Patrick Hough was born in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, 1846. His blue eyes were compared to the Celtic Sea and his heart was said to be as big as the Auld Sod itself. “Paddy,” as he was affectionately called, hailed from a land known for its folklore. But the story he wrote into our region’s history is unquestionably authentic.
It was a teaching position that brought Hough to Vancouver in 1883. On his cover, he was a short man who hid behind a scraggly beard and had just one arm due to his service in the Franco-Prussian War. For any other man, these characteristics might make teaching difficult, but Paddy was no ordinary teacher.
His overflowing love for learning and for children inspired two generations of students in southwest Washington. Another teacher said he knew the human heart and how to reach it through sincere love and deep affection. With this masterful skill, he left an incredible imprint on local education, serving as a teacher, principal and deputy superintendent.
After retiring, Hough continued his love for learning through encyclopedias, local libraries and daily musings. At 79, his mind was still curious and playful. Life was forever one great and wonderful adventure with never-ending discoveries, new combinations, new conclusions.
Unfortunately, his large heart had limits his mind never knew and, on December 17, 1925, the whole city mourned the passing of a gentle man who had encouraged them and their children to look deeper and reach further. Upon the reading of his will, residents understood the true proportion of Paddy’s thoughtfulness. His friends and acquaintances realized why he had lived out his retirement so modestly in tattered clothes and a simple house.
He stipulated that, upon his wife’s passing, a portion of their remaining assets would go to establish an agricultural high school in Clark County. Hough envisioned a campus located on 80 to 100 acres that would teach agriculture, dairy farming and horticulture.
Today, this endowed Field of Interest fund has grown from $35,000 to more than $2 million and provides $100,000 in educational grants every year to sustain programs at the CASEE Center. This 80-acre campus is adorned with ponds, forests, trails and a wide array of gardens, and its curriculum meets many of Hough’s final wishes.
But most importantly, it fulfills his wish to continue planting the seeds of education in our community for generations to come — a fitting tribute to the vision and foresight of this outstanding Vancouver educator.