What is Going On with the National Eagle Scout Association?
(this page was updated on 24 June 2012.)
Since 1994, I have been fielding answers to questions dealing with the BSA's National Eagle Scout Association (NESA). As a member of NESA since 1975 and as a life member since 2001, I have seen this optional Council program emphasis gain lots of support and then fall to next to nothing. It is currently moving back to it's present state.
This posting originally was found online as part of the EagleTips™ series of posting and was valid when it was written in 1998 and updated in 2001. Things have changed for the good as far as the NESA is concerned, and this posting is designed to update and point those interested in NESA to first, not abandon hope that this organization won't be as useful and successful as it was in it's "glory days"; and second, to get current, official information on NESA and how they can be a part or support the program.
To be clear: I am proud to be a member of NESA but like many NESA members and Eagle Scouts, I too question sometime how such a program emphasis with a great idea based on a great earlier idea.
To assist me with updating this page -- thanks to the BSA's Eagle Scout Service, the BSA's Alumni Task Force, and the staff advisor to the BSA's National Court of Honor (thank you Bill Evans!), I have been able to revise and update some information presented here. Thank you to all for your assistance.
The bottom line: like there's a "new BSA" coming forth, more responsive and reactive to its communities, volunteers and members; there is a resurgence in the interest from the National and local Council level toward "keeping in touch with and offering opportunities for" old and young Eagle Scouts to participate as part of local efforts or part of personal efforts toward "keeping Scouting going and growing" in their territories.
The question to me which prompted the original page was as follows:
As soon as I received Eagle i also joined the National Eagle Scout Association. I just now have been able to sit down and read the newsletter and all the other information i received. Now i want to know what is NESA for? Does NESA really do anything? The history maks it look like it use to do things, but now do they?
The backstory/history of the NESA started with the KDs...
The Knights of Dunamis
The story starts with the old Knights of Dunamis organization that the BSA used to support. The Knights was the BSA's organization for Eagle Scouts and holders of other national-level awards which existed in 400 of the former 639 local Councils in 1972.
It fell into disrepair in the middle 60s and then died nationally. There were several efforts from people inside and outside of the Knight's organization to reset the program, but a group of Eagle Scouts met in 1970 and decided that "we need something better" than the previous Knights.
Robert Amick wrote:
Knights of Dunamis (Dunamis is a greek word meaning "power") was formed in the early 20's as an association for Eagle Scouts to direct their skills and talents to service to Scouting. It remained as an acknowledged but unofficial Eagle Scout Service Organization by BSA until the late 60's when efforts were made to officially link the organization similar to the official ties and sanctioning for O.A.
Knights of Dunamis (K.D.'s) were "absorbed" by the National Eagle Scout Association in 1971 following their last National Conclave at West Point. The organization was being considered by BSA as the "official" Eagle Scout organization for several years prior to the decision to absorb and restructure. BSA National Supply service stocked "K.D." insignia such as arm bands, neckerchiefs, "KD" emblems suspended on a ribbon (similar to OA ribbon pin), etc. Studies by BSA indicated that a more "graphic" name than "Knights of Dunamis" was needed, hence the evolution of "National Eagle Scout Association."
Knights of Dunamis was a "youth-oriented" organization with K.D. members providing Eagle Scout Courts of Honor ceremonies, troop leadership development training programs, Junior Leader Training courses, service to Council Scout camps, and certainly Eagle Scout Recognition dinners and ceremonies when appropriate. The programs were highly successful and very effective in Councils that had strong K.D. chapters. Unfortunately, and as with all good things, they must end, and so did K.D.
K.D.'s were very strong in California and in Washington D.C. (the President's Chapter). Dr. Lester Steig was the last National President of the Knights of Dunamis and was, along with Dr. John Cochran instrumental in negotiating the adoption of the K.D.'s as a BSA sanctioned program prior to 1971.
It would be interesting to hear from others who were involved in K.D. chapters during the time it was active.
(Thanks, Bob, for the additional information!)
