Jay Copp 0000-00-00 00:00:00
President to Take Lions to New Heights. His club in North Carolina had adopted several families in need, so Sid L. Scruggs III and another Lion trod through the woods to a rundown trailer. The mother had terminal cancer. Her husband had abandoned her, leaving her alone with their two young children. When the Lions dropped off a large box of food, the mother quietly asked, “Do you have a few minutes?” Scruggs guessed they would be there most of the day fixing things. It turned out the mother just wanted to talk. “She was having a really bad day. ‘I have two small children and I can’t do much for them. How will they remember me?’ We had caught her at a moment when she wasQuestioning why she was born,” recalled Scruggs. Scruggs flew planes for a living. But he is a husband, a father and a Lion. So he gently affirmed her life. “I assured her they’ll always remember you as their mom. They’ll remember you loved them and cared for them,” he told her. Today, sitting in his office at international headquarters in Oak Brook a few weeks before being sworn in as international president in July, Scruggs knows those kinds of experiences will define his year as our Lions leader. He’s given back as a husband and father, as a community leader and a Lion, and he wants LionsEverywhere to take stock of their advantages and opportunities and rededicate themselves to hands-on service. “If you look at your Lions service as an obligation, you won’t do everything you can do. If you look at it as an opportunity, you will do what is needed,” he says. “We’re blessed to be in this country. Most Lions, no matter where they are from, have had opportunities and advantages. I feel there is a need to pay back.” One of Scruggs’ favorite Lions activities is the threeday Visually Impaired Person (VIP) Fishing Tournament in North Carolina. More than 500 people participate. They come to the Outer Banks to fish off the piers andTwo deep sea fishing boats, mingle with friends they’ve made in prior years and learn how to better manage their lives at various workshops. Scruggs enjoys baiting hooks, seeing familiar faces and talking with the participants. He doesn’t stand by or stand back; he jumps right in. “I think one of the reasons Sid has been so devoted to the visually impaired fishing persons tournament is because as long as I have known him he always has been the one who felt like he wanted to walk next to those he serves,” says Gwen White, the executive director of the tournament and a district governor in North Carolina. DRIVEN to Succeed. Scruggs has a drive to excel, a passion for reaching for the top. He knows where it came from: his sportsfilled childhood and a parent who encouraged him. Scruggs grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His father worked for the Chattanooga Times newspaper. He also played the piano, wrote music and championed the underdog. Years earlier, while in college, a professor made an anti-Semitic remark. In protest and in solidarity with his Jewish classmate and friend, Scruggs’ father left the classroom with his friend. The professor retaliated by lowering his grade. His father’s compassionate side also came out on his job. He learned sign language so he could communicate with a couple of hearing impaired workers. His mother was a Sunday school teacher fond of working with youth. She also “was very competitive. She loved to win,” says Scruggs. “It didn’t matter if it was a board game or whatever. She never cut me any slack.” Neither did his coaches. In a city wide junior high track meet, his coach, Buddy Gedrun, walked away when Scruggs’ initial broad jump was poor. “I am not watching if you are not putting your best effort in every jump,” he explained to a stunned Scruggs. On the next jump Scruggs ran with great motivation. “I literally jumped out of the pit and set a record that was almost two and half feet further than the record at the time,” he says. But the importance of that day of triumph paled in comparison to a dismal defeat in high school on the wrestling mat. Scruggs was ahead on points but relaxed and suddenly found himself on his back. He had been pinned with one second to go. “The referee was stunned. I was stunned. I quit with victory one second away. That one defeat has driven me all my life,” he says. Scruggs ran track and played halfback in football at Baylor School for Boys, a military preparatory school. His teachers and coaches left a lasting impression. “I feel a responsibility to share with others because so many people put their lives into me,” he says. “Several defining moments in my life have been about teamwork. Even when victory slipped away, there was a coach around to say, ‘OK, this was a learning experience.’ ” Scruggs excelled in the classroom and was accepted to the Naval Academy in 1956. During his junior year, part of his aviation training was to fly a Stearman aircraft on floats. He was hooked. “Getting up and feeling the wind in an open cockpit and wearing a leather helmet, it was great,” he says. After graduating, he entered the Naval Aviation program at Pensacola, Florida, and received his “Wings of Gold” in 1961. He was assigned to an aircraft squadron aboard an aircraft carrier and made cruises in the Pacific Ocean. He was an Admiral’s Aide and flew during the early years of the Vietnam Conflict. In 1967, while serving as a flight instructor in the Advanced Jet Training Command and with a young family, he decided against a military career and took a pilot’s job with American Airlines. Operating out of bases in New York, Boston, Chicago, Raleigh-Durham and Miami, he flew many different types of aircraft. During his airline career he served as a Flight Standards Flight Superintendent, flying with new Captains and First Officers as supervisor. But flying wasn’t all about technical skills or vigilance. Scruggs would stroll down the aisle to comfort anOccasional nervous flyer. He was good at that. He knew how to say the right thing. But not everyone was consolable; Scruggs is comfortable enough with himself to admit that. “I’ll never forget there was this one lady really afraid of flying,” he recalls. “I told her, ‘I’ve got four kids. I’ve got some grandkids now.’ You know, the whole bit. And she says, ‘Well, I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I saw some gray hair on you and if you didn’t wear bifocals.’ Family MAN. Scruggs met Judy the night he bought his first car. While at the Naval Academy, one of Scruggs’ best friends set up a blind date for him. That evening Scruggs in his brand-new car made a wrong turn on a one-way street. Two police officers quickly “invited” him to the police station where he made a “donation” to the city. Scruggs called Judy to say he was at a police station and be would be a little late. When he arrived at her college she sent her roommate to check him out. She gave him a “thumbs up” and the date was on. But Scruggs was a little short on cash on account of his earlier donation. “It turned out to be a cheap date,” says Judy with a wide grin. Judy discovered that the fearless naval officer she was dating wasn’t so keen on certain carnival rides. “Once we went on the Ferris Wheel and when we got off, he got very quiet. I’m wondering, ‘What happened?’ He had turned a little green,” she says. None of those incidents really mattered much because the chemistry between the two was so strong. “He’s a very caring individual,” says Judy. “I saw that early on even before we were married. When he was at the Academy and teaching sailing and instructing the new class of Midshipmen, he cared about the people with whom he was working.” Scruggs says, “It was Judy’s quiet self-confidence. She knew who she was. There was more than a physical attraction. There was an inner beauty that I saw immediately. It’s really funny because my mother had always said never get serious about somebody that you wouldn’t want to be the mother of your children. When I met Judy I said, ‘She’d be the perfect mother for my children.’ ” The two were married in the Naval Academy Chapel. Sid was often away on Navy duty. They moved “eight or nine times” during his Navy days. (Altogether, including his tenure as a pilot, they moved “18 times,” says Judy. “I’m a world-class packer.”) They had three “Navy” children, Cyndi, Debbie and S. Lee, IV, and Kevin was their “civilian” baby. The kids were their focal point in their family life. Their numerous sports, school and church activities kept them busy together. They opened up their homes to their children’s friends and classmates. “It was just one of those things: ‘our house is your house.’ We had a philosophy that we had a big area and we provided entertainment,” says Scruggs. “If our kids were in our home we never had to worry about where they were. It worked out great. It really did. We had a lot of ‘adopted’ kids.” Scruggs took an active interest in his children’s education–even helping to found one school and run another. While living in Connecticut, his church openedThe Ridgefield Christian Academy. Scruggs helped raise funds and get the school going. In New Hampshire, after serving on the school board of a private school, he ended up serving as the school’s president. Judy volunteered for the Pioneer Girls and Scruggs spent time volunteering with various youth activities. “This was a time when marijuana was becoming more prevalent and kids were experimenting with drugs. I always felt if you could get them involved with athletics and other things, you could help them avoid some of the pitfalls of peer pressure,” says Scruggs. LIONTrailblazer. After moving to North Carolina, Scruggs joined the Vass Lions in 1992. The club had 18 members on its rolls and a dozen active members. It was not particularly active in district activities. Scruggs volunteered to be membership chair. “We don’t need any more new members,” his sponsor (and club president) told him. Scruggs found them anyway. The club expanded its service and became more active in the community. Scruggs helped start a Leo club and his club became more involved with the local schools. It sponsored a Boy Scout and Girl Scout troop and the Peace Poster contest. “The club was doing more fundraising than hands-on service. They supported several service activities but they were not ones to go to zone meetings, cabinet meetings or even to district conventions,” says Scruggs Several parents joined the club when they saw how the club