Dick Haddrill grew up on 7 Mile Road in Detroit, a street he calls “one mile ‘worse’ than 8 Mile” — the inspiration for Eminem’s semi-autobiographical film.
At Haddrill’s school and in his neighborhood, drugs were prevalent. Seeing a gun at school “was not rare.” Clashes in the streets made national news — especially the five-day street riot in 1967.
In his late 20s, after he graduated from the University of Michigan and started working at Ernst & Young, Haddrill spent some time looking back on his tough childhood. He was curious about how some of his Detroit schoolmates were doing.
“About half had finished college, most all as first-generation college grads. They had good jobs and solid relationships,” Haddrill says. “Another half of my friends had struggled with drugs, crime and life’s challenges.”
As he looked at these two disparate paths, Haddrill had a sudden realization.
“A light went off that the one difference in those succeeding and those struggling was that the productive citizens had been involved in Scouts,” he says.
Haddrill earned his Eagle Scout Award on May 19, 1967, as a member of Detroit’s Troop 608.
He fully credits Scouting with saving him from the “undesirable path” followed by some of his classmates. And though his own time as youth in Scouting happened more than a half-century ago, Haddrill believes our nation’s need for the Scouting movement is even stronger today.
“Young people need a chance,” he says. “In any neighborhood in America, there are many ways for our youth to get into life-altering trouble. Scouting is a clear and proven alternative. It gives kids something to do after school, a place to test themselves and learn first-hand — not by being lectured. It’s a place to let off steam, to be a part of a team and to get along with others.”
Haddrill himself is a prime example. After gaining national fame in the gaming industry, Haddrill now serves as CEO of The Groop LLC, an investment service in Las Vegas.
In recognition of Haddrill’s professional success and lifelong support of Scouting through both time and treasure, the Las Vegas Area Council in October presented Haddrill with the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award — the National Eagle Scout Association’s highest honor.
Bryan on Scouting chatted with Haddrill to learn more about his Scouting legacy.
A Scout by chance
Haddrill says he joined Troop 608 “by chance.” His friend’s dad, a fireman, liked to camp. So the dad started a Scout troop.
“Several of us decided to give it a try. We knew nothing about the program,” Haddrill says. “The terrific national support organization of Scouting helped the fireman and some other parents organize a great Scout program.”
Even though he lived in a very urban area, Haddrill and his fellow Scouts found open spaces to enjoy the outdoors. They camped, cooked, hiked and canoed. They learned to build structures out of sticks and save people from drowning.
“We liked the exposure to the outdoors and the teamwork of Scouting,” Haddrill says. “I did not fully realize at the time how important Scouting would prove to be in my life.”
The memories remain vibrant in Haddrill’s mind — the biggest of all a 50-mile canoe trip in Michigan. They packed a week’s worth of gear in those canoes and paddled from campsite to campsite.
“We built shelters from stacked canoes when it rained, told campfire stories, and battled black flies and mosquitoes,” Haddrill says. “What a set of life skills and memories.”
What he learned as a Scout
“Kids often don’t listen,” Haddrill says. Instead, they prefer to learn by doing — by experiencing something for themselves.
That was true of Haddrill’s Scouting days, where he learned both “hard skills” (CPR, map-reading, knife safety) and “soft skills” (how to be a team player, how to clean up after himself, how to Be Prepared).
“Both these soft and hard skills come in useful almost every day,” Haddrill says. “I have used so many of the Scouting skills throughout my life.”
Like basic ethics — also known as doing the right thing. That’s a lesson that might seem simple but really isn’t.
These days, many TV shows and movies portray everyone as a liar and cheater and thief. And social media often shows everyone as glamorous and successful.
“It is easy for anyone, young or old, to be confused about how to conduct themselves,” Haddrill says. “Scouting instills the core ethics to guide one’s entire life.”
Scouting lessons at work
Those core ethics have defined Haddrill’s career. He has been on the board of directors for eight public companies, managed people on five different continents and been named the University of Michigan’s Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.
While he’s proud of the companies he has led, Haddrill is even more proud of the people he has led.
He counts 10 executives who worked for him before becoming successful CEOs.
That kind of track record doesn’t happen on its own. Haddrill followed ethical practices, engaged and motivated his employees, and treated others with respect.
“I truly believe that the basics I learned at a young age in Scouts allowed me to set the right tone at the top,” he says. “That’s what led to high-performance organizations with happy employees and customers.”