Graham “Teed” Howard is interested in people. He wants to understand what they do, how they do it and why they do it.

That passion has played a key part in his lifelong involvement in Boy Scouts.

Howard was honored April 17 by the National Eagle Scout Association with the Outstanding Eagle Scout Award.

The award is given to those who have “devoted a lifetime to their profession, avocation, community and beliefs, at great sacrifice to themselves and their families,” according to the association.

During his 39-year career in Scouts, Howard served as a field executive, district executive, field director, Exploring director and Scout executive in Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Mel Hoefling, who nominated Howard for the award, first met him at age 12, when Howard was his Scout leader.

“I knew that, if anybody, he deserves that award,” Hoefling said.

In 1943, at the age of 17, Howard earned his Eagle rank in his hometown of West Lafayette.

In 1950, after two years working with Herman Powell at Yellowwood State Forest, Howard was faced with a choice between using his forestry education further south in swampy regions, or moving to Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to work for Boy Scouts of America.

He chose the Scouts.

“I’ve always liked to teach, although I’ve never gone into an educational field as such,” Howard said, calling the Scouts “the largest vocational training — volunteer — organization in the world.”

Howard has immersed himself in the lives and cultures he has encountered and shared that knowledge.

He’s grateful for the community that Scouting gave to him, too.

“Whatever community you go into, if you meet Scouters, you meet people with values,” Howard said. “And so, you have instant friends.”

Learning the culture

While studying forestry and outdoor education at Purdue, Howard ran a Boy Scout troop.When he was approached by about a dozen of his older Scouts who wanted to learn more about Native Americans, he and a couple friends hitchhiked to Wisconsin to learn everything they could.

Thus began a lifelong interest in Native American culture.

He has made contact with multiple tribes and earned a level of respect that makes him welcome as a participant in events where others would not be, he said.

He still travels around the country to dance at tribal gatherings.

When he and his late wife decided to adopt a child in the 1960s, the Children’s Home Society in Minneapolis-St. Paul offered them the opportunity to adopt two Native American children who had been put up for adoption by their tribes.

Howard’s interest in people and their cultures fit well with his assignments as a professional Scouter.

When he was working in Wisconsin, his boss had him change areas every year. That meant working with different denominations, nationalities and cultures each time.

“Scouting changed in each case to serve those people, because that’s what scouting does,” Howard said. “It’s a movement, not an organization.

“You do for people what they want, not what you want,” he said.

The troops he worked with ran the gamut, from one that was sponsored by a local school system, to another that was in an Amish community where they couldn’t have uniforms and the colors of merit badges had to be subdued. He served a variety of faiths and denominations — Lutheran, Catholic, Mormon, Mennonite.

Being open to the needs and desires of each group went beyond just cultural sensitivity, Howard said.

When working with the first Amish Boy Scout troop in Indiana, outdoor skills were something the boys already knew.

Instead, Howard helped them develop a program around building skills, which they used by making camping trailers, he said.

“In fact, they did so well at building trailers, they were building six a day and everybody else was building two,” he said.

“But that shows you how different the Scouting program can be,” Howard said.

Back in Brown County

Both in and out of uniform, Howard has always been an active member of his community.“I was a volunteer even when I was a professional, because I didn’t believe in asking people to serve on something I hadn’t done,” he said.

He is on the board at Greenlawn Cemetery and is the sergeant-at-arms for the Rotary Club.

Exploring his own cultural heritage, he’s a member of the Scottish Society of Greater Bloomington, where he does Scottish dancing.

He’s been working for several years with a friend to collect and verify the myths and stories of Brown County.

He returned to Brown County in 1989 when he retired from Scouting, in part driven by the unique mix of people he finds here.

“I’m interested in what people do for a living. I’m interested in the hobbies they do. I’m interested in the clubs they belong to — I like to know about people,” Howard said.

“In Brown County, what makes it most interesting here, is — Brown County is like two different things: it’s the old families, and they’re known and well-established, and then all the people who moved in, like me — or moved back,” he said.

“And so you have interesting people, because what they did and what they do now, somehow tie together, because it’s bound to,” Howard said.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.