This community lost one of its most ardent boosters and favorite sons last week with the passing of Gerald “Jerry’’ Young. The longtime dean of arts and sciences at Eastern Oregon University left a positive mark on his workplace, his community and virtually every one he came in contact with.
Jerry’s story, like that of so many people who were born and grew up in this valley, was the proverbial “local boy makes good.’’ But where so many of our community’s best wind up making their marks elsewhere, Jerry made his here. At home. In the place he loved.
Born in La Grande on Dec. 7, 1932, Jerry grew up on the family farm at Mount Glen. He attended school in La Grande and his first two years of college at EOU (then EOC). He left to pursue his educational goals at Oregon State. But he came back home to take a job at the university, where he went on to work for 36 years, including 15 years as the dean of arts and sciences. The fit was perfect, for Jerry and his family — and for EOU. A better booster, or more ardent supporter, the university might never see. He loved the university and devoted his career — and even his retirement — to it.
So, too, Jerry loved this community. A third-generation product of an Oregon Trail family, Jerry was devoted to making his native land the best it can be. He served on the school board. He touted libraries. He served in the Rotary Club, where he was the living example of the Four-Way Test and the service club’s motto — Service Above Self.
He worked tirelessly for bond measures and anything else that would help ensure our children a quality education, which he saw as the most critical component to any community’s long-term well-being. As EOU Professor Greg Monahan said in his eulogy at Jerry’s memorial Saturday, “His knowledge of history, of people, of place gave him a depth of experience, a confidence and a serenity that was vitally important to making him a fine leader on this campus and in the community at large.’’
But even beyond his dedication to university, community and education, was Jerry. Eternal optimist. Family man. Husband of Arlene. Father of Doug, Lucinda and Patricia. And grandfather to five. A man who was thoroughly committed to everybody and everything he loved.
As Monahan summed up in his eulogy, “We can honor (Jerry), however, not simply by missing this remarkable man, but by emulating him, by continuing to draw inspiration from his example, by taking that long view and by remembering with him that everything really will be all right if we just work as hard as he did to make sure that it is.’’
Thank you, Jerry Young, for all that you did for everything you loved. Our community is better for it.