In a way, David McCullough’s life has come full circle.
He began playing golf at age 8 at Big Lake Country Club during visits to see his grandparents in West Texas.
“I made my first hole-in-one when I was 10 years old on No. 8 at Big Lake Country Club,” recalled McCullough, now 63.
He recently retired from a 27-year career in education. The retirement to-do list includes traveling with his wife, Kathy, who already had retired. Also, there are two daughters and five grandchildren in Brownwood and Abilene to keep up with – from youth baseball and basketball games to school plays.
There is also golf. A lot of golf.
The sport has always been a part of McCullough’s life. He was a good enough golfer at Garland High School to receive a scholarship to play collegiately at Howard Payne when it offered athletic scholarships. He helped the Yellow Jackets win the Lone Star Conference men’s golf championship in 1975.
After graduating from HPU with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a minor in English, McCullough didn’t immediately enter the education field. He became an assistant golf professional and later head pro at Las Colinas Country Club in Irving.
“I thought I wanted to try to play professional golf, but I found out pretty quick that I wasn’t that good,” McCullough said.
He made his way back in 1990 and taught English, business and special education at Brownwood High School. He also coached the BHS golf team for eight years.
McCullough moved on to school administration. “In the business and coaching worlds, you always want to advance your career. As much as I liked teaching and coaching, I just felt like I could impact more students as an administrator,” he said.
One of his first administrative experiences was as principal at Early Elementary School in 2003-04.
“I learned two things really quick about being an elementary principal,” McCullough said. “One is that kids never tell you when they’re about to throw up, and two, you get a lot of hugs.”
He returned to Brownwood, and a few years later became principal at Brownwood Accelerated High School, a program for students who weren’t experiencing success in the traditional school setting. The Accelerated High School had two goals: help students catch up with their classmates, and teach them how to study and function in a traditional school setting.
McCullough also helped start a new night school program.
“Some of those students were trying to graduate early. Some were female students with young babies and they had to work during the day. Others were just struggling in the regular classroom,” McCullough said.
The night school program typically graduates about 30 students per year, including 33 in 2016. A similar daytime program later started from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
“It saved a lot of dropouts,” McCullough said. “That’s about 30 students per year that would not have gotten a diploma without the night program.”
Leading the alternative education programs gave McCullough a great deal of professional satisfaction.
“One of the biggest thrills is when you wondered if a particular student would ever be able to work in the real world, and he or she comes back several years later. They may have a military career or be retired from the military or have graduated from college or nursing school,” McCullough said.
“It’s very satisfying when they come back and thank you for helping them get through high school.”
McCullough led the Brownwood alternative education programs by example. He rolled up his sleeves and did the same work he asked of his faculty.
“I never felt like I was anybody’s boss,” McCullough said. “We were all in this together. All of us were working with these kids.”
At one time, the alternative education programs had eight full-time teachers. The Accelerated High School has moved back to Brownwood High. The night program is now mostly computer based and requires one full-time teacher and three part-timers.
McCullough also handled the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program (DAEP) and facilitated state-mandated testing at Brownwood ISD. He also coordinated the press box at the Lions’ home football games since 2004.
“I didn’t mind running the press box. If it was raining outside, I was always dry. If it was cold, I was always warm. If it was hot early in the season, I was always cool,” McCullough said.
He has had no problems adjusting to retirement since the fall semester ended. “I wear my (golfing) shorts pretty much every day, regardless of the weather,” McCullough said.