Scenic Missouri’s President Spies Opportunities for the Show-Me State
Scenic America’s Missouri chapter is enjoying an exciting resurgence thanks to the leadership of its board of directors and its president, John Hock. A longtime advocate for scenic beauty in the Show-Me State and a member of Scenic America’s national board of directors, John is truly a scenic hero.
Although John grew up in an urban environment in the city of St. Louis, he developed a love for nature and the outdoors through his involvement in scouting.
“We’d go on hikes and camping, and I got to see some of the most beautiful parts of the state. It just stuck with me, and it instilled in me an appreciation and love of our scenic heritage,” he noted.
Just as John’s scouting adventures deepened his appreciation for scenic beauty, his experience studying at the University of Missouri—which required frequent trips on I-70 between St. Louis and Columbia—heightened his concerns about the proliferation of scenic blight along the highway. He hated to see how one of the state’s most-traveled roadways was littered with an ever-growing number of billboards and other eyesores.
John carried this awareness of scenic issues into his post-collegiate life as he settled in central Missouri. Equipped with a degree in electrical engineering and with hands-on experience in programming, John landed a job managing data processing centers in Columbia. About ten years later, he was offered the chance to run a data center for an oil company in Rolla, Missouri. He agreed to go if he could pursue a master’s degree in the emerging field of computer science at the same time at the University of Missouri-Rolla (now the Missouri University of Science & Technology).
John’s love for nature carried over into his professional life in his new town. In addition to taking on a new job and starting a graduate program in Rolla, John also bought a farm. He raised quarter horses, beef and cattle, and even picked up some impressive skills in trick roping. After completing his master’s program in 1982, he was recruited by IBM to join their development team in upstate New York. Eager to return to Missouri, John happily accepted a position in 1988 with IBM’s Branch of the Ozarks serving central Missouri.
He first became involved in Scenic Missouri about a decade later, when a statewide billboard issue captured his attention.
“Around that time, there was a state initiative going on to ban new billboards. As I was watching it, I heard the lies that were being promulgated by the industry,” he recalled. Inspired to get involved in the effort to protect Missouri’s roadways, he called up Karl Kruse (then the president of Scenic Missouri) and offered his assistance.
Although the billboard initiative ultimately proved unsuccessful and Scenic Missouri started to wane, John kept up his commitment to the cause. He joined the Scenic Missouri Board of Directors in 2006 and stepped up his involvement after retiring from his career with IBM in 2016.
“It’s a lifelong passion for me, and it’s too important to just let it die on the vine,” he said. And some 30 years later, that commitment is reaping new rewards. Under John’s leadership, Scenic Missouri has become a chapter of Scenic America and has launched a new strategic plan, with dynamic and energetic new members joining John and Karl on its board of directors. The organization is now hard at work developing the Ozark Run Scenic Byway, a new scenic byway traveling through the Ozarks between St. Louis and Branson. They are also cultivating new relationships in the state legislature and closely watching an unfolding project to rebuild I-70 across the state.
Even with his roots firmly planted in Missouri, John’s interests extend far beyond the borders of the Show-Me State. Earlier this year, he was elected to Scenic America’s national board of directors in recognition of his chapter-level leadership. John also plays a leading role in Friends of Honduras, a medical and community development charitable organization started by his wife, Marilyn, in 2010. Beyond his volunteer leadership roles, John is also an accomplished woodworker and guitar player.
While busy with the day-to-day responsibilities of running Scenic Missouri’s operations and collaborating with its passionate volunteers, John envisions a growing and successful organization that will protect Missouri’s scenic beauty and inspire others to develop an appreciation for its scenic treasures. He recognizes that growing Scenic Missouri will take time and work, but he doesn’t shy away from the challenge.
“We’ll find new opportunities, and we’ll make new opportunities,” he said.