The new organization was envisioned to be able to be mobilized to perform service for their communities, the local Councils, the BSA itself and serve as a support group for promoting and expanding the Eagle Scout. Not just the rank, but the ideals behind the highest youth rank in Boy Scouting (at that time the Eagle and Sea Exploring/Sea Scouting's Quartermaster Awards were available for youth members to earn; Exploring was going through a transition which removed all of their awards except for Quartermaster).
The National Eagle Scout Association
So, in 1971, the National Eagle Scout Association was organized and in 1972, it received National Executive Board approval.
It was announced everywhere in newspapers and magazines, and within the BSA's own publications. The BSA was encouraging local Councils to quickly identify and inform Eagle Scouts of the new organization and how to become a "charter member" of the new emphasis. The NESA and the BSA was on its way.
It had a GREAT start: a National Staff Advisor, similar to the Order of the Arrow's national director, was appointed and part of the Eagle Scout Service's offices was converted into a "membership office". Eagles that wanted to reach other Eagles could write to National and be placed in contact with other Eagle Scouts all over the nation, in all walks of life and doing a wide variety of jobs. It was "networking" at its best: the best of the best males in the nation.
To assist new Eagles, the NESA established a "response and encouragement" plan and asked Eagles from all areas of life to write congratuations letters to new Eagles upon request from Scoutmasters or parents. Additionally, Scoutmasters with "track records" of "developing Eagle Scouts" were recognized on a Regional Area basis starting in 1980.
A really sharp logo, and patches, insignia and other items were developed to support the new program. I didn't know this at the time, but in an early NESA publication, we Eagles that have earned palms were supposed to place the palms on the red, white and blue ribbon suspending the NESA emblem on the pocket (this was when National couldn't make up their minds about placing Eagle palms on the square knot emblem)!
The Eagletter was established as the "communications medium" for the new organization. The original intent was to publish the newsletter quarterly, but it quickly became a real fight to get it out even on that schedule. The issue was not getting "national" information, but rather to fill it with more interesting profiles of Eagle Scouts and Eagle Scout service projects -- things which Eagle Scouts would tend to be more interested in and in sharing with others.
The concept of the NESA Chapter was simple: Just like an Order of the Arrow Lodge, NESA chapters would be chartered by National to serve local Councils. A youth Chapter Chair and an adult Chapter Advisor/Chair would serve as leaders of the Chapter and provide input into activities and advancement programs to the Council. Many of the adult Chapter Advisors served as Council Boy Scout Advancement Chairs or as chairs of Council Eagle Boards of Review. Youth Chairs became voting members of Council Executive Boards in those Councils which allowed for this to occur.
The Council's Scout Executive, or a professional member appointed by him, served as professional advisor to the Chapter and provided the day-to-day management of the Chapter. The professional advisor MUST be an Eagle Scout.
Chapters would meet monthly, provide fund-raising and program support to itself, and most importantly, promote the Eagle Scout rank by the coming-together of fellow Eagle Scouts living in the Council's area. Many NESA Chapters arranged for special Eagle Scout breakfasts or dinners, raised monies to underwrite the cost of the Eagle Scout presentation kit to each new Eagle Scout, and provided technical assistance to Scoutmasters and Advisors on putting on a successful Court of Honor. In the era before electronic mail and browsers, this knowledge would be shared through courses and one-on-one sessions with Scouters. The local Council would benefit as well, from the chapter finding "old Eagles" that led to increased financial and membership support to the Council. It was a good, no -- strike that.
It was a GREAT idea -- and it took off fast!!
The early years
Starting in 1973, the National Eagle Scout Association offered lifetime memberships and a special wall certificate -- the first time that such an offer was presented. The basic membership wall certificate was so attractive, that adults holding the Ranger or Silver Award, or whom only made it to Life or Star Scout literally begged for entry into NESA just for the wall certificate alone! Almost overnight, the first 300 Scouters sent the Eagle Scout Service their $180 for what they believed would be a lifetime of continuation of association with the BSA.
