by Rachel L. Richardson
Traditions in Excellence
In February and March each year, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts across the country celebrate their founding. Turning an eye toward our own cadre of appraisal professionals who also had a history in the Scouts, we celebrate the members of Team Blue who earned the prestigious Eagle Scout rank and Gold Award.
A Brief History of the Scouts
Promoting “character development and values-based leadership training” since 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is led by a corps of volunteers and professional support staff. The pinnacle of achievement in BSA is the Eagle Scout rank, representing time spent in leadership, volunteer service, completion of a service project, and earned merit badges.
- Scouting programs launched in the States in the early 1900s.
- A formative program intending to prepare youth for life, Scouting culminates in the Eagle Scout rank and the Gold Award.
- Fifteen members of Team Blue have reached this peak in their Scouting careers, and they share how it gave them the skills needed to navigate life—and excel in their appraisal careers.
While BSA has recently expanded to include females—of which an inaugural group reached Eagle rank in 2021—the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) was founded in 1912 on similar principles as BSA, and has offered their own Eagle equivalent since 1918. The achievement has been renamed several times through the years and has held its current title, Gold Award, since 1980.
Of the many Scouts enrolled in both programs, fewer than 10% earn Eagle rank or the Gold Award.
Scouts in Team Blue
Among our offices nationwide, 15 members of Team Blue have reached the pinnacle of their Scouting careers. They joined for various reasons—many because of family tradition or friends, some as part of a religious group or for a love of the outdoors—but all reached this top tier through determination, goal setting, and a healthy dose of support.
- Brent J. Clark, Licensed Appraiser, Valbridge Property Advisors | Salt Lake City
- Brittany Crowl, Administrative Assistant, Valbridge Property Advisors | Baltimore Washington Metro
- Jacob Davis, Certified General Appraiser, Valbridge Property Advisors | Kansas City
- Bryan Free, Senior Managing Director, Valbridge Property Advisors | Utah County
- Tyler Free, MAI and Senior Managing Director, Valbridge Property Advisors | Salt Lake City
- Randall Henderson, MAI and Senior Managing Director, Valbridge Property Advisors |Utah County
- Norm Hulberg, MAI and Senior Managing Director, Valbridge Property Advisors | NorCal
- Burton S. Lee, MAI and CEO & Co-founder, Valnow | Boulder / Denver
- Jeff Miller, MAI, AI-GRS, CCIM, ASA, and Senior Managing Director, Valbridge Property Advisors | Atlanta
- Drew Murray, Commercial Real Estate Analyst, Valbridge Property Advisors | Kansas City
- Jason Roos, MAI, AI-GRS, and Senior Managing Director, Valbridge Property Advisors | Kansas City
- Stephen Schiff, Appraiser, Valbridge Property Advisors | South Louisiana
- Arthur Schwertz, MAI and Senior Managing Director, Valbridge Property Advisors | South Louisiana
- Daniel Schwertz, Operations Manager, Valbridge Property Advisors | Louisiana
- Jesse Shelley, Trainee, Valbridge Property Advisors | Utah County
It Takes a Village
To reach the highest ranks in the Scouts requires consistent support. Whether family or volunteers (or both) these dedicated individuals help shape the Scouts’ experience and encourage them to achieve their goals.
Crowl, Schiff, and other members of Team Blue volunteer with the Scouts, helping to cultivate for others the kind of formative experiences they had as youth.
“My son is now in Scouting,” Schiff says, “and I have the privilege to be the new Scoutmaster for his unit. I now realize just how much the parents had to do and sacrifice to put on a good Scouting program for us… If anyone is on the fence about joining Scouts with their son or daughter, I would advise them to jump in and give it a shot. It is a commitment, but one you’ll never regret.”
Of the Scouting recollections shared by those in Team Blue, many were pivotal camping trips—fraught with unexpected storms, obstacles to overcome, and indelible experiences.
Facing the Storms
Clark recalls how a storm broke out on their return leg of an approximately twenty-mile hike in Yellowstone. “Temperatures dropped and it started pouring rain and eventually snowing,” he shared. “We had to cross back over several rivers, which had risen significantly since our hike in, and use ropes to prevent us from losing our footing and running down river. Long story short, it was miserable and half of the kids caught hypothermia, but we all made it back. Whenever I’m in a bad situation I think back on that time and tell myself it could always be worse. It’s helped me get through some stormy times.”
Henderson shared a similar experience, noting a three-day hiking trip for which he was “sorely unprepared.” Half the hike was in the snow, and for about half of the final day, they pressed on during a snowstorm. Between the snow, a sodden cotton sleeping bag, and basketball shoes with limited traction, Henderson fell many times on the way back. “One of the times that I fell, [a pole in] my backpack came down on my wrist and broke it,” he said. “I told the leader and we all gathered to see what we could do. The Scouts got splints, reset my arm so it wouldn’t turn purple, and wrapped it up.”
“That day,” Henderson adds, “I learned many things: (1) I can do hard things no matter the circumstance; (2) I will be better prepared for the hikes that I go on; (3) Scouts are prepared for life and the curveballs that come with it; (4) people are willing to help, especially when the need arises; and (5) brotherhoods and sisterhoods are needed to find success in this life—we should not do it alone.”
Saved From the Waves
Bryan Free, who joined the Scouts hosted by his church group, shared about a camping trip with his troop in the back country of Yellowstone. “This trip had so many highs and lows that really shaped my character,” he adds. Their excursion involved canoeing many miles upriver and a harrowing journey across Shoshone Lake during a rainstorm, with wind stirring up whitecaps on the water. Free and the other Scout in the canoe struggled against the wind. “We would paddle forward once and be pushed back two strokes,” he says. “In time we felt angels helping us [paddle], and eventually made it to camp.”
