A life dedicated to public service was the continuation of a journey that Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel began as Boy Scout. McDaniel, the Associate Dean of the Lansing campus of Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, is the recipient of the 2017 Distinguished Citizen Award from the Water and Woods Field Service Council, for his service on the local, state, and national level. Water and Woods is part of the Michigan Crossroads Council, Boy Scouts of America. McDaniel will be honored during a breakfast on May 16 beginning at 7:30 a.m. at the Eagle Eye Golf Cub in Bath.
McDaniel joined a Boy Scout troop in his hometown of King Ferry, N.Y., when he was 11 and learned the importance of public service on a smaller scale.
“This gave me the confidence and ability to search out public service opportunities on a larger scale as an adult,” he said.
Scouting experiences encouraged McDaniel to participate in ROTC while in college and to join the Michigan National Guard in 1983. He eventually went on to law school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
“I think it’s absolutely true that the values you learn in Scouting stay with you your whole life,” McDaniel said. “I could rattle them all off now, but I think the bigger message is that I learned about the value and importance of a life of public service from my time as a Scout.”
Part of his work at WMU-Cooley involves training future lawyers to practice law with the highest degree of ethics. His own adherence to a strict code of moral and ethical standards has been publicly acknowledged by officials who asked him to take lead roles in investigations into a controversy surrounding Lansing’s Board of Water and Light and later the Flint water crisis.
McDaniel led a Community Review Team that reviewed documentation and conducted interviews with BWL personnel, resulting in a report with recommendations on improvements in customer service and emergency response. He got involved as a liaison in the Flint water crisis at the request of that city’s mayor and Gov. Rick Snyder.
“General McDaniel’s decision to pursue a life of public service continues to positively impact the lives of countless individuals in ways too numerous to list here,” said Paul Schwartz, Scout Executive for Water and Woods FSC. “He is a powerful example of the positive impact Scouting makes on the lives it touches and we are grateful to him for his willingness to share that story.”
McDaniel, who joined Troop 53 in his hometown of King Ferry, N.Y., said his fondest memories are of time spent at camp as a participant and later as a counselor.
“The idea that you could go out in the woods all summer and go canoeing and swimming anytime you want was great,” he said. “I had a natural affinity for that life.”
As a child, McDaniel said there were very few activities for kids where he lived and Scouting was a natural progression for him because his mother was a biology teacher who introduced him to outdoor activities such as bird watching and shell collecting.
That interest in nature helped him complete a beautification project at a cemetery in King Ferry for which he earned his Eagle Scout rank. He said the skills he learned in Scouting as a youth remain relevant today.
“They’re designed to teach Scouts a large degree of resiliency and to be self-supportive,” McDaniel said. “The lesson as a youth is that if you get lost in the woods, you’ll know what to do and the lesson as an adult may be that if you get lost in the city, you’ll know what to do.
“It’s the moral lessons you learn. The values in the Scout Law are what you want a young man to learn.”