That, too, was a stroke of marketing genious. In 1973, the National Eagle Scout Association had to present a special news conference to inform Scouters that only those individuals who have earned the Eagle Scout Award -- and ONLY the Eagle Scout Award -- may become members. There was no provisions for honorary memberships, nor for memberships based on the award of the Ace, Ranger, Silver or Quartermaster Awards; nor for former or retired professionals, military officers or senior enlisted personnel, or "military Rangers or SEALs".
That same year, the NESA received authority to manage and process the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (the Eagle Scout Service has been doing this since the award was created in 1969 originially as a last-ditch effort to rekindle the old Knights of Dumanis) and the permission to develop and create other awards for service and leadership to NESA on a Chapter and National basis.
The National Eagle Scout Association met every other year for national meetings of Eagle Scouts....massive activities which enthusued the young and old alike and kept a many "burned out Eagle Scout" back in the program. In 1975, the NESA was given the responsibility for implementing national scholarship programs for Eagle Scouts and for coordinating those programs with other national organizations. In 1976, the National Eagle Scout Association hosted a special "Eagles on the Mall" celebration in Washington, D.C. It was the largest gathering of Eagle Scouts -- young and old -- to date and proved the wisdom of organizing the NESA along the same lines as the Order of the Arrow as opposed to along the lines of the Exploring program.
Later in 1976, the first of yearly "National Scoutmaster Awards of Merit" would be awarded by the National Eagle Scout Association as part of the BSA's volunteer training effort. These awards originally consisted of a specially-engraved plaque and a large six-inch backpatch and was awarded to 31 outstanding Scoutmasters - one each in the BSA's 31 geographical regional areas then organized. Councils would recommend outstanding Scoutmasters whom have had a record of successful promotion of Scouts toward Eagle and with understanding and living the Patrol Method and Troop operation - BSA style.
National Scoutmaster Awards of Merit would continue to be presented on a yearly basis until 1984.
Decline and Dips
In 1984, with an organizational change affecting all Regions and the National Staff, the Eagle Scout Service was cut in size and scope and the National Scoutmaster Awards of Merit was converted from a national "competition" to a local Council training recognition. The plaques and regional recognition went away. The Scoutmaster Award of Merit became instead a special white square knot and certificate to be awarded to ANY Scoutmaster whom have been certified by his (later her) unit as developing a good program over a 18-month period. The backpatch remained.
Around 1989 or so, the bottom fell out of the Exploring program. Scout Executives complained that youth Exploring leaders had more power and influnce than they should. A new Chief Scout Executive came on board, and basically told the youth -- all of the youth involved in Exploring-- to "take a long hike". Chief Love mandated the dismantling of the National and Regional Explorer Cabinets, the restructuring of the Exploring Presidents and Officers' Associations found in many Councils and the reformulation of the National Exploring Conference.
In the process, he looked at the NESA local Chapters, some of which were growing by leaps and bounds... and stated "too much youth involvement." He mandated that the adult Chapter Chair would become the leader of the NESA Chapter, and that youth officers would no longer be honored. By this time, many NESA Chapters were rolling along and basically ignored the national dictums... they were too concerned with providing the "fraternal" and service elements which brought many Eagle Scouts back "out of retirement."
Some Council NESA chapters became a secondary fundraising funnel for the local Council, and many Eagles expressed that they were being used as "magnets" to get the Council more money (nothing new: this goes on with EVERYTHING else in Scouting; only thing, some of these Eagle Scouts were also very influncial people but NOT on the Council's Executive or Advisory Boards (this is the true fault of the local Council for this failure!) ) and complained to National about this fact.
Several Councils used the NESA Chapter as their own "private club", complete with hosting dinner parties out at the local Council's camping facilities. While this was questionable at the least, some Councils did this so that Eagles could invite those that would otherwise not come out to the camping facility to see it (and to ask them for financial support to keep it going)!
Finally, the Regions treated the NESA chapters like they did the Exploring Presidents' Associations prior to Chief Love's entry as Chief Scout Executive: every Council MUST have a chapter, or they are NOT doing "quality Scouting". Councils would hastly put together a NESA Chapter, get it chartered, and for all practical purposes, it was only on paper and the Charter would sit in the Council office lobby for the Area Director to view whenever he made his visit.
