The Philmont Staff Association will honor two distinguished and long-serving members of the Philmont staff, Father Donald Hummel and Doug Palmer, as recipients of the association’s 2016 Silver Sage Awards on Saturday, July 9, 2016. All current staff members are invited to attend the award presentation at 7:15 p.m. that evening in the Philmont Training Center Assembly Hall.
Father Donald Hummel arrives at the ranch in mid-July to begin his 25th season as a Catholic chaplain on the Philmont staff. Over that time, he has been instrumental in helping to create and maintain Philmont’s long tradition of chaplains of all faiths working together. He also helped establish and served as the first trek advisor for the St. George Treks, a program of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting (NCCS) that brings Scouts from across the country together every other year for a combination religious retreat and Philmont trek.
Father Don also has a long and distinguished Scouting resume outside Philmont. A 55-year “lifer” in the organization, he has served as national chaplain for the NCCS and as a chaplain at four national jamborees and one world jamboree. He is currently a member of the International Catholic Scouting Foundation, member of BSA’s Northeast Region board, and member of several national BSA task forces. In 1999, he received the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, and in 2004, he was awarded the Silver Buffalo, Scouting’s highest recognition for service to youth.
Now something of an icon among Philmont chaplains, Father Don has provided counseling, advice, spiritual assistance or just the occasional needed dose of good humor for tens of thousands of campers and staff over the past three decades. When not at Philmont or other Scouting functions, Father Don is the chaplain and a teacher at Paramus Catholic High School in northern New Jersey.
Doug Palmer needs little introduction to anyone involved with Philmont during those same three decades. Doug joined the Philmont professional staff in 1988 as associate director of program for backcountry operations. He retired in 2011 after 23 outstanding years with Philmont and 40 years in professional Scouting. During his tenure at the ranch, Doug revamped and expanded Philmont’s living history programs with establishment of defined timelines and characters, emphasis on historical accuracy, improved interpretive training for staff, and introduction of new programs such as the Civil War veteran camp at Black Mountain. Almost half of all campers who have ever attended Philmont participated in backcountry programs that fell under his supervision.
Doug also created and ran the Philmont Fall Fly Fishing Tournament to help local councils. He helped open Philmont’s doors to conducting programs on the ranch for those outside Scouting, such as the Casting for Recovery program to benefit breast cancer survivors. His Philmont role also led to him becoming a leader in New Mexico search and rescue operations, experience that he put to good use when he led the development of the BSA’s new Search & Rescue merit badge.
Doug’s personal example and the high standards he set for program influenced generations of backcountry staff, especially the camp directors he hired and trained. Doug and his wife, Betty, are retired and now live in Arroyo Seco, NM.
The Silver Sage Awards are presented annually by the Philmont Staff Association “to recognize distinguished and exceptional personal service or contributions of an important and lasting nature, by any individual or organization, for the benefit of Philmont Scout Ranch, Philmont program participants, and/or the Philmont staff.” Past recipients are listed on the honor roll in the Silver Sage Staff Activity Center, which was named for the award.
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