Service in the Boy Scouts of America is in the blood of Rick Williams ’74. Rick’s grandfather, former C of I acting president L.A. Williams, was a scoutmaster in Caldwell and a recipient of the prestigious Silver Beaver award for his positive impact on Idaho youth. Rick’s father, a fellow graduate of The College of Idaho, served as the president of the C of I National Alumni Board and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, just as many other men in the Williams family have done.
But Rick Williams is the only member of his family to receive one of the Boy Scouts’ rarest and most significant honors: the William T. Hornaday Gold Medal for distinguished service to natural resource conservation, an honor only given to 51 adults in the Hornaday Awards’ 103 year history.
“I’m really knocked over by this,” Williams said about receiving the award. “When you put yourself out there to volunteer, you don’t ever do it just looking for an award. To actually get something like this is very gratifying and humbling, and it’s really energizing me to do even more.”
The William T. Hornaday Gold Medal is a national level award granted to adult Scouters who have provided significant leadership in conservation on a national or regional basis over a period of at least 20 years. As an avid fly fisherman with a Ph.D. in conservation biology from Brigham Young University, Williams has worked as an independent biological consultant for his own company, Clear Creek Consulting, focusing on stream and habitat restoration for native trout, steelhead and salmon in the Intermountain West and Pacific Northwest.
On top of his professional work in conservation, Williams has also made it part of his mission to encourage both the adults and the youth he works with to participate in conservation efforts themselves. He is the senior conservation advisor for Fly Fishers International (FFI), as well as an assistant scoutmaster, associate crew advisor and chairman of the Ore-Idaho Council Conservation Committee for the Boy Scouts of America.
“I think it’s a really important group that promotes youth development,” Williams said of the BSA. “I’ve seen the transformation that these young men go through. The main thrust of it is to serve, to learn integrity and citizenship. These are the next leaders of our country. The lessons they can learn here can have a real positive impact on the lives of others.”
There are several Hornaday awards regarding conservation, including medals and badges Scouts can earn through individual projects. Williams and another Scout leader, Mike Perkins, worked to develop an advising handbook and program to help BSA youth members earn Hornaday honors of their own, a system that is currently spreading through the country.
While the BSA has awarded hundreds of Hornaday medals for the youth, receiving the gold medal as an adult is a rare and exclusive honor only granted to a select few since the gold medal’s introduction in 1975. Williams was unaware of his nomination for the medal until he was presented with the award at the FFI’s annual awards banquet.
“It was a complete shock to me,” Williams said. “I serve on the Hornaday committee, so they must have passed this at some point that I wasn’t around. It was very sudden. I never expected to receive anything like this at all.”
Williams said his family history with Scouting as well as the C of I have both influenced him to continue forward in working with youth.
“I learned at the College that you can lead by example, and that’s an important thing when it comes to Scouting,” Williams said. “My professors were mentors to me, and I can be that mentor for others as well.”
The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.