A major national restructuring resulted in the discontinuation of the Eagletter, the main publication "arm" of the Association for a short period of time. Two adult volunteers, both of whom paid and received life memberships in NESA, assumed that since they are "life members" of the National Eagle Scout Association that this also entitled them to *BSA membership*. They based this assumption upon the facts that NESA Chapters, like their OA counterparts, are chartered parts of a local Council and that local Councils register individuals as part of their obligation for being. The BSA asserted that no, they are not entitled to automatic volunteer registration since their NESA application is not registered with the BSA's Registration Service. The matter was settled, but the bad taste from that episode almost meant the end of NESA as a national program option.
The NESA Board of Regents
In 1990, the BSA's National Executive Board created a "Board of Regents of the National Eagle Scout Association" which would give leadership and direction to the program, and abolished local NESA Chapters. Also, the Bylaws of the National Eagle Scout Association was rewritten to explain that membership in the National Eagle Scout Association IN NO WAY includes or also entitles an Eagle Scout to volunteer service or membership within a local Council or the BSA's Direct Service Council and that one can be an active member of NESA WITHOUT being a registered Scout or Scouter.
Even with this restructuring and with an influx of interest, many Scouters, tossed their hands up and said "Forget this!" They have been subjected to infrequent mailings of the Eagletter, their Councils confused with the new policies, told them "yeah, we do have a chapter" and "no, we don't"; and with no direction from the National leadership, many NESA members found themselves looking at a nice wallet card, a wall certificate and wondering "What did I pay this money for?"
When it came time to renew their 10 or 15-year membership, many Eagle Scouts passed despite a massive mailing effort by the NESA and the BSA to convince them otherwise. It is estimated that the NESA lost a third of its membership between 1987 and 1990. To help bolster their uniqueness, the Eagle Scout Service offered special plastic Eagle Scout, NESA and NESA life membership cards along with Wood Badge cards and other special NESA personalized items.
The new membership cards, embossed like credit cards, did not prove popular enough with many Scouts and Scouters. The $5.00 per card cost didn't help things either, when the actual Eagle Scout card itself can be obtained and laminated for less than a dollar.
A fire at the BSA's National Offices in Texas destoyed several bound journals and other materials used to verify Eagle Scouts, and a mad rush was organized by NESA and the Eagle Scout Service to find those "old Eagle Scouts" and to allow them to update the Eagle Scout Service with their data. In many areas, Eagle Scout Reunion Dinners or Programs were re-established and for a short time, did put a little interest back into the NESA as well as to boost their membership figures somewhat.
Eagle Scout and (at that time) Director of Central Intellegence Robert Gates was elected as the Chair of the the Board of Regents in 1997. Gates directed the efforts of NESA through some tough times, and continued to serve as NESA's Board of Regents Chair when he became Secretary of Defense under two Presidents. He brought new life into this historic organization through his personal Scouting stories. The emphasis back then was to allow Eagles to become NESA members and to participate fully within local Councils.
Under his leadership, the scholarship program was expanded. A new way of marketing NESA to local Councils was developed and the idea of a "Scouting alumni program" not just for Eagles but all former youth members of the BSA was floated. NESA would have an expanded prescence during the 2001 and 2005 National Scout Jamborees and would focus more on "bringing back" or "updating" card-carrying Eagle Scouts. This was important, because a field memo sent to local Councils in 1997 asked local Council Executives to help "spread the word" that there would be no national "Eagle Scout Reunion" as part of the official Jamboree program that year. There were fears that some Eagle Scouts, not happy with the BSA's stance in regard to sexual orientation, females as youth members and principles dealing with the role of religion in the BSA, *may show up* and somehow disrupt the premiere national BSA showcase. This has never occured.
Although Secretary Gates still serves on the NESA Board of Regents, he turned over the chairmanship in 2005.
