Beckman earns district’s highest honor for adult Scouts

Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Dean Beckman, center, converses with Fred Feltner, left, and Mike Fritch, all of Jasper, during the Scout breakfast at the Knights of Columbus in Jasper on Sunday. 


JASPER — While canoeing with friends down the Patoka River in 1975, Dean Beckman lept into a rough stretch of water and saved a man’s life. And he wouldn’t have been able to do it if it weren’t for the Boy Scouts of America.

At a fall in the river, a canoe that carried two of his friends flipped, and those inside were caught in the raging undertow. One managed to escape, but another floated helplessly nearby. Beckman jumped in and, with the help of another Scout, they pulled the boy to shore and performed CPR to resuscitate him.

Before telling it, Beckman, 59, said the story was made possible by Scouting. He learned how to swim through the organization, and that’s just one of many ways he said his life has improved since joining Scouts.

The Jasper man was recently named one of two recipients of the Buffalo Trace Council’s District Award of Merit — the highest honor an adult Scouter can earn at the district level. For nearly three decades, he has served local BSA Troop 185 at Holy Family Church in various capacities. His mother and father also won the award in the past, making it that much more meaningful for Beckman.

“I was deeply honored by whoever nominated me for this award,” he said.

Before he or his three brothers were officially part of the Boy Scouts organization, Beckman’s father, Charles, was thrust into the lead Scoutmaster position at the local troop with little Scouting knowledge and experience. He thrived in the role, however, ultimately earning high awards himself.

Beckman, who was not yet old enough to join the troop when his father took over, remembered how Charles would meet with Scouts who were struggling or needed extra help with their rank advancement requirements.

“As a kid, we saw that a lot,” Beckman said of the impact it had on him and his brothers. “So, when we got into Scouts, it was kind of second nature.”

Eventually, Beckman and his three brothers all earned their Eagle Scout

awards. He received his in 1973 with extra honors coming later in the form  of bronze, silver and gold palms, and was recognized by Boy Scouts of America National Court of Honor with the Honor Medal for Saving a Life in 1975 for his heroics at the river. He also received the Presidential Commendation Award from President Gerald Ford in 1975.

Beckman started working with the local troop as an adult in 1990. He’s a physician and began giving free physicals to Scouts before they went to summer camp. He later served as a den leader in Cub Scout pack 185, and is currently an assistant scoutmaster of Troop 185. Both his sons, Zach and Reece, have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

Beckman is a certified merit badge instructor, swimming and water craft safety instructor and advisor for the Pope Pius XII Catholic religious award. He has led two crews to Philmont Scout Ranch, the largest National High Adventure Base that attracts Scouts from across the country.

He encouraged children to join the program because it has a lasting impact on their lives.

“It’s one of the best programs for a young person,” he said. “You can do sports and do all that, but when you leave high school or college, what’s going to be on your resumé that people recognize?”

He added that he wasn’t putting sports down, but said being able to tell a potential employer that you are an Eagle Scout means something to them. He also spoke on the importance of parents actively participating in troop activities because it will make the experience even more meaningful.

Beckman is a physician at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center in Jasper. He lives in Jasper with his wife, Vickie, and two sons, and has a daugther, Dr. Allie Beckman Sadowitz, who lives in Indianapolis.

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