Before Tom Hough was announced as chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Denison earlier this month; before he served in that capacity with five other clubs in Missouri, Louisiana and Arkansas over the past three decades; before he declined a scholarship from the organization in 1965 to serve in the Navy during the Vietnam War; before Tom Hough was a man, he was a boy like any other, and the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield, Mo. forever changed the trajectory of his life.

Before Tom Hough was announced as chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Club of Denison earlier this month; before he served in that capacity with five other clubs in Missouri, Louisiana and Arkansas over the past three decades; before he declined a scholarship from the organization in 1965 to serve in the Navy during the Vietnam War; before Tom Hough was a man, he was a boy like any other, and the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield, Mo. forever changed the trajectory of his life.


"I was born up in Michigan, but we moved to Springfield when I was 10, and I started going to the Boys & Girls Club when I was 11," said Hough. "I had a mentor that was the director of the Club, and just the love that he shared with us and gave us — that we could make a mistake and he was there for us. He’d help us work through it, and he helped us understand how to do it right."


Hough flourished in the Club, becoming a program aide as a high school student in 1963, and earning "Boy of the Year" — and the college scholarship that came with it — in 1965.


"The war was going on, and I thought I needed to do my military thing, so I … went into the service in ‘68."


After a decade in the Navy, Hough returned to Springfield where, once again, the Boys & Girls Club was there to help.


"I went back and visited with the people at the Club, and they offered me my scholarship at that time because I had never used it. So, because I was in the military, they let me have the (1965) scholarship in 1979. It was unbelievable. And that’s how I went to college, on a Boys Club scholarship."


After graduating, Hough felt a sense of duty to return the favor through service, so he went to work for the Club — first as executive director in his hometown of Springfield, then Independence, Mo.; Shreveport, La.; Conway, Ark.; and finally, for the last six years working for the national organization in Bentonville, Ark. But when the job in Denison opened up, Hough said he saw a perfect fit.


"The Boys & Girls Club was looking for a new vision, new ideas and new direction, and I like to do that. It’s kind of been my forte in my career. All the people I talked to just seemed dedicated and caring and wanted to make it good for the kids. It was kind of a no-brainer."


Hough has been on the job for only two weeks, and already he sees potential for growth beyond the 125 children the Club serves daily at its main location, located on Mirick Street across from Denison High. The school will become a campus for seventh and eighth graders in 2014.


"We’re going to have a great opportunity to just improve the services for the kids," said Hough. "In the next year, they’re going to change the school across the street there. … It’s going to change the age group of the kids that come to the Club, so we’re going to have to be prepared for that. And I just look into the future, the sports program will grow, the after-school program, of course, is going to grow."


That growth will come at a cost, however. The organization held a fundraiser recently at Tanglewood Country Club that netted more than $23,000 to sponsor Club activities. Hough said it’s a prime example of the quality of community in Denison that made relocating to Texas an easy decision.


"As I’ve met with different leaders in the community, everybody seems to want the Boys and Girls Club to succeed. It’s just very positive," said Hough. "Working with kids, they’re going to have bad moments, and you’ve got to show them how to get through those. It makes them better adults."