‘Bravo Zulu’ Hudson Eagle Scout is Naval Academy Bound

May 22, 2015

by Maureen Gillum

Francis X. Cunniff was celebrated on May 17 at the VFW hall as the newest and 48th Eagle Scout of Hudson’s Boy Scout Troop 20.  However, this remarkable Alvirne senior is also far more than just a BSA Eagle Scout.  In addition, Frank is a 12-season athlete, serving as team captain for cross country, swimming and lacrosse.  He is also deputy commander of AHS AF JROTC and treasurer of both the National Honor Society and the AHS Class of 2015, as well as a member of the National Spanish and Technical Honor societies.  Frank also serves as the student liaison to the Hudson School Board.  On a personal level, he’s a congenial, handsome, curiously bright young man with an infectious grin.  Earnest and enthusiastic, Frank is a kid who is hard not to like.

Perhaps most notably, with a trifecta of nominations (from Jeanne Shaheen, Kelly Ayotte and Annie Kuster), Frank is the first Alvirne student to be accepted to the prestigious United States Naval Academy in memory, if ever, which he starts on July 1.  Upon his USNA graduation, Frank will serve five years of active service in the United States Marine Corp.

Former Troop 20 Scoutmaster Bill Zaharchuk flew in from Chicago to serve as Master of Ceremonies for Frank’s Eagle Court of Honor.  “On national average, about one out of 100 Tiger Cub Scouts ever make it to the rank of Eagle,” Mr. Z announced, “Troop 20 exceeds those odds by more than 10 times, thanks to our quality of leadership and dedicated parents.”

Frank’s eagle project, which was all about mentoring younger scouts and leadership development, was installing agility equipment for the dog park in Benson Park.  Frank’s Troop 20 Eagle Adviser, Joe Undercofler, outlined the many key steps of Frank’s 18-month project including planning meetings, Eagle board approval, a successful spaghetti dinner fundraiser, many trips to Home Depot, and lots of building sessions.  The exciting project culmination was the intense single-installation day on August 10, 2014, when Frank led his 20-person Scout crew to dig holes and install the five dog agility pieces – a see-saw, weave poles, tire jump, hurdles and a ramp.

“The new dog park agility equipment has been very well received, not only by many dogs and owners,” Undercofler proudly shared, “but also by the adjacent senior spectators at the North Barn who are often amused watching people attempt the ramp in hopes their dogs will follow.”

In addition to the many letters of accommodation, pins, and badges, several close friends, including Tim Campbell, and special guests, spoke to honor Frank, and jibe him, mostly about his camping and pyrotechnics mishaps.

In a poignant moment, Colonel William Thomas spoke of Frank’s leadership qualities demonstrated as deputy commander at Alvirne’s Air Force Junior ROTC program and the trials he faced at his own alma mater, the U.S. Air Force Academy 29 years ago.  “The path you’ve chosen – to become a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corp – isn’t an easy one,” Thomas stated, “but anything worth doing is a challenge.”  In a touching conclusion, the colonel gave Frank his own hard-earned 2nd Lt Bar to “help keep his eye on the prize” at USNA.

Frank’s guidance counselor at Alvirne High School, James Brown, shared he was “grateful for the opportunity to work with Frank.”  He spoke of the intense application process Frank persistently and calmly hurdled for entrance into the Naval Academy, which has stiff requirements and a daunting 7 percent acceptance rate.  Brown called Frank “one of the most intelligent, mature, capable and focused young men” he’d ever met.

“It’s been my great honor and lots of fun to go through the Scout ranks with Frank,” fellow Eagle Scout and AHS Senior Dylan Quinn earnestly expressed. “There just isn’t anyone else like Frank.”

In his rebuttal, Frank spoke briefly with his wide and ready smile.  He modestly thanked everyone in Troop 20 for “the opportunity to succeed, lead and go camping.”  He also extended his appreciation to the “many people both in and out of Scouts that helped me get to where I am today.”  He thanked his family, his scoutmasters and especially his Eagle Adviser, Mr. U (Joe Undercofler), for “all his hard work and patience.”

Frank’s parents, Tim and Stacy Cunniff, simply professed they were “extremely happy and proud,” and also credited their daughter, Hope, as being “instrumental” in her brother’s success.

“Frank is a phenomenal, dedicated and hard-working young man,” Troop 20 Scoutmaster Steve Quinn heartily concluded. “He’s been such a pleasure for us and, for sure, he’s going to go places.”

To borrow a naval phrase, meaning well done, ‘Bravo Zulu’ and congratulations to Frank and his family on earning the BSA rank of Eagle.  Living the Scout law and oath will no doubt serve him well at the USNA Yard in Annapolis, Md., and well beyond.