A Poignant Hike
Davis also notes a pivotal summer excursion—one to Philmont Scout Ranch near Cimmaron, NM, which he described as a kind of pilgrimage for Scouts and a place his grandfather had dearly wished to visit when he was working toward his Eagle. Davis’s dad, also a former Scout, had joined Davis’s group as Assistant Scoutmaster for the trip, which involved over 10 days of backpacking to and from a mountain’s summit.
“When we reached the top of Mt. Phillips,” Davis added, “my dad pulled out his [cell] phone—that he had kept turned off the whole trip to save battery for this moment—and called my grandfather. When [he] answered, we told him we were on the top of the mountain at Philmont and he started to cry. It was a great moment I will always cherish.”
While designed to be a fun time for youth, the Scout program is also geared toward cultivating within its participants strength of character and key life skills.
To earn merit badges, the Scouts learn how to set and achieve goals—a life lesson many in Team Blue have found helpful in their appraisal careers.
“Anything can be accomplished when you break it down step-by-step,” says Tyler Free.
“Scouting teaches you dozens of invaluable life lessons,” Daniel Schwertz affirms, “but the ones I think about most in my career with Valbridge are planning, goal setting, and execution. The road to Eagle teaches you to identify a larger goal, break it down into smaller goals, and make a plan to get there.”
Bryan Free agrees, saying a valuable takeaway was “knowing that if I make a plan and work hard to achieve it, success is always possible.”
Many affirmed how the Scouting program prepared them for leadership both within the Scouts and beyond.
“The most valuable aspect,” Arthur Schwertz shared, “was the development of leadership skills that I utilize to this day.”
Through Scouting, Henderson says, “I am a better leader, a better citizen, [and] I have more skills that I am able to apply to personal and work life.” A key lesson was learning about “the role of leadership,” and how “to lead a group of people in a way that allows everybody to be appreciated.”
Daniel Schwertz cultivated leadership skills when, as a sixteen-year-old, he coordinated a “Campus Rejuvenation Day” at his high school for his Eagle service project. “We built and installed benches across campus, repainted a parking lot, installed a garden, pressure washed buildings, and a whole lot more,” he recalls. “Planning, coordinating, and executing a project like that—involving dozens of volunteers and hundreds of man hours—grew me into a leader. Whenever I visit my alma mater, I still take pride in seeing those improvements we accomplished together.”
To work as a team is a common theme for the Scouts.
“We had a good group that supported each other throughout our Scouting experience,” Shelley affirmed. “When I received my Eagle, there were eight other boys who also [did].”
“I learned the power of being a troop,” says Tyler Free, “where everyone looks out for each other… During challenging backpacking hikes we would stick together and help get every boy up to camp—even carrying items for those who couldn’t do it themselves. Teamwork was emphasized,” he adds, “and at Valbridge, there is an instant team atmosphere where we work together to achieve our appraising goals.”
Teamwork was at the core of the Girl Scouts, too, Crowl found. She describes a camping trip that involved her first experience with repelling. “I was terrified,” she recalls. “Who wants to stand at the top of a cliff and lean backwards—no matter how many ropes you have tied to you! It wasn’t that high, and our leaders were trained and had all the proper precautions in place, but this was when I learned I was afraid of heights.” With her troop’s support, though, she was able to conquer her fear and discover inner strength she hadn’t known she’d had. Now, she says, “I don’t stand in my own way anymore.”
“We had individual and group goals,” adds Miller, who is also a member of the Valbridge Board of Directors. “With strong leadership, we help each other, and all move forward together.”
Lee agrees. “After I decided to complete the requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout,” he says, “I shared by plan with my peers. A group of us began competing as to who could become an Eagle Scout first. We were able to support each other as we worked toward the same objective. Working together,” he discovered, “can be more rewarding than working alone.”
With a nod toward how Scouting was about more than outdoor survival skills, Shelley says, “I think the most valuable aspect the Scouting program had was teaching young men how to become good men.”
“Since the Scouts,” Henderson shares, “I have learned to never quit and to always keep trying [since quitting is] the only time when you truly fail.”
Crowl appreciates how her time in the Scouts taught her organization, time management, administration, and marketing. “These are skills I use daily in my role here [at Valbridge],” she says, “and I find them all vital for success.”
“Getting to try new things through such formative years is an irreplaceable opportunity,” Crowl adds. “I got to experience things outdoors that my family wouldn’t have done… and we did so many leadership workshops and programs that I couldn’t count them. We got the chance to serve the community and care for the world around us—which I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
On the lasting impact Scouts had on his life, Hulberg notes, “I was in my thirties before it occurred to me all the benefits I had from Scouting. At the time, I thought I was just having fun.” For him, time in the Scouts provided important lessons in leadership (including dealing with conflict), public speaking, setting goals, and encouraging others.
Roos agrees, saying, “It is not surprising that most Eagle Scouts are high achievers. Each of us pushed ourselves early in life to get the merit badges, do the service projects, learn to talk to people, and step out of our comfort zones. These skills—that we didn’t even know we were learning—have prepared me to do what I am now: talking to brokers, critically thinking on projects, and being comfortable taking on any project and working through it confidently.” To this day, he strives to continue living by the Scout Motto (Be prepared), Scout Oath, and Scout Law, valuing both the principles and work ethic they reinforce.
Arthur Schwertz also noted confidence in tackling challenging projects, saying, “My time in Scouts and in reaching Eagle taught me there are no real problems, only challenges that must be overcome, and that if you stop, analyze, and think, you can find the solution. It is the same thing with appraisal problems. I often tell people that there is nothing I can’t appraise. It is not because I am trying to be arrogant, it is just that Scouts instilled in me the belief that if given enough time I can figure out the solution.”