This week’s Eagle Scout Spotlight is with the Golden Gate Area Council’s Camping Chair, Michael McDowell. Michael earned his Eagle in 1986 with Troop 93, Des Mones, IA of the Mid-Iowa Council. Studying at both Iowa State University and the University of California, Davis, Michael now finds himself living in Pleasant Hill with his wife. The former Scoutmaster of Troop 405, where his son attained the rank of Eagle Scout in 2016. Michael continues his service with the Golden Gate Area Council as a commissioner for the Briones District and on the council’s Camping, Communications, and STEM committees.
Are there other Scouting or Non-Scouting awards or recognitions you would like to mention?
I am a Brotherhood member of the Order of the Arrow. I was honored with the Silver Beaver in 2020 (legacy Mt. Diablo Silverado Council). In 2016, I received the Medal of Merit for my actions attempting to save an adult leader’s life on a day hike up Mt. Diablo in 2015. I received the District Award of Merit and Unit Leader Award of Merit in 2015.
Tell us a little bit about you…
Where do you reside? I live in Pleasant Hill with my wife, Laura. We have two adult children, one of whom is an Eagle Scout and just graduated from UCLA and the other attends college in Savannah, GA.
Where do/did you attend school or plan to attend? I attended Iowa State University where I received a B.S. in Agricultural Biochemistry and an M.S. in Biochemistry. I then attended the University of California, Davis where I received a PhD in Biochemistry in 1999.
Do you have a job or career, if so, what do you do? I am an Adjunct Faculty member at Diablo Valley College where I teach General Chemistry. I have worked in the Bioscience and Pharmaceutical Industries as a scientist and project manager.
Are you still active in Scouts? I am a former Scoutmaster for Troop 405 in Pleasant Hill. When I stepped down from my role as Scoutmaster at the end of 2019, I became an Assistant District Commissioner/Unit Commissioner for the Briones District. I still work with Life Scouts on their own Trail to Eagle. I chaired the Golden Gate Area Council STEM Committee from 2016 (legacy MDSC) until the end of 2020 when I took on the role of Golden Gate Area Council Camping Chair. I remain involved with the Council STEM Committee serving as a Nova Counselor and Supernova Mentor. I also work on the Communications Committee helping with website content and maintenance.
To learn about the GGAC’s STEM opportunities, visit their website page at stem.ggacbsa.org.
Are other members of your family involved in scouting, are any of them Eagle Scouts? My son earned his Eagle in 2016 as a member of Troop 405. My brother is an Eagle Scout (Class of 1979).
When and where do you earn your Eagle Scout?
How old were you? I completed the work on my Eagle Scout in 1986 about three (3) days before my 18th Birthday.
What unit, city, council did you earn your Eagle in? I earned my Eagle as a member of Troop 93 in Des Moines, IA (Mid-Iowa Council)
What did you do for your Eagle Project?
My project involved insulating the attic of the Pre-school of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (where I attended Pre-School). We also worked to weatherize the Pre-school building windows.
Did you have a favorite merit badge(s)? Did any merit badges(s) lead to a hobby or profession?
I don’t know if it was my favorite, but I still remember the first merit badge I earned, Fish & Wildlife Management, as it was something I was really interested in at the time, but once I got to college, I realized I liked biochemistry better. The merit badge that has probably stuck with me the longest is one of my favorite ones to counsel, Environmental Science, as it connects much of the chemistry I know with ecology and the environment.
What does being an Eagle Scout mean to you?
For me the Eagle Scout is about service. I still remember the adults that were there to guide me along the Trail to Eagle, Kraig Snodgrass, my Scoutmaster, and Ken Stinson, my Eagle Mentor, so I continue to give back to the program because of their work with me.
Do you recall an experience or situation that being or becoming an Eagle Scout aided you in?
Scouting was an important aspect in preparing for life after graduation from high school, and it was a factor in my receiving an academic full ride to Iowa State University for Biotechnology in Agriculture.
What is the greatest personal asset you developed while earning your Eagle Scout or from being an Eagle in the greater community? How has this asset contributed towards personal fulfillment and success in your professional or personal life?
The greatest asset I developed from being an Eagle Scout is a sense of service to the community, that giving to the community is its own greatest reward.
Do you have any advice for your fellow Eagles, or for those working towards becoming an Eagle? Or is there common advice that you think should be ignored?
For Life Scouts looking for or wondering about an Eagle project, find something that you are passionate about and use that as a launching pad for your project. It will provide you with a deep sense of satisfaction when you complete your project and help motivate you at points of low energy.
If you could add a thirteenth point to the scout law, what would it be?
A Scout is Resilient. Between my own son’s journey to Eagle, three States and four Units, and the struggles that the Scouts earning Eagle over the past 18 months have had to cope with, I feel being resilient to these challenges is a crucial part of life.