SMC Art Professor Earns National Eagle Scout Award

SMC Art Professor Earns National Eagle Scout Award

SMC Art Professor Kris Neely helps local Boy Scouts earn their art merit badge.

Baker Maultsby
Contributing Writer

Art professor Kris Neely is deeply committed to SMC’s mission to prepare students for life with a broad-based liberal arts education, enriching practical experiences supporting career interests, and driving passion for making the world a better place.

Each day he works with students, Neely thinks of how seamlessly this mission blends with another activity he has devoted his talent and energy to: The Boy Scouts.

Neely has been involved with the Scouts for most of his life, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout and helping others to do the same. Neely recently received the National Outstanding Eagle Scout Award for all his contributions to the Scouts. He is one of two recipients from the Palmetto Council, which serves more than 3,000 youngsters in Spartanburg, Chester, Cherokee, Lancaster, Union, and York counties.

“The learning-by-doing capstone opportunities infused in our curriculum, as well as the civic engagement we foster at SMC — I relate all of this to my experience as a Scout,” Neely said.

Neely grew up in a family of Scouts. His father, Rev. Dr. Kirk Neely, and three older brothers also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, and he followed in their footsteps. As an adult, he has mentored Eagle Scouts – including his son, Michael – and led two church-based troops.

In late February, Neely’s father presented him with the Eagle Scout Award in a small ceremony. He will be recognized at a Scout banquet in Rock Hill on March 10.

“I don’t feel like I deserve this honor, but I know it took the patience of many to make it possible,” Neely said. He recognized numerous supporters and made special mention of his father and siblings.

“My family was very involved in Scouts,” he said. “I’m the fourth son in my family. My father and three brothers were all Eagle Scouts, so I kind of joke that I didn’t have an option – it’s just what we did.”

Neely said that even his sister, Betsy, the youngest of five siblings, was also brought into the fold.

“Mom said she didn’t like that Betsy wasn’t getting the same opportunities as her brothers,” he said. “So, Dad helped her complete the basic parts required for Eagle Scout, even though she couldn’t receive it officially. He even presented Betsy with her own little Eagle pin.”

When Boy Scouts of America grew to include girls, Betsy and Kris worked together to build a troop at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church. They named it Troop 67 – the number their late brother Erik wore as a football player at Spartanburg High School.

Neely is passionate about working with Scouts at all levels. But seeing a young person achieve Eagle Scout status is incredibly gratifying, he said.

“Completing everything to become an Eagle Scout is rare,” he said, noting that only about four percent of those who begin the Scouting program reach the Eagle rank.

To become an Eagle Scout, a young person must earn numerous merit badges, take on leadership roles, and demonstrate outdoor skills. He or she must also conceptualize and complete a community service project based on their interests.

The basic tenets of the Eagle Scout program – setting goals, developing a work ethic, and managing and completing projects – direct Neely’s approach to teaching students at SMC.

“I always lean back on my Eagle Scout experience,” he said. “It’s so important to be able to come up with a vision for a project, work with partners, find solutions, and take each step to complete it. It’s a process you must learn, and Scouting is a great place to start. I’m grateful for that.”

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