Scout leader honored with Silver Beaver Award

Published 1:04 pm Saturday, March 31, 2018

Thomas Kent Stephenson doesn’t help lead Scouts for personal glory (“I’m not in it for the rewards,” but instead for the incalculable satisfaction of guiding boys to become healthy and productive men in society.

Thomas Kent Stephenson shows the honor that was bestowed on him last weekend. — Submitted | Jennifer Stephenson

This has been a responsibility he’s willingly carried for decades, even when personal sorrow threatened to halt his service. Such dedication should not go unnoticed, and last Saturday in North Suffolk the Pack and Troop 17 leader was presented the Silver Beaver award, which is the highest honor for service to Scouting.

“It’s just a super program. There’s so much for boys to do,” said the Franklin resident. He acknowledged that there’s a lot of competition for their attention, such as sports, but Stephenson believes that Scouting is “just that valuable.”

His entry into the program goes back to his father, Thomas A. Stephenson, who was his Scoutmaster of

Troop 196 (“I was as Boy Scout, not a Cub Scout.”) in Jackson, North Carolina, where he was born and reared. Stephenson didn’t make it to Eagle, though, because his father had to fold the troop owing to lack of help in running the program.

In 1995, he rejoined Scouting as an adult. His wife, Jennifer, credits Ray Thomas for his becoming a part of the Siouan Rivers District. She added that when the Stephensons’ son, Carter, came of age as a Tiger Cub, then his father took over as Chartered Organization representative for High Street United Methodist Church, which sponsors Troop and Pack 17. In 2000, he became Cubmaster and is still in that role today. Further, he also has served as a committee member of Troop 17 since 2003.

“I have watched my husband come home after long days at work, put on that uniform and go make a difference in the lives of many young men,” said Jennifer. “I know that along the way he has made an impression and inspired some folks to become involved in scouting.”

All this has been in addition to his career as an electrical engineer for International Paper, service on the Franklin Planning Commission and his church, High Street UMC.

Although Carter progressed to Boy Scouts, Stephenson remained with the pack so that it would not be disbanded.

In Stephenson’s time in the program, he’s seen 28 Boy Scouts achieve the rank of Eagle, the highest honor that a Scout can earn.

“I try to go to as many ceremonies as I can,” Stephenson said.

Tragedy occurred in November 2006 when Carter, fellow Scouts Jackson Fox and Luke Dreary and their assistant Scout Master, John Oliver, were killed in an accident on the way from a retreat.

While many people might have expected Stephenson to stop his involvement, that was not to be.

“I never really thought about stopping,” he said. “Its’ been therapy and a connection to the boys.”

He continued, “It’s the joy of watching the boys have a good time and learn at the same time. That’s why I’m in it. There always seems to be that one special kid that seems to be getting a lot out of it, and makes you feel like you are making a difference.”