benefitted their students. Membership grew to more than 65. Scruggs sponsored many of the new Lions. (Overall, he’s sponsored more than 100 members.) Scruggs helped energize and transform his club. “Some club members are just happy to come to a meeting. It’s the old story of eat and talk and go home,” says Vass Lion Brad Logsdon, sponsored by Scruggs. “We got involved. We did things. We tried to get our club more involved not only in the community but stretching to the district.” Scruggs was a groundbreaker in other ways, too. His club was all male. A member warned him not to try to bring in a woman. Scruggs bided his time and then shrewdly and successfully proposed for membership Susan Corre, not only the Leo Club school adviser and mother of a Leo but also the teacher of the year in the state. She later became the club president. Scruggs also had a hand in forming specialty clubs such as the Raleigh Elite Lions Club, comprised of people with vision impairments and employed at the Raleigh Clinic for the Blind, where Scruggs serves on the board. Scruggs believes that people, even those with physical challenges, can give back. Giving back is part of being a member of society. Not long ago, Scruggs visited a prison where inmates recycled eyeglasses. He thanked them for their service and told them that their work with the glasses would make a miracle in someone’s life and because of their efforts they would be that person’s hero. One of the inmates was emotionally touched. “He said, ‘Nobody has ever thanked me for anything. I’ve only been called a failure, not a hero,’ ” says Scruggs. “Thanking them seemed like the right thing to do.” BEACONS of hope. The Scruggs are immensely proud of their children. Kevin, the youngest son, is a minister, and on one of his mission trips to Mexico, Sid and Judy came along to dispense eyeglasses. S. Lee Scruggs IV, the older son, is a physical therapist who specializes with patients who have suffered brain injuries or other traumas. Cyndi once worked at a crisis pregnancy center and now home schools her children and teaches organic gardening. Debbie taught school and now home schools her children and is active in her community with music and sports. The service trait has been passed on to the grandchildren as well. Their oldest granddaughter learned sign language as a foreign language in high school and works as a nurse. The Scruggs modeled service instead of requiring it from their children. “It makes me feel great. It really does. When you think they saw something in what we were doing that was worthwhile, and now they want to do the same thing,” said Scruggs. “Our family is indeed our treasure,” adds Judy. “Each one is special. Each one is unique. We’re so proud of all of them.” The Scruggs have shared a full life and Lions have been a big part of that. The people they’ve met and helped are memorable. “The difference for me with Lions is that it’s hands-on. I can go back and recount the stories of the difference we made in people’s lives,” says Scruggs. “That’s why I say our slogan–leadership, intelligence, our nation’s safety [LIONS]–has little meaning to me. I use a new one: Loving Individuals Offering Needed Service.” Lions are beacons of hope, he says. For the next year Scruggs will bring his message of hope to Lions worldwide. “I don’t think people see things as they are. They see things as they are,” he says. “Lions are different. We see things as they can be. Leader Dog Raiser “It wasn’t until we saw the union between the dogs and recipients that we saw the change we made in people’s lives. I’ll never forget that Bill Hadden from Virginia said the white cane gave him mobility but the dog gave him a connection because people would come up to him and say, ‘Oh, what a beautiful dog.’ ” – Sid L. Scruggs III Knight of the Blind “I’ve been involved with the U.S. Blind Golf Association. I’m chairman of the board of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. And then you see the challenges we have with diabetes and diabetic retinopathy. At screenings people don’t even realize they have a problem. It makes you feel good.” – Scruggs Lions Leader “I think Sid’s enthusiasm for life and for our association comes across in everything he touches. It has a way of drawing people in and motivating them to be better Lions and work harder.” – Past International Director Ed McCormick of Valley Center, Kansas Membership Advocate “You are I won’t be here forever. Every Lion should be responsible for two new Lions: one to replace yourself and one to grow the association.” – Scruggs Hands-on Service Proponent “If you do not have that personal satisfaction that you have made a difference in somebody’s life, then you might as well join a regular social organization, a dance or travel group. The difference for me with Lionism is that it’s hands-on. I can go back and recount the difference we made in people’s lives.” – Scruggs Cribbage Competitor Early in their marriage, Sid and Judy played cribbage against each other and the loser had to do the dishes. Judy was an expert from years of playing against her grandfather. Sid had a remedy for losing: “We bought a dishwasher,” he says.
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