NESA Since the Turn of the Century
As mentioned earlier, the Eagleletter was shelved. Under Bob Gates' direction, a new set of Internet presences, starting with the new NESA website (http://www.nesa.org), which has been updated and redesigned twice since 1999; and a new glossy magazine, called simply "Eagle Scout", has been published and distributed. The new tools are aimed at both older Eagle Scouts as well as younger Eagle Scouts and their parents. The new magazine, with stories and reflection from Eagles about the Eagle rank, it's revelence and importance to today's society and to businesses, also has "filler information" taken from SCOUTING, Boys' Life and now from social media areas to keep non-registered Eagle Scouts informed as to what's going on in "Scouting Today".
The NESA has somewhat of an "hangout" on Facebook™ and You Tube™ as a result of an overall "remake" of Scouting's approaches to social media. Many local Councils' NESA chapters or clubs also have Facebook pages as well. On the BSA's NESA website are links to NESA applications and speciality items.
Glenn Adams serves as the current NESA National Chair and Board of Regents Chair. A special scholarship has been established in his and his wife's name to honor the best Eagle Scout Service project conducted in the previous year.
In 2004, a brand new set of Eagle Scout websites -- one for the public, potential NESA members, and local Councils (http://www.nesa.org) and another one for NESA members and local Councils (http://www.myNESA.org ) was developed, with information geared to keeping Eagles informed and connected with other Eagles while enthused about serving in some way withing their local Councils. These sites will be further developed in 2012 to provide more connectivity with the NESA team at National as well as with fellow Eagles all around the world.
During the 2005 National Scout Jamboree, the Eagle Scout Service along with the Boy Scout Program Division set up shop and printed special NESA membership certificates and cards, providing them to NESA members as well as to touching base with NESA members whose memberships have "lapsed" or who have not chosen earlier to become members. The new emphasis was to provide them ways in which they can be valued members and assisters in their Councils. The special certificates acknoweldge that they become members, renewed their membership, or became life members of NESA during the Jamboree.
From 2006-2008, the BSA contracted Harris and Associates, a national polling and database firm, to do the first of three nation-wide "Eagle Scout Searches". The firm, assisted by local Councils and the Eagle Scout Service, attempted to contact every Eagle Scout since the first days of the BSA, gathering their home and business addresses, the year they made Eagle, whether or not they have earned any other national BSA award, and putting it all together into a set of four paper volumes (one per region) and five CD/DVDs which were sold to Eagle Scouts and others.
While the volumes were successful in contacting a large number of Eagle Scouts, many opted-out on something called "data mining" for finance and marketing purposes. The directories were a true, honest effort to find out where America's Eagle Scouts were and what were they doing presently; the additional information which was retrieved via phone calls from Harris personnel (not BSA employees nor professionals) asked additional employment and financial information which some felt were "over the top."
An additional National search was conducted in 2009-2010.
Through 2008, 2010, and 2012 nationwide searches for Eagle Scouts, NESA has recently identified and updated records for over 1,000,000 Eagle Scouts. As a direct result of this effort, many of these individuals have only just become re-involved in Scouting at the council level. Many of them already have provided substantial volunteer and financial benefits to councils that have simply asked for their help.
The BSA encourages council NESA committees to become more involved with connecting Eagle Scouts living in the council area. These committees can serve at the grassroots level, as a resource to help find and engage Eagle Scouts in their councils and the Scouting program.
In 2008, the BSA underwent a major downsizing reorganization and the Eagle Scout Service was quietly set aside. In its' place, the Alumni Task Force assumed the role of the Eagle Scout Service while the Advancement Task Force assumed the role of interpreting and developing the policies dealing with the process toward and earning Eagle.
Currently with NESA...
In 2011-2012, a third round of "Eagle Scout accounting" is underway. Harris Connect, part of the Harris and Associates firm, is building an updated version of its National Eagle Scout Directory initiative. As of the date of this posting, more than 57,000 new NESA members have been "found" so far. Part of this new Directory is a book, again by Region, of stories and photos of Eagle Scouts then and now. An option has been given to Eagle Scouts to simply provide basic contact information and if the individual chose to do so, to volunteer their Eagle Scout experiences in lieu of getting a phone call from a Harris data collector.
