Janice Houghton, a lifelong Stoneham resident, started working at StonehamBank as a summer job during her freshman year of college. Forty-two years later, she is still there.
“I don’t know where the time went,” she said. “It just flew by.”
She stayed, she said, because she wanted to make a difference in the world, and quickly saw how community banking could help her do that.
“I was a child of the ’60s,” Houghton said with a laugh, and though bankers are perhaps not the first thing that comes to mind when reflecting on that decade, she said “[banks] can be very powerful in changing things that you think should be changed.”
Stoneham Bank has been “very progressive in who we lend to and how we lend, and it has brought us through this financial crisis – and the previous ones – very well,” she said.
Houghton has held many positions at StonehamBank over the years, and was appointed president in 1999. She is the first female president in the bank’s 125-year history. Her supporters say her intimate knowledge of the bank has created a strong, caring, experienced leader.
When Houghton heard she was a Community Bank Hero award winner, her first reaction was not pride in her own accomplishments, but pride for her institution.
“I was very pleased for the bank, because it does do a lot for the community – for our clients, and for everyone,” she said. The bank’s charitable and education endeavors focus on children and the elderly, including partnerships with Mystic Valley Elder Services, the Stoneham Senior Center and several local elementary and middle schools.
StonehamBank’s philosophy is simple, but effective.
“We find out what the need is, and what we can do, and we do it,” Houghton said. “Then others jump in with their support, and it gets to be successful.”
Houghton and her staff regularly go beyond the bounds of the bank’s walls, keeping in close contact with retired employees and providing assistance, friendship and community.
Stoneham Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sharon Iovanni said Houghton is “someone I look to as a community leader. She is a leader by example. She’s the first to dig in. If there’s a community service project – anything, any time, anywhere – that needs doing, she’s there to do it. The is a tremendous amount of caring in her, and in all of her employees.”
Bank employees volunteer, collect items for troops, and bring Easter baskets and Christmas cheer to children at Winchester Hospital.
“There is an on-going partnership between the bank and the community,” Iovanni said. “That always comes from the top. Janice is a top-down leadership example that rings true.”
As a corporate leader, Houghton has created a “culture that is, I believe, is one of people who are happy in their jobs, and in their places in the community,” she continued.
StonehamBank is “constantly making a donation or presentation to a non-profit,” Iovanni said. “It sends a message that the bank cares about the community.”
In addition to her activities with the bank, Houghton serves on the boards of Winchester Hospital; Mystic Valley Elder Services; the Stoneham Theater; and Zoo New England, the governing body for the Franklin Park Zoo and the Stoneham Zoo.