For more than 50 years, Bill Youngs has put students first.
During his more than 50 years at EWU, Bill Youngs, author, mentor and professor of history, has used his uniquely successful brand of teaching and scholarship to positively influence the intellectual and personal growth of hundreds of Eastern students. Along the way he has also struck up dozens of lifelong connections with his former undergraduates, including some who never set foot in his classroom.
Count among them Mike Clawson ’07 and Alicia Kinne-Clawson ’07, a couple who met at Eastern and later married. They first encountered Youngs while serving in student government. Youngs, who at the time was president of Eastern’s Faculty Council, became an instant ally.
“There had been some student leaders before us who didn’t work all that well with the faculty organization,” Kinne-Clawson recalls. “One of his goals was to really build that relationship with the students.”
She recalls Youngs hosting joint faculty-student governance retreats; scheduling meetings with university leadership; encouraging student representatives to articulate their own ideas about moving the university forward. He did all this with a contagious enthusiasm that the couple never forgot.
“You can’t spend much time with Bill without hearing about all the different stuff he’s doing. He’s just genuinely excited,” says Mike Clawson. “He really cares about students in the classroom, but it doesn’t stop at the end of class. You hear about the stuff he does for the community and outside of history; I don’t know that we encountered anyone at Eastern who is more committed to general student success, and helping in any way, than Bill is.”
After later earning master’s and doctoral degrees at the University of Washington, Clawson and Kinne-Clawson today work in careers they love — Clawson designing wildlife research studies and Kinne-Clawson drafting higher education laws for the state of Washington. But they’ve continued to stay in touch with Youngs.
When the couple recently began exploring ways to give back to the EWU, they knew right away they wanted to honor Bill’s legacy. “And we wanted to do it while he was still around Cheney and still engaged with the university,” says Clawson.
Thus was born the Bill Youngs Endowment, a fund that will help students cover expenses related to research, publishing and tuition. It’s a way, Clawson and Kinne-Clawson say, to support students who are as excited about learning as they were at Eastern.
“We were both first-generation college students who, walking into Eastern’s doors, didn’t know what it meant to do research. We both benefitted from faculty members like Bill who provided mentoring,” says Kinne-Clawson. “A lot of students do research at the cost of not having a paying job. We hope this award makes it possible for a student who might be making that trade-off… to pursue an intellectual opportunity.”
For his part, Youngs says he was honored and spurred to action by the establishment of his namesake endowment.
“They had recently had twins,” Youngs says of Clawson and Kinne-Clawson. “And it hit me: If this young couple can dig deep to contribute to the university, so should I. I did then, and am giving now, and will keep giving during the years ahead.”