Female Staff Pioneers to Receive 2014 Silver Sage Awards

SilverSageMedallionFemale staff members in Philmont’s backcountry programs are now a matter of routine, and probably don’t give anyone a second thought. That was not always so. Few staff members in Philmont’s history spent as much time under a microscope as the first female rangers and backcountry staffers. Because of their dedication and performance, doors opened, glass ceilings shattered, and Philmont’s program improved exponentially. For their important and lasting contributions for the benefit of Philmont and its staff, the PSA will recognize three true pioneers with the 2014 Silver sage Awards:

Kathy Leach and Nancy Wells–the first female Philmont rangers.

In 1972, the Boy Scouts of America opened its Exploring program to females. In late May that year, Joe Davis, Director of Camping, made one of his many pioneering decisions and decided to hire two girls for the ranger staff. He had two girls in mind – Kathy Leach, who had three brothers who had worked on the staff, and Nancy Wells, whose brother was also a ranger and who had been applying for a ranger position since she was sixteen. Davis later wrote: “I couldn’t have found two more qualified girls. They were older than the average age of rangers, they were expert backpackers, and they could out-hike many of the younger rangers. In the beginning some of the leaders were skeptical about having girl rangers. However, when they did have either Kathy or Nancy for their ranger, and when they had finished their trek and returned to base, they would confide with the incoming leaders: ‘request (Kathy or Nancy) for your ranger. She is great!’” Kathy and Nancy passed the test and set the stage not only for expansion of the female ranger program, but for the eventual acceptance of women in all backcountry programs. Kathy was also instrumental in pushing Joe Davis to open the Kit Carson Man (now Rayado) program to females, and served as ranger for that program’s first crew in 1973.

Dawn Chandler–Philmont’s first female camp director and first PSA executive director.

In 1988, after four summers in the ranger department, Dawn Chandler broke another barrier with her appointment as Philmont’s first female camp director at Abreu. Once again, Philmont stepped gingerly into this new world of females on backcountry staffs, and once again, the experiment paid off. Dawn performed admirably, came back as CD at Abreu again the following summer, and proved to skeptics that females could indeed function, and lead, in a backcountry staff camp setting. Female staff members now populate all but a few of Philmont’s backcountry camps. Dawn assumed the Phil-pioneer role again in 1997 when she hired on as the PSA’s first executive director. It is not an exaggeration to say that she built and cemented the PSA’s on-site presence at Philmont that has led to our organization having a permanent office, full-time staff, and regular seat at the table in Philmont-related activities. Dawn established working relationships with ranch managers, successfully grew the organization’s membership, expanded its involvement with seasonal staff, and made the PSA an integral part of the Ranch.

The 2014 Silver Sage Awards were presented in a ceremony at 7:00 p.m. on the evening of Saturday, July 12, at the Philmont Training Center Assembly Hall. Congratulations to this year’s recipients!