still, he isn’t able to visit as much as he would like. “My brother, sister and I bought a beach cottage in Surf City. We’ve owned it three years now and I’ve been there once.”
Leading Scouting into a new era
Brock has two major initiatives on his plate that are indicative of the direction he is leading the 103-year-old organization.
One is a huge real estate development, the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a 10,600-acre tract near the New River Gorge National River preserve in West Virginia. This summer it will become the new home of BSA’s national scout jamboree, the event that was held for many years at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia.
Made possible by a $50 million gift from the Stephen D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation, the reserve is home to a high adventure base and the National Center for Scouting Excellence. It is one of four such reserves owned by BSA.
Brock’s other project is a TV show, “Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout,” which began airing in March on the National Geographic Channel.
“It’s interesting how the TV show came to us,” Brock says. “We had been wanting to figure out a way to get scouting in front of the public for a long time. In 2008 there was a tornado at (the Little Sioux Scout Ranch in Iowa), which was in the news a lot because when the EMTs first arrived, they didn’t find what they thought they would find.”
The F3 tornado killed four scouts and injured 48 others. “What the EMTs expected to see was panic and chaos,” Brock says. “Instead, what they found were calm kids who already had triaged the worse cases.
“A guy named Thom Beers, who is CEO of a TV production company that produces “Ice Road Truckers” and other shows like that, heard about what happened and he approached us. He had been a scout and he said, ‘I would like to use this to help tell what scouting is about.’”
“We started working on this four years ago and it’s taken this long to find a channel (to broadcast the show). Finally we connected with National Geographic, and they have ordered six episodes. We’re hoping that enough people watch the show so that it gets continued for more seasons.”
The show features competitions between a team of three adults and a team of three Boy Scouts. One of the scouts in the first series of shows is from Raleigh.
Serving diverse communities
Of foremost concern to Brock is the controversy over the BSA’s ban on gay scouts and adult leaders. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 upheld the BSA’s right, as a private organization, to exclude gays from the organization. Nonetheless, in February the Boy Scouts announced that it was reconsidering its membership rules.
“We are a reflection of this society,” Brock says. “We’re virtually in every community in this country. So, it’s not surprising that our scout volunteers and our chartering organizations have diverse opinions. What we are doing now is having a family conversation. We have put a process in place to listen to everybody and get feedback from them.”
In what amounts to a vote of the membership, every Boy Scout council, based on their number of scouts enrolled, will get proportional representation at the May meeting.
“It’s these delegates that will vote,” Brock explains. “I think that’s the best approach rather than letting our board decide.”
This isn’t the first controversy Brock has experienced with Boy Scouts. “I remember in the 1980s the debate about opening up all the leadership positions to women. We went through a similar thing then. And we did and it’s been a good thing for Boy Scouts.”
Scouting must continue evolving this way, Brock says, including a long-standing ban on bringing electronic devices on camping trips.
“Kids these days have never lived in a world where cell phones didn’t exist. To tell them that they must leave this (cell phone) at home when they go on a camporee just doesn’t work. So we want to integrate technology with scouting. If you want a scout to learn what a plant is, does it really matter if they learn by pulling the information up on an app to identify it as opposed to looking in a book?
“So, the Summit Bechtel reservation will be totally wi-fi. The scouts can bring their mobile devices to summer camp, they can text each other while there are there, they can take pictures and share them on Facebook with all their friends.
“You know, the first Boy Scout handbook had a section in it about how to stop a runaway horse. Today we have a merit badge for video game design. Not every kid is interested in the outdoors and we want to appeal to as many as we can. The challenge today is to stay relevant to young people while staying true to what we are, our mission.”
A Scout is:
trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, reverent
’79 ’84 looks around the grounds of Camp Boddie and sees a familiar landscape.
“I camped here the first year this place was open in 1969. This place was important in making me who I am, and I want it to continue to be that way for the Boy Scouts of today and tomorrow.”
Hodges and his wife, Lisa Brewer Hodges
’83, donated $600,000 to the East Carolina Council of the Boy Scouts of America to build a training center at Camp Boddie. The center will be used during summer camp for scouts earning merit badges on their way to becoming Eagle Scouts. The facility will have three offices and eight classrooms.
The 880-acre camp is located in Beaufort County southeast of Washington, N.C. It lies along Blount’s Creek, an arm of the Pamlico Sound.
Hodges became an Eagle Scout as a member of Troop 218 chartered to the Ruritan Club in the Martin County community of Bear Grass. His son, Brian, was a member of the same troop when he became an Eagle Scout in 2006.
Hodges is the founder and president of Metrics Inc. in Greenville, a provider of contract development services to the pharmaceutical industry. He remains active in scouting as a member of the executive board of the East Carolina Council. He also chairs the council’s summer camp committee.
Hodges, who lives in Williamston, said he made the donation in honor of his parents, the late Thad and Vader Hodges. “My parents believed in the Boy Scouts. They knew my Bear Grass scoutmaster personally and thought I would benefit from the scout program. Camp Boddie has been important to me and my son, Brian. It has been important to my family and we are proud we can make this gift to the East Carolina Council,” he said.
Ray Franks ’75 of Kinston, the scout executive of the East Carolina Council, said 8,000 scouts will be served annually by the training center. He said the gift will allow the council to focus its financial resources on rebuilding areas of the camp damaged by Hurricane Irene in 2011.
Design work is beginning on the training center. A date for initial construction has not yet been set. – Steve Tuttle