NASA engineer who put a rover on Mars got his start as a Darien Boy Scout: ‘Once an Eagle, always an Eagle’

DARIEN — During his five years as an engineer with NASA, Matthew Gentile helped put a rover on Mars but its his work in his hometown that earned him one of scouting’s highest awards

Gentile, a Darien native who currently lives in southern California, was honored with the Outstanding Eagle Scout Award for his ongoing service to scouting as a volunteer within his community.

The ceremony was held Sunday at the Andrew Shaw Memorial Scout Cabin and featured Gentile, his family, and other adults who were honored for continued participation in scouting.

“It’s amazing,” Gentile said. “This is a fantastic honor.”

Gentile, a graduate of Darien High School who became an Eagle Scout with Troop 35 in 2010, works as an engineer in the aerospace industry, taking part in the creation and launch of the Mars Rover “Perseverance.”

“Once an Eagle, always an Eagle,” said Mark Kraus, scout executive with the Connecticut Yankee Council BSA.

He and others noted the lengthy commitment becoming an Eagle Scout takes, as well as the support and help from friends, fellow scouts and family.

“They can’t really get there without the support of their parents,” Kraus said.

Gentile’s father, Patrick, spoke about his son’s ambitions and experiences, and how his ongoing work with scouting has helped shape his social consciousness and sense of empathy toward others.

“Our responsibility rests with making sure that our children attain the highest moral and ethical standards to use their skills to attain the greatest good,” he said.

The senior Gentile also expressed his appreciation for the scouting program in Darien, which he said has given both of his sons “endless possibilities” through a focus on character, commitment and service leadership.

At the same time, he said the local Darien group has an ongoing responsibility to make scouting available to other under-served communities throughout Connecticut.

One of only three Eagle Scouts to be given the “Outstanding” award in Darien, Matthew Gentile visited the East Coast for the ceremony alongside his fianceé and was joined by his older brother, Danny Gentile, who became an Eagle Scout in 2006.

Matthew Gentile attributed many of his own professional skills to what he learned through “the tenets of scouting.”

“It’s been a great opportunity,” he said. He said he was looking forward to starting a new job as a senior mechanical engineer for a firm in California.

Matthew Gentile was cited for his ongoing work mentoring other scouts over the past 10 years, including extensive work during the pandemic participating in the Powahay District’s online STEM Camporee and providing help for scouts with the Space Exploration Merit Badge.

Sunday’s event also honored other adult Eagle Scouts who continue to give their service to scouting in Darien, including Paul Cordella, Paul Dickinson, Grant Evans, Rob Farley, Chuck Hilton, Dan Kunetz, Adam McMaster, Barry McMaster, Timothy McGraw, Brett Miller, Todd Morgan, Willis Philip, Craig Schorr, David Selph, William Shannon and Cory Visi.