What do biology and classics have in common? In terms of subject matter, nothing really. Except that you can major in both as part of a broad liberal arts education — and use that diverse background as a launching pad to a successful career.
Those were the first steps along the path for Alex Yong ’90, now senior product designer for Major League Baseball, where he is responsible for the design of MLB.com.
Yong developed a love of UNC-Chapel Hill early.
“I fell in love with Carolina upon my first visit while I was still in high school,” he remembered. “Even a few years before, I remember seeing an aerial view of Kenan Stadium and the campus while watching a football game on TV and thinking, ‘What a beautiful university!’”
The connection continued to grow as he became involved in activities on campus.
“Once I matriculated at UNC, my opinion of our university only went higher. I loved how accessible my professors were, even in larger classes. I joined the crew club my freshman year. Several of the guys who I rowed with were brothers at Chi Psi fraternity, and I pledged there my sophomore year. I feel blessed that I am still close to many of my fraternity brothers and friends.”
But a biology and classics double major? How did that happen?
“When I started at Carolina, I was a biology major on a pre-med track, but I took a Roman archaeology course with the incredible Professor Gerhard Koeppel and was hooked,” he said. “I completed all my pre-med courses, but I decided that medicine wouldn’t be my chosen path.”
After working for several years in independent film and TV commercial production and meeting his wife, Wendi Sturgis, who was working for a tech startup, Yong developed an interest in digital design and technology. Knowing that technology was the future, he enrolled in the intensive multimedia design and production program at New York University and has been with MLB since 2003.
Yong and Sturgis, who is an alumna of Georgia Tech and chair of its advisory board, wanted to support their universities and maximize their impact by giving sooner rather than later. Their gifts are reflective of their passions. In addition to significant planned gifts to the College that benefit scholarships, technology and innovation in the Learning and Writing Center, and diversity initiatives in the department of computer science, the two have created an immediate-use fund for the Learning and Writing Center.
“The Learning and Writing Center is available for all Carolina students at all academic levels, but it is particularly helpful to first generation and transfer students — 40 percent of the students who visit the center are from these two groups,” Yong said. “We believe strongly that all college students, no matter their background, should have every resource available to ensure their ultimate success. We know that a UNC-Chapel Hill degree will change the trajectory of a person’s life forever.”
“I know firsthand the huge impact a strong technical education can have on your life,” Sturgis said. “I strive to be a role model for young women (both at work and with charities), and by creating a computer science diversity initiative fund, I hope to make the path a little easier for women and students from groups traditionally underrepresented in this field to pursue a path in technology.”
Yong said they both feel fortunate that their college experiences shaped their lives in more ways than just academics.
“We felt it was important to make our commitments earlier in life to support the capital campaigns of our universities and to help ensure that our alma maters have the resources they need to continue their commitment to excellence.”
By Mary Moorefield