Carson Huey-You isn’t old enough to drive or vote and isn’t comfortable dating, but at 14, he already has a real-world understanding of what can be achieved through hard work.
Saturday morning, Huey-You walked across the stage inside Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena and became the youngest person ever to receive a bachelor’s degree at Texas Christian University.
The physics major is among 2,010 students who received their undergraduate, graduate or doctorate degree from Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. during three formal ceremonies Saturday.
The Class of 2017 also includes TCU’s second Rhodes Scholar, Caylin L. Moore, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in economics, as well as three Fulbright Scholars and 10 students with 4.0 grade-point averages.
Huey-You accepts the spotlight with a grin and a shrug. At age ll, he attracted widespread media attention when he entered TCU’s 2013 freshman class, and the story of his graduation has been no different. For example, it was mentioned Thursday morning in MSNBC’s news ticker.
Huey-You’s favorite thing about college?
“Getting to learn new things about things you never thought about, things that you never knew existed, things that you might not even think about thinking about,” he said.
Capturing the public’s imagination
C. Magnus L. Rittby, senior associate dean for administration and graduate programs at TCU’s College of Science and Engineering, and Huey-You’s academic adviser, said people are fascinated by stories of young prodigies completing college.
“Doogie Howser is all I have to say,” Rittby said, referring to the popular early 1990s TV show about a teen doctor. “It’s part of the American myth.”
Rittby said modern-day luminaries such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, an engineer/inventor and entrepreneur, have popularized the image of science nerds.
“They are always scientists — science nerds,” Rittby said. “They are building. They have lasers and
Huey-You ends his undergraduate chapter with a physics degree — chosen because he likes learning how things work and interact — and minors in math and Chinese.
His advice to other 14-year-olds?
“Try to stay focused on what you are doing,” Huey-You said. “Even if it seems really, really challenging and hard to get through, stay with it.”
‘Some really, really hard classes’
When Huey-You started at TCU, he told people classes were easy, but as is the case with many college students, his perspective soon changed.
“I’ve had to deal with some really hard classes,” said Huey-You, who jokingly tells family and friends not to remind him how easy he expected school to be.
He took classes with titles that instill fear in some people and send others to the internet to find out more. He said his three hardest classes were American environmental history, general chemistry II and classical mechanics.
“That one hurt,” Huey-You muttered with a grin, referring to the last one, an advanced physics course.
Huey-You said he sees how he has changed over the last 3 1/2 years.
“When I used to get bad test scores or something like that, I would go home and be disappointed and think about, ‘Oh, I should have known this, I should have done way better,’ ” he said.
Now, he said, “I know better how to deal with that disappointment, knowing that I will bounce back.”
Throughout Huey-You’s undergraduate years, he had Rittby’s support. Professor and student could communicate in the world of mathematics.
“Once you have the mathematical language, you can talk about mathematics without referring to reality,” Rittby said. “It becomes a safe haven for minds.”
Tuesday, Huey-You had the relaxed demeanor of a college senior done with finals. His last exam was in general chemistry II. It capped a semester that included five classes and a lab, Huey-You said.
He described a future for himself in science that includes getting a master’s degree in quantum mechanics. He also wants to get a doctorate, teach and test some of his ideas.
“Quantum mechanics deals with very, very small-scale things,” Huey-You said. “Even, a lot of the times, past microscopic level so you get electrons, protons, neutrons — even smaller than that going into quarks.”
What does that mean in the real world?
“Smartphones, computers, electronics — all of that stuff runs on quantum mechanics,” he explained.“If you want smaller technology that fits into smaller spaces, then that’s really where to look.”
‘I’m a normal dude’
Huey-You was 10 when he graduated from the Accommodated Learning Academy in Grapevine, where he was co-valedictorian.
College was the next logical step.
“It was scary at first because my high school was only one building versus a massive campus with tons of people,” Huey-You said. “After that, I really did get used to it because TCU was so accommodating and a positive influence really.”
Huey-You said that for the most part he has blended in with other students, although when he first arrived on campus as a tween he caused a social media stir.
Huey-You’s mother, Claretta Kimp, said a typical scene involved students singling him out as the youngest freshman on campus and asking: “Can I take a picture with you?”
“It does still happen,” Kimp said.
People have called him a genius — or worse “a celebrity,” he said, adding: “It is just something I have learned to deal with because, to me, I am not a genius. I am a normal 14-year-old person doing college-level stuff.”
Rittby describes Huey-You as a kid interested in college, because he doesn’t want Huey-You to be labeled.
“No one wants to be labeled with that term and it isn’t healthy,” Rittby said. “It’s natural that we associate that word, but it takes away from the whole person. He’s not just a mind that does physics. He does all this other stuff — plays the piano, [speaks] Chinese.”
“I’m a normal dude,” Huey-You said, adding that he has friends his age.
Huey-You likes to read “Lord of the Rings” and “The Chronicles of Narnia.” He plays chess and checkers and has long been a fan of “Minecraft,” a building and adventure video game. Huey-You also hangs out with his little brother, Cannan, and Klaus, a 2-year-old dog the family rescued. Their pet is named after scientist Klaus von Klitzing, who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 1985.
Cannan is making his own news. He graduates from the Accommodated Learning Academy on Friday and will take classes in the fall at TCU. He plans to double major with a major in engineering and a another in physics and astronomy.
The brothers are close and chose to share a room, Kimp said, adding that she can hear them chatting at night.
“It’s sweet,” she said.
Kimp said her hopes for Huey-You include that he grows up and becomes a selfless person who helps take care of the world and gives something back to society. As she talked, Huey-You unleashed his teen sense of humor by channeling Michael Jackson’s song “Heal the World.”
“For you and for me and the entire human race,” Huey-You sang before sharing a laugh with his mother.
This report contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.