Vic Shelburne Ph.D. ’88

Scoutmaster Extraordinaire

By Amber Hradec ’22

Eleven days of backpacking in the New Mexico Rocky Mountains. Fifty miles of rubber kayaking on the New River in West Virginia. Cold-weather camping in Minnesota. All of these adventures are just a small part of Vic Shelburne’s role as scoutmaster of Clemson-based Troop 235.

Vic Shelburne Ph.D. ’88, professor emeritus of forestry, has been active in Boy Scouts of America since joining in 1963 and achieving his Eagle Scout rank in 1970. As scoutmaster of Troop 235, Shelburne coordinates all the activities of the volunteers and older Scouts and leads Scouts during meetings, service projects and campouts. With a troop of about 55 to 60 Scouts, they do one major outing per month, one service project per month and a major high-adventure trip every year.

However, Shelburne’s impact has been much more than that of an organizer. His passion for Scouting has created a community of people who look up to him as a role model.

“Vic truly cares about each Scout in the troop,” says Robert Williamson, professor emeritus of environmental engineering and earth sciences and assistant scoutmaster of Troop 235. Williamson has known Shelburne since 1980 and began volunteering when his own son was a Scout more than 35 years ago. “He inspires the adults who work with him, and he has something akin to parental pride as Scouts leave the program and take their place as leaders in society.”

Shelburne says he has stayed involved with Boy Scouts for so long because “Scouting is grounded in the outdoors. My enjoyment in being outdoors and sharing it with youth is the driving force.” He also takes his role very seriously because he values the impact being a Scout can have on a young individual. He says, “Scouting teaches Scouts to challenge themselves, to successfully work with others, to be prepared, to build character and leadership, and to foster citizenship.” Above all, Shelburne believes “persistence” is one of the most valuable lessons.

Shelburne’s impact has been much more than that of an organizer. His passion for Scouting has created a community of people who look up to him as a role model.

In addition to his many other awards, like District Awards of Merit, Outstanding Eagle Scout Award, Silver Beaver and four-time Scoutmaster of the Year, Shelburne was recently honored for his many years of service. He received letters of recognition from South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, U.S. Congressman Jeff Duncan and U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott. One extra special part of the ceremony was a professionally printed book of letters and photos from former Scouts and leaders who know Shelburne. The book was in honor of Shelburne’s own tradition of creating a personalized slideshow and photo album of every single newly ranked Eagle Scout. And Troop 235 has produced 231 Eagle Scouts under Shelburne’s leadership.

Bo Crader, a current leader in the Cub Scout Pack 235, affiliated with Troop 235, both of which are sponsored by Fort Hill Presbyterian Church in Clemson, gained Eagle Scout ranking under Shelburne’s leadership. “I am one of hundreds of Eagle Scouts who were encouraged, challenged and inspired by Vic,” he says.

Crader also says that “the most significant aspect of Vic’s leadership is his commitment to the success of each Scout.” For example, he makes it a point to memorize everyone’s names the first day he meets them and ensures that no Scout is unable to participate due to a lack of funds. Shelburne’s commitment to Scouts has led to the fulfillment of various projects that help the community. “Simply put, Vic leads by example,” Crader says. “He sets a high standard for others and continues to be a role model for me, even as an adult.”

While balancing all of the demands of being a scoutmaster, Shelburne also served as a faculty member of Clemson’s Department of Forestry until he retired in 2012. He taught classes and conducted field research over the years, served as a faculty senator for seven years and in retirement was co-chair of the University Commission on Sustainability. He also co-wrote The Nature of Clemson in 2005, a field guide to the natural history of the University.

“My professional forestry career and Scouting ‘career’ are very much intertwined,” Shelburne says, a statement evidenced by the many Eagle projects he has helped facilitate on campus and in the Clemson community, including building and maintaining trails like the Waldrop Stone Waterfall trail in the Clemson Experimental Forest.

Forty years of experience as an unpaid volunteer scoutmaster is no easy feat.

The gratitude that floods in from those who know Shelburne and have benefitted from his leadership is immeasurable. “He has a deep-rooted love for his fellow humans,” says Chip Egan, former dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities and an assistant scoutmaster who has known Shelburne for almost four decades. “Vic cares about [Scouting], like it provides the core meaning of his life.”

4 replies
  1. Douglas Freiland says:

    As a fellow Eagle Scout and student of Dr. Shelburne (Forestry, ‘02), I am glad to see that he is still active in Scouting, and continued teaching 10 years after I graduated from Clemson.

  2. Jay Jackson says:

    Excellent! I have always admired Vic’s work in Forestry at Clemson but did not know about the Boy Scout contributions. As a fellow Scout (who only had daughters!) I feel thankful for his gracious service and now admire the man even more.

  3. Ken Webb says:

    I received my Eagle Scout under Vic in 1988. A lot of my best memories growing up are the friendships and experiences I had through Boy Scouts. So very grateful for his dedication and commitment that has impacted so many lives in the Clemson community.

  4. Joe Weaver says:

    Two of my 3 sons were in vic’s troop and I, as well, learned a great deal as an assistant scoutmaster while we were in Clemson . Our oldest received his Eagle while there and unfortunately we moved away before my other two sons could finish the program (my third son was in Pack 235)….had we been able to stay I have no doubt I would be the parent of the 3 Eagle Scouts! I am so thankful for Vic being there for so long and his many accomplishments ! A true hero to so many boys he has helped over the years


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