Scott Watson of Gallatin, MO, served as Missouri state president of the Future Farmers of America (FFA) during the 1979-80 school year at Gallatin R-5 High School.
The following was published June 13, 1979, by the St. Joseph Gazette, written by Darryl Wilkinson of the Gallatin North Missourian:
A Gallatin high school youth anxiously awaits a telephone call or a letter which may make the difference on how he will spend the coming year. Scott Watson must decide between two lifetime goals — either serve as state president of the Missouri Future Farmers of America or enter Harvard University.
The FFA office, Watson believes, is a full-time obligation with too many commitments and too many miles between Harvard and Gallatin to participate in both simultaneously. Watson will serve as Missouri’s FFA president for 1979-80 although he won’t be informed about his entrance application to Harvard until sometime this month.
Should is application be accepted for the coming semester, Watson hopes to ask for a year’s extension from the school so that he can complete FFA duties. If his application is not accepted, he may attend the University of Missouri.
Watson’s impressive high school career was climaxed by two last-minute decisions — to apply to Harvard and to campaign for FFA president. Ironically, it was Watson’s involvement with FFA which prompted him to apply to Harvard where FFA is less well known.
Among the many honors and awards, including several from FFA, listed on more than two pages of the student’s resume is a $1,500 Senate Youth Scholarship offered through the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. “Last fall, when I made application for this scholarship, was the first I remember wanting to go to Harvard,” Watson said. “I was competing against other students who were already accepted to Harvard, Princeton, Yale and other Ivy League schools and they encouraged me to do the legwork and make application. By the time I decided to try, it was the last week in February and several of the eastern universities wouldn’t accept applications that late.”
His preliminary application was a four-page questionnaire. The formal application required approximately 40 hours of work including recommendations from such elected officials as Sen. Jack Danforth and Congressman Tom Coleman as well as teacher reports and recommendations from community leaders.
“I scored about 30 points above the national average on the SAT examinations, but that was not quite up to Harvard’s standards,” the stocky blue-eyed blond said. “The three achievement tests were the hardest tests I’ve ever attempted to complete. But I understand that some believe it’s harder to be accepted into Harvard than it is to maintain a grade point average once you’re there.”
Watson has much support for attending Harvard including local financial backing to attend the school and a quota system which requires that 18% of Harvard students must come from the Midwest.
Although he found application to Harvard demanding, just as demanding were the requirements for the FFA state president.
As president, Watson expects to travel from 15,000 to 16,000 mile throughout Missouri and the rest of the nation. Already he has four major speaking engagements including the Illinois FFA State Convention this month and a trip to Washington, D.C., in July.
“I decided to apply for state office the night before the entries were due,” Watson explained. “You must be an FFA State Farmer to be eligible, which means you are among the top 3% of the 16,285 Missouri FFA members.
The district interview was held in April at Maryville, MO. That interview lasted about 30 minutes and covered basic topics involving FFA knowledge, agriculture knowledge and world events. State level interviews at the University of Missouri-Columbia included Watson and 12 other potential candidates. The interviews were divided into four sessions, each lasting approximately one hour.
“When I compete, I want to draw either the first or the last position to hopefully get an edge,” Watson said. “I drew fifth and the person I considered to be the top competitor drew 13th, so you better believe I was nervous.”
Each candidate was interviewed separately and began by discussing his background and future plans. At the second session, Watson participated in a role-playing situation followed by a series of fast objective questions. The third session was a two-minute interpretation of current U.S.-China relationships and the fourth involved more personal questions.
The announcement that Watson had been selected by the 1979-80 FFA president came the same day that the interviews ended. About 7,500 FFA members were on hand for the announcement.
Among Watson’s many supporters was FFA advisor Gary Hill. “I knew all afternoon long that Scott had won but somehow I kept from telling him,” Hill said. “Scott’s worked hard for what he’s accomplished. He suffered a major setback his junior year when he applied for State Farmer and failed to make that level at that time. He almost quit FFA altogether, but he got over that disappointment and now he’s president over one of the Top 10 FFA state memberships in the nation.”