Leaving a Sustainable Legacy
By Grace Burnite (Business Administration ’21) and Jayan Kalathil
Kevin Yost saw the future of urban transportation as one where drivers, cyclists and pedestrians could travel the same streets in a safe and integrated way.
Now, a year after his untimely death at the age of 28, a new scholarship in his honor will support city and regional planning and engineering students committed to making that future a reality.
"He was constantly asking ‘How can we improve this street?’ or ‘How can we make it safer?'” said Yost’s wife, Lu Yu, who he met in his previous role as a tech consultant. “He always wanted to help communities and contribute to society to make the streets safer to walk and bike.”
The scholarship endowment was created by Yost’s family in his name. Their generous gift of $250,000 will support two annual scholarships — one for a student studying city and regional planning and another for a student studying engineering.
“We know the cost of education is a barrier for many talented students,” said Michael Boswell, head of the City and Regional Planning Department in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. “This scholarship will help us meet our goal of providing an excellent transportation planning and engineering education to those students. It is a meaningful tribute to Kevin and his passion.”
Yost, who was described as an outgoing, kind-hearted soul, earned his undergraduate business administration degree while studying management information systems from the Orfalea College of Business in 2013. He returned to Cal Poly in 2017 in pursuit of dual master’s degrees in city and regional planning and engineering, each with an emphasis on transportation planning.
“Kevin was a great student and a really nice guy. He had a passion for transportation planning and loved talking about creative solutions to our transportation challenges,” Boswell said.
After earning his masters' degrees, Kevin worked as a transportation analyst for Kittelson & Associates, a transportation engineering consulting firm in Sacramento. Matt Braughton, a senior planner in the Sacramento office, and Brian Ray, a senior principal engineer in the Portland, Oregon, office, were two of his onboarding mentors.
“He wanted to be in year five of his career when he was one month into the job, and that’s something I really loved as his mentor,” Braughton said. “I got to support his growth and see his intense curiosity, not just for the technical work but also how to prepare to be a project manager. He was really engaged for someone who was just dipping his toe into the profession.”
Throughout his time at Kittelson & Associates, Yost took special interest in projects to help communities improve the safety, effectiveness and sustainability of bicycle and pedestrian transportation systems.
“Outside of project work, he was super passionate about attending community meetings and making sure his ideals and values were represented,” Braughton said.
“Kevin never gave up,” said Ray. “He was having to learn basic concepts since he was coming from a completely different career path initially. You couldn’t break his spirit and he had that never-ending smile.”
Yost, a Fresno native, grew up putting together computers, going on family camping trips and playing tennis, according to his twin sister, Kristi, whom he was close with. He also loved hiking and being outdoors.
“One big aspect of how we can continue Kevin’s legacy is to help other students that share his passion for city planning and engineering," his father, David Yost, said. "He loved Cal Poly and hopefully we see a little bit of Kevin in the students that receive the scholarship.”
Yost’s grandfather, Bob Johnson, agreed.
“I would like to see the person who receives the scholarship pursue goals similar to Kevin’s of making the streets safer for everyone — bikers, pedestrians and drivers,” Johnson said.
Yost’s legacy will live on with every student who graduates from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design with help from the Kevin Yost Scholarship.
“His story’s not over,” said Yost’s mother, Terri.
Visit the Cal Poly Giving site to learn how you can contribute to the Kevin Yost Scholarship fund.