Community college altered career, life for Regional Steel owner

Calhoun Elton Calhoun

College was not in Elton Calhoun’s future until he received a scholarship to attend a community college, leading him down a path he would like to see more high school students take.

“If I had my way, community college would be a part of everyone’s journey,” said Calhoun, who is the owner of Regional Steel Products and a member of the Victoria College Foundation’s board of directors.

After his family moved several times during his childhood, Calhoun graduated from high school in Yazoo City, Mississippi, and was planning on working with his father in the construction business until he received an offer from a nearby community college.

“I was not a good student in high school, and I had no plans to go to college,” Calhoun said. “Then I received a football scholarship to go to Holmes Junior College.”

Calhoun went on to transfer to Louisiana Tech University, where he obtained a degree in mechanical engineering.

“Once I got into college, I realized what it could do for me,” Calhoun said. “Community college provided me the stepping stone to go on to a four-year university and get my degree.”

Calhoun became the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

“I have about 80 cousins,” Calhoun said. “Out of all of them, I am the only one to finish college.”

Calhoun said attending a community college prepared him to succeed at the university level.

“Community colleges provide students personalized and specialized attention,” Calhoun said. “When you go to a major university, you are one of 300 or more in a classroom, and you have to do it all on your own. The professors at the community college level take an interest in each of their students and are able to help them with their studies and prepare them for their next step.”

After graduating from Louisiana Tech, Calhoun moved to Victoria where he worked as an engineer for the Union Carbide Corporation for 7½ years. Calhoun then entered into private business as a partner at Sparkman Industries and later Regional Steel. In 1983, Calhoun took over management of Regional Steel and became the company’s owner and president in 1986.

Calhoun said he is proud to work with the VC Foundation, which has provided more than $775,000 in scholarships during the 2017-18 school year. He understands the difference a scholarship can make in a person’s life.

“Had I not gotten that football scholarship, I would not have gone to college,” Calhoun said. “I would not be here today running Regional Steel. I would have not gotten a mechanical engineering degree, and I would not have even met my wife of 50 years. Since 1969, Ann and I have made our home in Victoria, and we have three children who have obtained college degrees.

“When you get a scholarship, it’s a gift. But it’s what you do with that gift that makes the difference.”