Program Development

Dr. Mortensen formed a Task Force in 1975. He asked at least five other men to assist him in his effort, namely: Alva D. Greene, Ross J. Taylor, Boyd R. Ivie, Burton F. Brasher and Verl L. Stark.

Alva D. Greene had retired as an executive with the J.C.Penney Company and recently moved back to Utah to pursue new business interests. Alva served for a time as the Great Salt Lake Council’s President. Alva was later asked to serve as the first Area President of what was then Area 2 in the BSA’s Western Region. Dr. Mortensen asked him to help with creating Varsity Scouting while he was serving in that position.

Ross J. Taylor was a Professional Scouter who had been the Scout Executive for the Great Salt Lake Council. Following a position working for the National Council, Ross accepted a position as Area Director of Area 2. Ross had enjoyed a distinguished career with the Boy Scouts of America and was a primary contributor to the development of Varsity Scouting.

Boyd R. Ivie, also a Professional Scouter, was then the Scout Executive for the Great Salt Lake Council. He later followed Ross Taylor as Area Director in Area 2 in the Western Region. Boyd and the others would work on creating different parts of the new program at home on their own, this after a full day’s work.

Burton F. Brasher, like Dr. Mortensen a member of the Young Men General Board and a surgeon, was President of Area 2 following Alva Greene and had been instrumental in developing an earlier solution to the 3 Quorum/2 Program “problem”. Burton made use of some Scouts Canada program literature developed for their Venture program to design the two-part Exploring program that preceded Varsity Scouting. Under that program, the Teachers were referred to as “Venture Explorers”, and the Priests as “Ensign Explorers”. Based on his knowledge and experience with that effort, JD tapped Burton to help with the development of the new Varsity Scouting program.

Verl L. Stark, a veteran Scouter, developed a passion for Scouting through his experience with Wood Badge. Verl served on several Wood Badge staffs and eventually became responsible for all of the Wood Badge courses in Area 2. Based on his excellent experience, he was asked to help with the development of Varsity Scouting and was a fine addition to the Task Force.

The Task Force labored to identify a program theme that would appeal to the young men in the targeted age group. They wanted a program that would encourage the young man to continue along the trail to Eagle, but one that would also encourage “bigger” and more challenging activities. They wanted it to be Scouting, but a version that would be viewed to be different than traditional Scouting. They wanted it to be more advanced, one that would hold the interest of a young man entering High School, a more “Senior” version of Scouting.

While driving together on their way to a Scouting function in Pocatello, Idaho, Dr. Mortensen proposed they call their program “Varsity Scouting”. The name fit. Everyone in the car knew that it satisfied their requirements perfectly and the name was adopted on the spot. The unit would be called a “Team”, the adult leader a “Coach”, and the principal youth leader a “Captain”. An award, the Varsity Scout Letter, was designated as the top award for Varsity Scouts.

The Task Force selected the colors [orange and brown], designed the uniforms [a tan polo shirt with a brown collar], and began the work of developing literature. No financial support was available from the National Council. None was offered from the Church. Dr. Mortensen paid the bulk of the costs that were required to get the program off of the ground. The total sum he paid is unknown, but it is generally accepted to have been tens of thousands of dollars.

Under the original program, Varsity Scouts were not allowed to wear the field uniform of tradition Boy Scouting. Lynn Larsen, wife of Professional Scouter Doug Larsen, and June Weise sewed the first Varsity Scout uniforms.

Despite the name, Varsity Scouting was never intended to be a strictly sports oriented program. The organizers wanted to include athletics as a part of the program, but they also wanted to include outdoor high-adventure and ample opportunities for service. As they pursued their vision of a well-rounded program, three important areas of responsibility for Team management began to emerge. Program Managers were defined to administer Advancement, High Adventure, and Service.

The Program Manager position was created to provide leadership opportunities to the young men and to allow a means of providing administrative oversight to the three critical areas that had been identified. Serving at the pleasure of the Team Captain, each Program Manager is made responsible for one of the three areas of concern.

The Team Committee structure was designed to parallel that of the Team itself. An adult serving on the Team Committee is expected to serve alongside each of the individual Program Managers in a supporting role. Realizing the need to involve a greater number of adults, two more Program Manager positions were created, driving a requirement for at least five adults on the Team Committee. This action spawned the focus on the five field of emphasis Varsity Scouting enjoys today. Although different from the original program design, the five fields are one of the most distinctive features of Varsity Scouting. They are:
• Advancement
• High Adventure
• Service
• Personal Development
• Special Programs and Events

The Task Force divided responsibility for developing various sections of the program among themselves. Over the course of about a month, each section was completed and brought back to the group for review. Comments were made and a common vision emerged. Once the initial program design was finished, they began putting a plan together for moving forward.

In the spring of 1973, the Great Salt Lake Council held an Expo at the University of Utah. Glen Oliver, a Commissioner, had the idea to send a Boy Scout Troop to the top of nearby Mount Olympus with a signaling mirror. At a pre-determined time, the Scouts would signal the Expo as a demonstration to go along with the Signaling Merit Badge being offered. Doug Brewer was Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 502, the unit that conducted this first On Target activity. Later, Doug Brewer and the activities surrounding Operation On Target both became synonymous with Varsity Scouting. Doug was the first Commissioner in the Great Salt Lake Council with responsibilities for Varsity Scouting. Operation On Target activities are held annually to this day.


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