November 8, 2012
The Profile in Excellence award is given by the OBU Alumni Association to a former student who has “demonstrated recognizable accomplishment in his or her profession, business, avocation, or life service in such a way as to bring pride and honor to the University.” Each year, Profile In Excellence recipients are featured in OBU Magazine.
As an incoming freshman on Bison Hill, John Young was no stranger to OBU and, by his own account, no scholar. But the friendships he formed on campus, the experience he gained through the student newspaper and the leadership he saw modeled have affected the remainder of his life.
Young was offered a scholarship to work in OBU’s athletic department publicity and took up residence in student housing provided by Dr. James Ralph Scales, who served as vice president at the time and, later, as president of the University. The housing, Young said, was a wonderful side benefit in addition to Scales’ teaching of Oklahoma history and the history courses taught by Betty Scales. Another side benefit was having life-shaping friendships with roommates Dick Neptune and Warren Osburn.
After graduating from OBU in 1956, Young went to Naval Officers Candidate School in Newport, R.I., and spent three years on active duty in the Amphibious Fleet based in San Diego. His first newspaper job was as news and sports editor in his hometown of Cushing, Okla.
“Having served as editor of The Bison at OBU my senior year, I felt it was something I was suited to do, and I have been at it in one form or another for more than 50 years,” Young said.
Young’s journalism career continued with jobs at United Press International in Dallas and Kansas City (1963-66), The Sapulpa (Okla.) Herald (1966-79), The Tulsa Tribune (1979-92) and The Tulsa World (1992-present), primarily as a news or copy editor.
“It hasn’t been just a matter of jobs; it’s been a life,” Young said. “The fascination of the newspaper has never ebbed. Four months after joining UPI, I was thrust into being a part of that organization’s prize-winning coverage of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, with several by-line articles dispatched worldwide. That was a matter of geographical happenstance rather than personal merit, but one’s educational experience quickly comes into play in learning to observe and to cope.”
Young was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 2006, having been nominated by coworkers on the copy desk of The Tulsa World “who recognized a paucity of our ilk in that body,” Young said. “The copy desk is the middleman in getting the story from the point of origin to the reader. It’s not often a high-profile job, but is a vital one; one in which the dozens of errors detected before getting into print are unknown to the reading public, but the one undetected leaves you red-faced.”
Enroute to Houston in the mid-1960s to assist in coverage of several of the Gemini spaceflights, Young stopped in Shawnee to visit Dr. Scales, who exhibited interest in how OBU grads were faring in their college afterlife.
“He asked if it was my OBU educational experience that qualified me for the assignment,” Young said. “My response was that as uplifting as a ‘yes’ might be, the unglamorous fact was that I was considered management and could work 16 hours a day without overtime pay. Yet, later, I realized that working long hours for meager pay, writing about something that was completely out of my depth – that was exactly what I had learned at OBU.”
In addition to shaping his career, it was through OBU that Young met his wife of 52 years, Dru. Young’s college roommate, Jim Brown, professor emeritus of music, was her choir director at First Baptist Church, Midwest City, in 1960. The Youngs are members of First Baptist Church, Tulsa. They have two children, Shawn and his wife, Rhoda, of Sapulpa; Sabrina Young Davis, a 1989 OBU alum, and her husband, Lane, a 1990 OBU alum, of Oklahoma City; and five grandsons.
Click here to view a list of others who have received the Profile in Excellence award.