Special to the Light
Howard Young, who died on July 31, was a numbers person, a math tutor by profession. He liked the logical, immutable notions of math and the analysis it demanded, and loved imparting that knowledge and intelligence to the hundreds of La Jolla and North County students he tutored over the years.
Inquisitive, curious and born with a fertile mind, he craved the “aha” moment -- the moment a complex issue suddenly made sense to him or his students, or when a clever idea was conceived. And he frequently repeated his professional mantra — “math is fun” — to skeptical teenagers who found math distasteful, even slipping written notes with that message onto their car dashboards and into their refrigerators when they weren’t looking.
But to his students, he was far more than a math tutor. He was a friend, a mentor, a confidante, and an advocate — a safe harbor of calm and perspective when his students encountered the rough patches that come with adolescence.
Young, a La Jolla resident for 18 years, died at home after a lengthy illness. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Aug. 12 at Ellen Browning Scripps Park, adjacent to the Cove.
“Howard didn’t tutor, but gave us the priceless gift of self-motivation, confidence and drive to solve the problem on our own,” said a four-year student, Danielle Gibbons, who graduated from The Bishop’s School in 2005. “He (went) far beyond math. He gave his students the confidence and dedication needed to succeed in life. It was the perfect combination with Howard — your best friend as your teacher.”
Molly Eldridge, who watched him tutor her younger brother and sister and, a generation later, her daughter, added: “Our whole family would look forward to the nights Howard would walk in. We would spend a few minutes catching up, but it was always right to the kids. They were his priority, and he was their advocate, their confidante, their friend. ‘Math tutor’ just doesn't cut it as his title in life. He was so much more to our kids, to our family, to the community. When anyone talked about Howard, they couldn't help but smile.“
“Howard’s students and their parents were like family to him,” said Peter Kay of Los Angeles, who met Howard when they were 7 and joined forces with him 15 years later to leave New York and stake out lives in California. “When he would talk to me about them, it was as though he was telling me about his children — he was so proud of their accomplishments and so upset if there were any challenges they were facing. He taught life, not math.”
But it was in his nominal role as math tutor that he became a fixture in La Jolla and the North County, where his math lessons, avuncular advice and philosophical discussions — known as meaning-of-life chats or, in his shorthand, the MOL — educated and entertained students and their families for nearly two decades.