Brian May has done much to advance the fortunes of Angelo State University. And of Ladd Hughes.
Hughes was still a graduate student at ASU when May – then an agriculture professor, today ASU’s president – hollered at him from across a parking lot one day.
“Hey, Ladd, I got you a job,” May said. “You go over there to Bollman Industries. I told them you’d be over there about lunch. It’s just what you need.”
“And he got in his pickup and drove off,” Hughes recalled. “I didn’t know where Bollman Industries was; I didn’t know what they did. In less than two minutes, Brian told me what I’d be doing – though at the time he didn’t know – for the next 16 years.”
Bollman, as Hughes would learn, is one of two commercial wool-scouring plants in the U.S. It provides wool for its parent company, Bollman Hat Co., and for other American-made products. It also warehouses fiber for producers from across the country.
Bollman’s Pennsylvania headquarters give Hughes the autonomy to run his 13-employee operation as he sees fit. He’s rewarded that trust with a profitable plant. Bollman recognized him from among its 54 global sites as its Manager of the Year in 2015.
While Hughes, 40, likes his job, he loves that it has kept him in a place he loves (“San Angelo is just part of who I am”) and connected to his passion for ranching.
“That’s been a part of my life forever,” Hughes said. “I wouldn’t leave it at all. I hope ranching is always a part of my life.”
He also hopes ranching – along with its values of responsibility and hard work – will be a part of his children’s lives.
“We stick (livestock) in a pen or pasture, and they’re relying upon us for everything they have to eat or drink,” Hughes said. “The kids have already picked up on that.”
His devotion to his 13-year-old son, 10-year-old daughter and their activities keeps him from being as civically involved as his father, local leader Jim Hughes. But he blends his love for his children and his need to serve others at Christoval Baptist Church, where he leads youth Bible lessons.
Ladd Hughes said his faith shapes him “from the ground up.” Teaching Sunday school is “something I don’t ever want to quit.”
Once his children are older, he suspects he’ll follow his father into more civic endeavors.
“If you’re a respected person who’s not scared to work and not scared to do the job you’re asking someone else to do, you’re an effective leader,” he said. “There’s gotta be people like that to keep things going.”
He bristled when asked if he might ever follow his father into elective office. Now, spending time with his wife of 17 years and their children are his priorities.
“There are a lot of things I say I’d never do, then I look back and say, ‘Wow, here I am,’” he said. “So life leads you in different directions.”