A new award, the Outstanding Eagle Scout Award was established. The NESA Outstanding Eagle Scout Award (NOESA) is a prestigious recognition granted by the local councilís NESA committee to Eagle Scouts who have demonstrated outstanding achievement at the local, state, or regional level. Unlike the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, which is a national award, the NOESA recognizes Eagle Scouts whose efforts have made a positive impact closer to home.
Time will tell as to how strong NESA will become again. Most Eagle Scouts remember NESA for support to their local Councils in the past, but are hard pressed to see or know about what NESA is doing today.
That's the whole thing, except that the most successful national part of NESA has been its Eagle Scout Scholarship program, now adminstered by the BSA's Program Group. Hundreds of thousands of dollars -- a portion of the membership dues along with grants from Eagle Scouts -- go toward continuting education of young Eagles all over the nation.
Now, specific questions and answers:
"What is NESA for?"
NESA is a national free association of Eagle Scouts managed at the national level by the Boy Scouts of America Alumni Task Force. It provides Eagle Scouts with an identifiable way to associate with other Eagles, to promote the Boy Scout program and that of the Eagle Scout rank by their membership (and we hope by encouraging other Eagle Scouts), and to serve as visual public examples of the good of the Eagle Scout Badge among its holders.
NESA serves as a manpower resource for local Councils, for organizations outside of Scouting, and for the national organization itself. NESA members do NOT have to be registered members of the BSA, but all NESA members MUST be Eagle Scouts, with no "honorary" nor "provisional" memberships.
Finally, NESA members have the opportunity to support the BSA and its local Council financially and physically.
"Does NESA really do anything?"
Yes and no, and I'm not straddling here.. there are some NESA members that have done wonders for their local Councils and for their fellow Eagle Scouts... and some great programs including organizing Eagle Scout dinners and Courts of Honor assistance... (something I loved to do then and still love to do now!) Unfortunately, there are some NESA chapters which are either struggling or attempting to get back on track after the up and down experiences outlined above.
How do you get in touch with NESA, check on or renew your membership, change your address or find some Eagle records?
The best way to contact NESA is via the NESA website, located at http://www.nesa.org.
NESA may be contacted by snailmail or phone as follows:
NESA, S222 Boy Scouts of America 1325 West Walnut Hill Lane P.O. Box 152079 Irving, TX 75015-2079 phone: 972.580.7870You may contact the Alumni/NESA team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As far as finding Eagle Scout records, your best bet is to start locally, at your Council office. In a separate Frequently Asked Question posting I list suggestions on how to conduct such a search.
The National Eagle Scout Association works out of and the same professional team which manages other alumni programs also manages the NESA at the National Office.
The NESA membership application is located on http://www.nesa.org, NESA's official website.
Life membership. The life membership is available for a one-time payment. Members will receive an attractive full-color membership certificate and card along with a special square knot which may be worn in the place of the standard Eagle Scout square knot insignia.
Replacement certificates or cards may now be obtained through the BSA's Supply Group. This links to the online application form which you can mail and place your order; or you may call the BSA Distribution Center at 1-800-323-0732.
The National Eagle Scout Association is ALWAYS looking for additional members, and while the "benefits" of belonging is NOT as good as it used to be, it is still a special group of outstanding men with a special purpose. And since there is NO provision for "honorary Eagles" or "special Eagles", the ONLY members of this organization are those that have earned the highest male youth honor in the Boy Scout Division.
The National Eagle Scout Association is now a personal thing, not a group thing as before. It's a shame, but that's the way it is...
In the meantime: Find other Eagle Scouts that want to give back to the program. Display your NESA certificate as I do, proudly in my office so that the first thing people see when they come in is the fact that you're an Eagle Scout.
Hope this helps out with the explaination and with answering your questions. It's NOT a scam, nor is it "dead" (no, nowhere near it, but it's got to get out of the basement!). It's a great organization that had good intentions, but I feel that the great folks at National still hasn't figured out how to use all of our talents and experiences in this new century -- without entering into problems of registration and "people's space".
Thanks for the questions!