Alumnus Paul Byron ’96 is a loving husband, dedicated father, committed teacher and passionate outdoor enthusiast. Paul recently took a few minutes of his busy life to discuss God, Houghton, his passion for the outdoors, and the deep impact all three have had on his life with Jason Reid ’14, a current Houghton student and intern writer for the public relations department.
Paul Byron is like a big brother to me. I have known his family for many years, and we have all spent time together, both indoors and out. Paul being a 1996 graduate and I a current student, we share many of the same outdoor interests, specifically chasing white-tailed deer, and in some instances, we have similar stories though our friendships and adventures. I asked Paul many questions, and our “interview” turned into an hour and a half of swapping stories and memories.
As a student at Houghton, Paul majored in biology and minored in outdoor recreation. He now resides in Williamson, New York, with his wife, Christi Byron ‘94. Christi works as an elementary music teacher in Williamson, and Paul now works as a third grade teacher in Marion, N.Y. They have two children, Hunter and Brooke.
Although we both love Houghton, I have to ask, why did you come here?
I came here because I needed the country, I needed a place for adventure, and I needed a place to continue to hunt and fish. Honestly, my mind was made up when I came for a visit. A combination of the Christian background and the rural setting…something just clicked. It was while visiting Houghton that I met the guy who would later become my best friend, another bio major, Carter Atkins.
Can you talk about how the outdoors strengthened your friendships?
Carter Atkins ’96, Shane Hillen ‘97, Jason Mumford ‘97, and Rob Hess ‘99 …with this group of guys, it was always hunting plus God. We were a strengthened band of brothers, and we dubbed ourselves Team Houghton Realtree. The friends you make at Houghton will stay with you forever; we are a family. We were all about praising God and chasing our favorite animals, white-tailed deer. We were looking for deer year round, and without Houghton’s surroundings, you could never do those things. We never got bored, never once… just too much to explore.
We would go spotting deer at night, and man, did we find some monster bucks! It was actually because of deer around Houghton that Jason Mumford, who was an art major, wrote and illustrated an inspired children's book called The Legend of Johnny Big Buck, which was about the five of us and our friendship chasing deer while in college.
Did your classes at Houghton strengthen your faith?
Since Carter and I were both bio majors, we had to take a lot of field trips. Through those trips I really grew spiritually. I got a true sense for God’s glory. We traveled to Alaska with Dr. Wolfe… that trip was incredible and allowed us to see God’s glory in true raw wilderness. God’s creation grew us spiritually and bonded us as brothers. If not for Houghton, these friendships, which have become brotherhood, may have never happened. We continue to stay in touch over the years and even get together to hunt every now and then when time allows.
Tell me about your life as a student during the deer season.
Hunting around Houghton was fun-- the land is good -- but oftentimes both parents and professors worried about my grades during the hunting season. In actuality, my grades were better during the fall, as I was more motivated to get my work done and make the best use of my time studying, so as to maximize my time in the woods.
Talk about your view on the harvest of animals.
Many people have an issue with hunting, but for my friends and me it was not about just killing. There is a true realization and understanding that I have taken the life of something. I really have soft spot for the animals. I have learned to understand the value of life and how fragile it is.
We also have a responsibility to hunt because of the health and maintenance issue of overpopulations and disease … and let’s be honest, these are delicious and nutritious animals. Being outdoorsmen here at Houghton helped take care of our bodies and minds.
Did Houghton change you?
Houghton, hands down, changed my life…mentally, spiritually and physically. Houghton and the people here shaped who I am today. Plus, if not for Houghton, I would have never met my wonderful wife, Christi, whom I am beyond blessed to have. Houghton has given me my wife and friends, so many memories and so many blessings.