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William M. Younkin "Mike"

Company F-2

23 Apr 1939 - 19 Sep 1995


Class Memorial Pages\F-2 Mike Younkin.pdf

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W. M. YOUNKIN 1961

Cullum No. 23597-1961 | September 22, 1995 | Died in Hawaii
Interred in West Point Cemetery, NY

William Michael “Mike” Younkin was born April 22, 1939 at Schofield Barracks, HI. His favorite number was 444: April, his birth month, is the 4th month; his birth day, 22, is 2+2 = 4; and his birth year, 1939, is 1+9+3+9 = 22, which, again, is 2+2=4. Every time his brother, Derek, sees 4:44 on a clock, it reminds him of Mike

Mike was the son of Major William L. Younkin, a B-24 pilot in World War II who was killed in action. His mother remarried a Pan Am pilot, and the family moved to Los Altos, CA in 1956

His interest in West Point led him to take the civil service exam to compete for an appointment given by the vice president. Such exams consisted of math, English and abstract reasoning. Mike scored high and won an appointment. Like many of his classmates’, Mike’s SAT score needed to be higher. To improve, he attended Braden’s Prep School and, after intense concentration on SATs, he won acceptance to the Academy

After plebe year, Mike was assigned to Company F-2. He loved music and was one of the few cadets who owned a record player. He shared his albums with his roommates and added his own talents by playing the guitar

When it was time to pick an academic elective, Mike chose Russian. Mike’s perseverance and determination got him through that very difficult course. His Russian expertise became an asset for him later in life

Mike liked physically demanding athletics. He ran cross country and was a gymnast. He would share his gymnastics pain with roommates by trimming his hand callouses in the room at night

Mike served on active duty as an Armor officer for three years. His first assignment was tank platoon leader with the 69th Armor Regiment. His second was with the 4th Calvary Regiment in Hawaii. He resigned in 1964 as a first lieutenant

In 1964, when his brother, Derek, was a plebe, Mike taught Derek a great lesson applicable to all who have joined the Long Gray Line. The story goes that Derek was receiving a bit more than the usual amount of correction from an upper classman. The upper classman asked Derek if he had a brother named “Mike.” Derek, of course, acknowledged his brother as a member of the Class of ’61. Derek learned that the upper classman had suffered a bit under Mike’s tutelage and was probably making sure that Derek be treated similarly. Derek brought up the experience with Mike, and Mike’s response was, “The upper classman was a firstie, so I guess that I did my job pretty well.”

After leaving active duty, Mike moved to Sacramento, CA, where he joined Campbell Soup Company. There he served as a standards analyst in the engineering department and then as a buyer for engineering needs

His next challenge was to bring his talents to the financial industry. In 1968, Mike joined Reynolds Securities in Palo Alto, CA as a stockbroker. He became an SEC registered investment advisor and used that credential to start his own company, Gnome Inc. His goal was to create computer software to analyze stock performance and be able to recommend effective portfolios for clients. He did groundbreaking work using Fortran programs on IBM 360 mainframe computers. Today, many brokerage houses offer such programs. Mike would have been excited to see that his ideas had correctly identified the direction of the financial industry

His interest in solving big problems with computer programs led him to join Control Data Corporation in the mid-1980s at NASA Ames Center in Moffett, CA. As a senior systems analyst, Mike had supercomputers as his charge. He was instrumental in producing the first natural language interface for these high-powered computers. Mike loved computer language design, working with complex algorithms, and breaking new ground in software languages. He said that working with mainframe computer applications was like making an elephant jump through a hoop

He then joined Data House as project lead for an Army Intelligence Project and senior management analyst. His love of Hawaii then led him to join Robbins-Gioia as senior systems analyst and Pearl Harbor site lead providing computer support for the Pacific Submarine Fleet

Mike passed away on September 19, 1995 from lung cancer. Before his death he loved to recall the testimonial that he gave at his church about his encounter with God. In classic Mike style, he related how he asked God to sit down with him and discuss his life and future. According to Mike, the discussion was very productive

Mike’s cancer was particularly difficult to bear. It impinged on a nerve and created extreme pain. He bore that pain with strength and courage

As Mike’s brother, Derek, has said: “Mike’s war with cancer was like a Ranger course that lasted nearly four years. Beyond each hill was another hill. And another. And the weather was more inclement with each new phase. He never gave up hope. Near the end he worked on cancer research efforts with NIH. In the weeks nearing his death, I was in awe of my brother’s calm and noble bearing. His remorse was a simple, ‘I thought I had more time.’ We could all learn from that.”