The 2013 Washington Monthly College Guide places Indiana State at the top of its list of 281 national universities in the category of community service participation and hours worked by students, faculty and staff. A faculty member answers the question, “Why do you volunteer?”
Inspired by a female Boy Scout leader he thought “could do anything on this earth” and by his dad, who was his scoutmaster, Biff Williams earned the designation of Eagle Scout at 13.
With children of his own now, Williams — Indiana State University’s provost and vice president for academic affairs — says scouting helped shape his life and he’s giving back by serving as a scoutmaster himself.
Elaine Gibby served as 11-year-old scout leader for Williams’ scout troop as he was growing up in Utah.
“She climbed trees with us. She did everything with us,” Williams recalled. “She’s the one that started me in Scouts, and I fell in love with it. I liked working on merit badges. I loved camping, I loved learning about things. I think that helped me in my career now, because I think that started the process of wanting to learn.”
Williams’ oldest son, Braden, 13, is starting to think about his own Eagle Scout project, and Williams is looking forward to helping him achieve the organization’s highest honor.
“He has the same vigor for it that I did. It’s just a lot of fun,” Williams said, noting that his middle son, Peyton, 11, is “just starting out. I get to take both of them to Scout camp, so I’m pretty excited.”
In fact, all three of Williams’ sons are in scouting. Rowen, the youngest, is a Cub Scout.
Williams and his wife also have two daughters, who are older, and it wasn’t just the opportunity to be involved with his sons that inspired him to serve Scouting.
“So many people have volunteered throughout my life to help me. It goes back to that first scout leader, Elaine Gibby. She just made learning so fun and she took interest in me … and my father took interest in me and was my scoutmaster,” he said. “I wanted to give back, because I see now, as an adult, the development of my career, of my personality, of my moral compass, of everything from the influence Scouting had with me.”
He recalled his dad’s commitment to helping him earn the mile swim badge as particularly inspirational.
“I was a horrible swimmer. I had to swim from dock to dock an absurd amount of times and he walked from dock to dock to dock encouraging me to keep going. I remember to this day that my dad was sacrificing for me,” he said. “I have a few boys in my troop that do not have strong fatherly influences, and I really believe in the scouting program. That’s why I give back.”
Plus, he said, “It makes you happier. When you’re serving others, if you’re having a bad mood or anything, you just need to serve other people. When you’re serving people, you’re happy.”