This Baylor professor is also a three-time Olympian
Baylor’s robust Olympic history isn’t limited to a celebrated list of student-athletes who have made their alma mater proud for more than a century. There’s also at least one Baylor professor who can claim to have competed as one of the world’s best.
Dr. Alex Yokochi came to Baylor in 2017 as a professor of mechanical engineering, and now teaches, mentors and conducts solar and renewable energy research. But if you had met Yokochi when he was the same age as his students, you’d very likely have found him in the swimming pool — and perhaps have watched him compete on the world stage.
A swimmer, Yokochi represented his native Portugal in three consecutive Olympics — 1984 in Los Angeles, 1988 in Seoul, and 1992 in Barcelona. From a young age, he could be found in the pool. His father was a swimming coach, and Yokochi was the child who tagged along with him. But he and others soon discovered the youth’s natural aptitude for the water. As young Alex grew and competed, he separated himself from his peers, eventually qualifying for the Portuguese swim team.
In 1984, at age 19, Yokochi competed in both the 100m and 200m breaststroke, finishing seventh in the 200m. He competed in the same two events in 1988 (again finishing top-10 in the 200m) and 1992, when (at age 27) he was team captain and “pretty much the grandpa of the team.”
What does it take to become an Olympian? For Yokochi, it was two sessions a day in the pool for a combined five to six hours, a schedule he kept up throughout his youth and 20s, even as he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Southern Illinois University. Such activity didn’t leave a great deal of time for socializing, but it did prepare him to be among the world’s best in his athletic pursuits and his chosen discipline.
Today, Yokochi is in his fifth year teaching at Baylor. He and his wife, Dr. Annette von Jouanne, a fellow Baylor engineering professor, came to Baylor from Oregon State, drawn by the vision of a Christian research university and the opportunity to pursue their mission as Christian engineers with Baylor students.
When Yokochi thinks back to his Olympic days, he says the discipline he developed still benefits him now. He also recognizes a correlation of pursuing high-level objectives surrounded by high-level people.
“When I look back, I see what I got to do as being very similar to what I do now professionally,” he says. “Still today, I’m blessed to be here, working with some of the best in the world in my discipline. Now, my mission is different, but I’m still driven, driven by a Christian mission and to serve.”
Sic ’em, Dr. Yokochi!