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Beacons of the Circle: David J. “Dave” Nguyen, Ph.D ’96

  Robbie Dzierzanowski      

Dr. Dave Nguyen at his Distinguished Service Award receptionThe formative skills and opportunities shared and the adventures experienced have cultivated a relatable commitment to service in OA members and alumni as the OA’s circle has widened. Therefore, many alumni are exemplars of leadership inside and outside of that ring. 

Dr. Dave Nguyen is no exception to this. 

As an Eagle Scout and former lodge and section chief, Dave always knew that he was a people person. 

“I met so many high quality people in Scouting by chance and I’m better for it. They shaped my life through conversations and exemplifying the best of the OA,” Dave remarked. “For example, several people that were part of my wedding were people that I met through Scouting.”

He now serves as an Associate Professor in Counseling and Higher Education at Ohio University, a passion that he attributes to Scouting as a whole.

Dr. Nguyen in academic regalia“Through Scouting, [I had] the opportunity to be an educator and to be a leader. Scouting shaped many of my career aspirations, too. Growing up, I thought I probably would end up being a high school educator. Never did I realize that this would happen at the collegiate level,” Dave said.

But he did not start at the top as a higher learning educator.

Dave began his OA journey as a youth, who was quickly interested in running for the chief of his lodge, Lowwapaneu Lodge located in northeastern Pennsylvania. This position is one he regards as one of the most influential he had as a youth in the OA.

“Being able to work with such a committed group of individuals that were interested in advancing the concepts of brotherhood, cheerfulness and service,” he recalled. 

These experiences were so impactful that Dave decided to escalate his service to the section level, in former Section NE-2B. At his section’s conclave in 2000, Dave ran for section chief, and was left with one of his largest setbacks in the OA.

“I was very confident that I would win [that] election, but instead I was handed a very deflating [de]feat. What helped me through it was there was a former section chief that stopped me afterwards and told me not to be down on myself and that I need to just keep doing good work and the rest will take care of itself,” Dave reflected. 

Dr. Nguyen holding sign congratulating him on graduatingThis was so impactful he remembers the experience vividly more than 20 years later.

“This instance showed me that having that ‘one caring person’ can make all the difference and it’s something I remember almost more than a quarter century later,” Dave added.

After the 2000 conclave, Dave went on to become elected as section vice chief and section chief. From there, he was afforded the opportunity to attend road trips with other OA members to NOACs, to staff ArrowCorps5 at Bridger-Teton National Forest and to serve as a foreman at Northern Tier.

To show how impactful the individuals Arrowmen cross paths within the Order of the Arrow are, Dave cited 5 individuals who are his role models. One was his dad, with the others being those involved with Scouting.

Dave credits his lodge adviser, John Croom, Jr., who gave him the reins of his lodge as a chief. He also credits Dan Segersin who kept “inviting me to participate in things,” as well as the other adult leaders in the OA who “gave up 1 hour a week” to help him throughout his various stages in Scouting, from Cub Scouts up through the OA. 

Most importantly, to Dave, the experiences – and the people – he had and met in Scouting and the Order of the Arrow will be ones he will not soon forget.  

Dave Nguyen with friendWhen asked about his involvement in the OA as a youth, Dave said he was able to meet his best friend on a fluke occasion at Northern Tier.

“I randomly participated in the OA Wilderness Voyage program [at Northern Tier]. I was just kind of doing it to say I did it, but I met one of my best friends through it and we actually just celebrated our 40th birthdays together,” Dave said. 

What values did Scouting provide for Dave, and what can younger people in 2023 and beyond take from Scouting? For Dave, the Scout Oath and Law are something he lives by daily, even today, and thinks that there are hidden gems within each, specifically the Scout Law.

Dave Nguyen with his young child“For me, the Scout Oath and Law are present in my everyday life and shape my interactions with my personal networks and professional worlds,” Dave said. “Perhaps most salient is the concept of being brave. Brave can mean a lot of things, but often it means standing up to others when there’s injustice taking place and being brave in the moment to take a chance on an idea that people didn’t believe in. It’s about being brave to walk paths alone in the spirit of doing the right thing. Being brave often requires that we leave the crowd and its opinions.”

Dave is a resident of Athens, Ohio and resides with his wife, Mary, and their two young kids, one son and one daughter. He also serves as a Lion Scout Den leader and is currently “just learning to enjoy the ride.”

The OA Alliance encourages its members to recall the practical, influential skills and experiences from their journey while learning about Dave’s with the hope that it rekindles the spark of timeless OA memories, too.