January 8, 2024
Staff Accomplishment

PNNL Scientist Awarded Highest Eagle Scout Honor

Justin Teeguarden’s scouting involvement spans 47 years 

Justin Teeguarden

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Fellow Justin Teeguarden has been awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award—the highest honor given to Eagle Scouts who have served more than 25 years since earning the rank. 

(Photo by Andrea Starr | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) 

At nine years old, Justin Teeguarden was living in El Sobrante, Calif. and joined a Cub Scout pack led by his friend’s mother. 

What started as a way to engage in fun outdoor adventures with friends has led to 47 years of involvement and leadership with Boy Scouts of America. This includes earning an Eagle Scout Award in 1985 and serving as Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, and now vice president for strategy for the Blue Mountain Council in Eastern Washington. 

The National Eagle Scout Association recently recognized Teeguarden, a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Fellow, with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award (DESA). The award is the highest honor bestowed to Eagle Scouts with a minimum of 25 years of service since earning their Eagle Scout rank. Teeguarden, who also serves as Chief Science Officer for the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on the PNNL campus, considers the award one of the “greatest and most humbling honors” of his life. 

“Scouting gave me a means to give back by supporting the development of youth in my community,” said Teeguarden. “I am humbled every time I think of the award and inspired when I think of the exceptional youth I work for in the program.” 

Since 1969, about 2,000 Eagle Scouts have been the recipients of the DESA, less than 0.1% of all Eagle Scouts. Among the awardees are three astronauts who traveled to the moon—Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, and Charles Duke—as well as President Gerald Ford and film director Steven Spielberg. 

Justin Teeguarden, Katrina Waters, and three sons
Scouting is an integral part of Teeguarden’s family, including sons Sebastian, Sagan, and Soren, and wife, Katrina Waters. (Photo courtesy of Justin Teeguarden | Pacific Northwest National Laboratory)

Scouting’s role in leadership development 

As a teenager, Teeguarden said he dealt with a lot of insecurities related to not being big, athletic, or confident. As he became involved with scouting, Teeguarden learned skills that have helped him throughout his life, including in his scientific career. 

“Through challenging outdoor adventures of every kind, I learned self-reliance, I learned to solve difficult individual and team problems—broken equipment, being lost, being hurt, plans gone bad—I learned resilience and just how much I could do if given a challenge and some great tools,” said Teeguarden. “I got my start in leadership skills, and learned to plan, prepare, and execute trips and projects. Many of my most important professional and personal skills had their start in scouting, much earlier in life than most people.” 

Later in life, as a Scout leader, Teeguarden acquired skills that helped him as a father to his three sons, also Eagle Scouts, and as a leader in his professional life. The principles of making oaths to help people, to be trustworthy, helpful, and friendly, helped build and reinforce the values that he adheres to today. 

“Scouting taught me invaluable lessons about problem solving and leadership: Use the whole team, be creative, find and utilize the strengths of each individual, embrace the best ideas,” explained Teeguarden. “Scouting constantly reinforced what my parents always spoke of—an expectation that we use our lives and our training to improve our communities and nation. I came to see solving scientific challenges as a great way to do that.” 

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Published: January 8, 2024