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By: Danielle Commisso (HS'06)
The Carnegie Mellon professor is teaching Mathematical Methods of Physics, an abstract, junior-senior level course not intended for the timid. In the middle of the lecture on poles and residues, and what may seem like a wild and impractical mathematical tangent, he sees a hand go up.
"What's this all good for?" asks a student. This isn't the first time the professor, Hugh Young, has heard this question-in fact, it could be the hundredth time. "I could go on and on about this, trying to answer your question," he says smiling, "but sometimes it's best to just shut up and eat your spinach. It's good for you."
Years later, Young receives an email from Supratik Moulik (S'99), thanking him. Now a physician in Philadelphia, Moulik uses what he learned in Young's class "almost on a daily basis," whether applying it to his research or lecturing to residents. "At some point or another in the past decade, I've referred back to either the book or the notes in his class, which I still keep," says Moulik.
He isn't alone. Physicists, engineers, CEOs, and musicians also have fondly remembered their physics professor. Young's wife, Alice, has meticulously chronicled the letters and emails-along with press clippings, brochures, awards, and accolades of all sorts. There's enough documentation for Alice to fully fill three, three-ring binders. Anyone given the chance to peruse them would discover not only a little bit about who the Youngs are, but also how much they've meant to the Carnegie Mellon community for more than five decades.
Since they first met while working at Carnegie Mellon-Hugh as a fledgling physics professor, Alice as the secretary to the head of the physics department-they have been directly involved in the lives of students and faculty.
From 1976-78, Alice was president of the Carnegie Women's Club, an organization founded in 1921 to serve as a campus social society. Today, the club is known as the Carnegie Mellon Women's Association and includes female faculty and staff from all across campus; but in the 1960s, members were mostly faculty members' wives. In addition to charitable volunteer work, the club organized parties and potluck dinners for faculty and staff. One of the regular affairs, often headed by Alice, was the bimonthly Cooking Club dinner. Faculty and staff and their spouses gathered at the homes of a member and cooked esoteric recipes from around the world.
That's not the only time the Youngs have invited campus guests to their Pittsburgh home. "Every year [for the past 50 years], Hugh goes into the freshman classes in the [Mellon College of Science] and invites them all for Thanksgiving dinner," says Alice. "Fortunately, they don't all come!" she adds with a smile.(Continued …)