Southeastern Alumni Association

Featured Alumni

Dr. James Young

Dr. James Young, Class of 1967

Dr. James Young is a man of passion. That passion manifested itself in his $50,000 gift to help continue funding for the annual Oklahoma State Science and Engineering Fair.

Young, a retired dentist from Ardmore, and a Southeastern Oklahoma State graduate in science education, read the science fair was being cut from the Oklahoma State Department of Education budget for 2018.  That didn’t set well with him, so he decided to find out more and take steps to see the science fair continues.

“I read the story on my phone on the KFOR website and just couldn’t believe it,” Young said. “My first thought was who do I need to talk to about this and find out what they need to keep the science fair going.”

Those questions led him first to his local state representative, Rep. Pat Ownbey, who then put him in contact with the coordinator for the science fair.  According to Young, he asked two questions: How much do you need and when do you need it?

After graduating from Southeastern in 1967, Young taught chemistry, physics and biology at Cleveland (Okla.) High School for a year before deciding to pursue dentistry and attending Baylor Hospital Medical School in Dallas.  He had a successful dental practice in Ardmore from 1972 – 1993 before retiring to manage Cherokee Communications in Calera, a telecommunications company founded by his father.  Young wasn’t the only Southeastern graduate in the family.  His father, Bill, graduated from the Aviation Sciences Institute, although his education was interrupted by World War II, where he served as a Navy flyer.

“I’ve seen first-hand the effect these science fairs have on students,” Young said.  “My daughter competed in her first science fair in the second grade and in high school she won the local science fair.  She then went on to win the district and state competitions, and eventually competed at the international level in Puerto Rico.”

His daughter’s three-year research project focused on the dental health of rural Oklahomans who relied solely on well water.  A condition called dental fluorosis can occur when well water has heightened levels of fluoride.  Young encouraged her research by providing information from his dental background.

“These kids are doing these projects because they have a passion, and sometimes it’s that passion alone that keeps some of them in school,” he said.  “Every student has that special button that unlocks their passion, and if they don’t have an outlet to express that passion, they won’t be as motivated to stick with it.”

This isn’t the first time the retired dentist has encouraged students to achieve great things.  He has established four endowed scholarships at Southeastern to assist students in exploring their passions in aviation, music, art and vocal music performance.  Young’s generous gift and the plight of the Oklahoma State Science and Engineering Fair has generated so much attention, the annual science fair will be fully sponsored by the Boeing Company through 2022.

Read more Alumni stories here!

Southeastern Alumni wants to hear your story!

Submit your story graphic