Earl Young, a 1960 Olympic gold medalist, will speak at Austin College Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the Ida Green Theatre of the Ida Green Communication Center. The athlete has traveled the world since winning his medal, sharing his victory with thousands. Now the cancer survivor is intent on sharing another message — that of the importance of bone marrow donation. His presentation, which is free and open to the public, is being held in connection with a three-day bone marrow donor drive hosted by the international nonprofit DKMS.
“Mr. Young will tell his inspiring story of athleticism, survival, resilience, strength and the gift of a second chance from a total stranger,” Mark Hudson, men’s head soccer coach, said. “Plan to meet Mr. Young, take a selfie with his gold medal, and learn how you can be a hero to someone in need of a bone marrow donor for a second chance at life.”
As a college sophomore, Young made the U.S. Olympic track and field team for the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome and was a member of the Team USA 4×400-meter relay, which finished in world-record time. He also earned two gold medals at the 1963 Pan American Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, as part of relay teams. He traveled thousands of miles to share his victory and allow others to hold the gold medal, sharing his win with others.
Young went on to a successful business career, serving as an advisor, corporate officer and director for various companies and investment banking firms. In September 2011, a persistent runny nose finally sent him to a doctor — and he soon found himself in a new race after he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, an aggressive type of blood cancer for which a bone-marrow transplant was needed. In January 2012, when his time was nearly up, a genetic match was found in Germany.
Once Young recovered, he had a new victory to share. He began to spread the word about the need for registration as a bone marrow donor. In 2015, he formed Earl Young’s Team and works in conjunction with existing national and international organizations to encourage people to join the national register of potential donors. To date, his efforts have helped add nearly 10,000 new potential lifesavers to the bone marrow registry.
DKMS is an international nonprofit organization, founded 27 years ago in Germany by Dr. Peter Harf when he lost his wife to leukemia. He promised her that he would help every blood cancer patient find a matching donor. Today, DKMS has offices in Germany, the United States (opened 2004), Poland (2009), and the UK (2013) and has registered over 8 million potential donors worldwide.