William Shakespeare’s observation in “Hamlet,” “We know what we are, but know not what we may be,” is a fitting description of Leigh Houghland’s 30-year journey from Shakespeare-loving English major at Wake Forest University to senior vice president of Chesapeake Bank’s Williamsburg region.
The Bard and banking, it turns out, are more compatible than you’d think.
“There’s a richness to numbers,” Houghland says about melding his passion for words with his profession as a commercial lender. “Numbers are not just two-dimensional; they tell a story. And I love telling my colleagues those stories and helping our clients achieve their dreams.”
Houghland’s own story started in Williamsburg 52 years ago. Then, the town’s population was around 20,000, and kids could leave home on Saturday morning, ride bikes through the colonial town, and lunch on “a mountain” of ice cream at the old High’s Ice Cream parlor.
“My best friend and I would leave after breakfast and get back as the sun was going down,” Houghland says. “And our parents were fine with it. There was a lot less traffic.”
Houghland had such fond memories of growing up in Williamsburg that he and wife, Laurie, returned in 2003 to raise their son Will, 18, and daughter, Callie, 22, now a Peace Corps member serving in Mexico.
“Our community is such a treasure,” Houghland says. “I would never want to live anywhere else.”
Lending to his community is Houghland’s joy and passion. Recently, he facilitated a loan to a local church in Williamsburg to buy and transform a daycare center into the church’s first, permanent home. It was a loan other banks rejected.
“There certainly were some hurdles,” Houghland says. “They lacked some of the backstops that banks like to see if a church gets in trouble. Although, they had been able to facilitate a successful campaign for the new project.”
Houghland believed in the pastor and his 200-person congregation, which is accustomed to giving until it hurts.
“Their ability to raise funds in the past showed me the congregation was committed to the church and would be there in the future,” Houghland says. “It was a leap of faith.”
Houghland also is active in area nonprofits. He’s president of the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg, vice chair for Child Development Resources, providing early intervention services for children and their families, and immediate past president of the Peninsula Metropolitan YMCA Board of Directors.
Houghland is helping the YMCA raise $10 million to fund an endowment committed to teaching area second-graders how to swim.
Houghland’s devotion to water safety is rooted in a near-fatal swimming pool accident he suffered at 3. The tot had already sunk to the pool’s bottom when a lifeguard fished him out.
“Accidental drowning is the number two cause of death for kids, and it’s very easy to prevent,” says Houghland. “The Y is a perfect vehicle for teaching kids to swim.”
When Houghland isn’t boosting Williamsburg, he hikes in the Blue Ridge Mountains and putters around a cottage he recently built outside Charlottesville. He laid the home’s patio himself and is installing a ¼-acre pond, his own “swimming hole.”
Although Houghland weekends around Charlottesville, Williamsburg remains Houghland’s first geographical love.
“Williamsburg has so much to offer,” he says. “I really love it and have a sincere desire to maintain the quality of life here.”
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