What causes a bank executive with two grown daughters and no sons to remain active in the Boy Scouts? William C. Esry, president and chief executive officer for the Blue Ridge Bank and Trust Company, knows the answer.
Esry used to say, “I’m an Eagle from the program and I want to give something back.” Then another chieftain told him, “You’re not involved to give something back; you’re involved to make sure there are Eagles for your daughters.” Esry smiles and says, “As a result, I have the full support of my wife and daughters to be involved in the program.”
“The program” is the Tribe of Mic-O-Say, which is a leadership program for Boy Scouts. “Like Scouts, everything we do builds up to increasing responsibility,” says Esry.
“One of the things Mic-O-Say does is help 14- and 15-year-olds think about things in deep ways,” Esry says. “So many have never sat and thought about things, really breaking new ground in their head. What do I want to do? What’s important to me? We ask them to sit and think about things and make commitments to themselves. Mic-O-Say rounds things out for Scouts. There’s no merit badge for deep thinking.”
Esry’s tribal name is Chieftain Little Brother Speeding Spear. No two names are the same. Esry explains, “My uncle got into Scouting. His name is Speeding Spear. His only sibling, my dad, took the name Brother Speeding Spear. As dad’s oldest, I am Little Brother Speeding Spear. Least Brother Speeding Spear is my younger brother.”
A council of chieftains, who have likewise served, named Esry the 85th presiding chieftain in May. He will serve for one year and preside over ceremonies until next May. As presiding chieftain, Esry will also preside over the year’s chieftain meetings of the council, which establishes the policy of the tribe of Mic-O-Say.
“Out of 77,000 who have been members of the tribe of Mic-O-Say, 85 people have been in my position,” says Esry. “It’s a huge honor.”
Esry became a member of Mic-O-Say, as a brave, in Troop 226 in Independence in 1973. He continued to progress and earned the rank of Eagle Scout, an achievement which must be reached by age 18 and teaches all the skills of a good project manager. As an adult, he continued his volunteer service with the Scouts.
Esry has held leadership positions with the Blue Elk District – Independence, Blue Springs, Grain Valley – including four years as district chairman. He has been a member of the Heart of America Council Board of Directors since 2007, serving as president of the council in 2009-10. In 2005 he began serving as a commissioner at the Bartle Scout Reservation in Osceola, Mo., where Scout troops attend a 10-day summer camp each year.
Esry raises his eyebrows and smiles as he talks about being a commissioner.
“Water skiing is a huge passion for me,” he says. “I drive the boat and teach the staff how to teach kids how to ski.” Esry says it takes all kinds of volunteers taking on different responsibilities to make the program work.
Esry sits at the polygon conference table in the bank’s executive suite. His excitement about the Scouting program is contagious. He prefers to talk about the virtues of Eagle Scouts rather than his personal achievements.
Baylor University conducted a study that compared Eagle Scouts to non-Scouts. “Eagle Scouts: Merit Beyond the Badge” examined areas such as volunteerism, the environment, interpersonal connections, diversity, hobbies, education, goal-setting and self-discipline.
“One of the survey findings I love best is that Eagle Scouts are 76 percent more likely to be involved in their community than non-Scouts,” says Esry. He calls Matt Armstrong, marketing director for the Heart of America Council, and puts him on speaker phone to confirm the data. Armstrong adds that for 2013 the 19-county area of the council had 33,055 youth and 15,077 adults in Scouts. They recorded 183,586 hours of community service, earned 36,206 merit badges, and 840 earned the rank of Eagle Scout.
Mark Dudley, senior vice president of compliance and director of risk management for the bank, joins Esry from a nearby office. He is involved with Scouts at the troop level. He knows why guys stay involved in Scouts and go to camp every year. “I still enjoy the program and believe in it,” Dudley says. “Someone was there for me when I was a young man and I want to give back. Plus, it’s fun!” They both laugh.