ANN ARBOR – Russ Collins, director of Ann Arbor’s historic Michigan & State Theaters and founder of the Cinetopia Internal Film Festival and Art House Convergence, is to receive the 2017 Boy Scout of America Distinguished Citizens Award. The award will be presented at the Distinguished Citizens Dinner, a fundraising event to support Scouting programs for youth in 11 counties in southern Michigan including Washtenaw. It takes place on Tuesday, November 7th at the Michigan Union Rogel Ballroom, 520 S. State Street in Ann Arbor at 6 p.m. and includes a reception and a dinner followed by the awards ceremony at 7 p.m.
Collins said he is humbled to be the recipient of the award being presented by the Southern Shores Field Service Council, under the direction of the Michigan Crossroads Council. Starting his scouting journey as a Cub Scout, Collins was a member of Troop 4 in Ann Arbor – one of Michigan’s oldest troops marking its 100th anniversary this year.
Some of Collins’ favorite memories include campouts and trips to other parts of the United States. A trip to Mt. Katadin in Maine gave him his first opportunity to travel to the East Coast. Climbing a mountain and having lobster for the first time, I was able to experience things that expanded my horizons and were excellent,” he said. “I had never been out east or eaten lobster before this trip.”
When his son Alan, now 34, joined Troop 4, Collins served as a troop leader and was able to join him on trips, including several to St. Helena Island in the Straits of Mackinac. Troop 4 adopted and painstakingly worked to restore St. Helena lighthouse on an island without electricity or any modern amenities.
“Year after year I participated in that Troop 4 St. Helena Lighthouse renovation project,” Collins said. “It was amazing to see it progress year by year from a decrepit structure to what is now a tourist destination – mostly from the work of the Boy Scouts.”
Collins said this is at the core of what Scouting has always been about for him. He said “Scouting opened my mind and helped me get out of my comfort zone and make new friends. I learned valuable lessons and skills such as camping, first-aid, knot tying, creative thinking, and leadership. All skills that still come in handy today!”
“If I am lucky, maybe my grandson Brooks will someday join my son Alan and me as a member of Troop 4,” Collins said. “The Boy Scouts were transformative for me. Like many Scouts I still remember the Scout Law and Oath.”
He went on and tied his scouting to his career in the arts, “I also discovered inspiration in the words of Scouting founder, Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who once said, ‘Singing and acting are excellent for training in self-expression. Also, they mean good team work, everybody learning his part and doing it well, not for applause for himself, but for the success of the whole show.’ ”
The wide variety of programs designed to challenge and inspire confidence set the standard for performance in all areas of Collins life. He said scouting really did teach him the meaning of self-reliance and the importance of striving for excellence.
Asked about Scouting’s relevancy in the lives of present and future Scouts, Collins said, “Learning how to live in the wilderness, developing leadership skills, and having that camaraderie with your peers is something everyone still needs.”