Tom’s Story

 “I had to follow my heart”

Tom Morales
Indianapolis, Indiana
Morales Group Inc., CEO

 

My story is that of a second-generation immigrant.

“When I grew up in Indianapolis in the 50s and 60s, it was a different and less diverse place to live. One of the hardest things for me in growing up was that our family was one of only two Hispanic families in the area and there were no other minorities in my grade school, or in my high school. When I started school, my first language was Spanish. While I felt accepted, I always had this constant feeling that I was different, and I wanted to fit in.

My family came to Indianapolis on a regular basis from Texas and Mexico as migrant workers for several years before my parents decided to settle in Indianapolis. We moved into a three room house located on the northeast side of the city. I was the second of six children.

In grade school I learned English pretty early on. My parents who spoke very little English when we arrived still had a hard time so it wasn’t like we were tutored at home. It was especially difficult when you were trying to grasp and idea or concept. You were on your own and there weren’t any convenient translations or computers to help you. The nuns at Saint Lawrence Catholic School were definitely tough and difficult, but as long as you were willing to work hard they were willing to work with you.

If you have time, you work.

Our family lived and worked on a tree nursery, so I was expected to work after school and on weekends. It was hard labor, but it taught me a lot.  I remember when the high school football coaches came to my father and asked him if I could play football.  He said that I could play on my own time when I wasn’t working. Dad’s concept was if you have time, you work!

The variety of jobs I did at the nursery from landscaping, sales, and managing the retail store prepared me in many ways. The work was hard but the tangible results inspired me and influenced my decision to pursue a civil engineering degree at Purdue. The day I left for school, Mom and Dad asked, “Where are you going?” I said I was going to school. “Would you be back tonight?” I said, “No, I’ll be home on the weekends.”  At first my parents didn’t understand that I was leaving home to study at the university, but they soon understood what it meant for me to attend Purdue.

A global component that opened my eyes.

Diversity at Purdue and a university setting were important. While there weren’t many Hispanic students, it didn’t matter. There were students from all over the world. Purdue’s engineering school had a global component that opened my eyes right away. I didn’t worry about fitting in, as I was a part of a global community and student body, and I could accelerate to my own academic standard and pace.

Upon graduating and getting married, I moved to Green Bay, Wisconsin where I worked for Proctor & Gamble as an engineer.  There I was part of a team that designed and built a paper mill.  When my wife, Chris, and I had the first of our five children, we wanted to get closer to our families.  So I left Proctor & Gamble and we moved back to Indianapolis where I worked in sales and human resources for Union Carbide and Donaldson for the next 24 years.

Giving back to the Hispanic community.

During my years in Indianapolis, I was aware that the Hispanic population in this region had been growing. And although I had fought my heritage early in my life, I began to feel that I needed to play a bigger role in giving back to the Hispanic community. Before my father passed away he challenged me by telling me, “You have got to give more than just money to churches and organizations. If there is something you can do, if there is something you can start, you must follow your heart”.

I started Morales Group in 2003. As I sought to find a way to contribute to the Hispanic community, I knew that having a job was critical to giving those new to our city a chance to flourish in their new home. I believed that we could utilize the work ethic and develop the talents of the growing immigrant workforce in Indiana in order to better the lives of our employees and contribute to the success of our clients.

Listen to their stories.

My calling is to make a difference in the lives of others, to serve others, and to listen to their stories. By God’s direction, the support of my family, and the talent we have assembled, we are consciously trying to do something more and something different for our clients, our employees and our community.

I encourage you to listen to the stories of those around you, to embrace diversity, and see, as I have, that Indianapolis is not just a crossroads but a destination for many with a similar story to mine.”