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The gift of time and place

Lieutenant Colonel Frances Young

It doesn’t take long to feel the excitement Lieutenant Colonel Frances Young conveys serving as the new head of Carson-Newman University’s Army ROTC. Prior to sitting down to sitting down for a morning office meeting, Young enthusiastically explained how a few JROTC high school students had recently revisited their interest in Carson-Newman and moved the University to the top of their college lists. 

The excitement is genuine. After all, Young was once where they were, and she knows the benefits firsthand they would find at C-N.

A Dandridge native and Jefferson County High School graduate, Young knew she wanted to go to college somewhere that was close to home and family and a place that would nurture her Christian faith. Carson-Newman checked all the boxes.

That along with her guidance counselor pointing her to explore JROTC her senior year, everything seemed to line up.

“I felt like this would be home for me,” Young said. “Looking back, I’m so grateful. You know, sometimes we have plans for ourselves, but God knows the plans He lays out for us well beyond.”

Young earned a four-year Army ROTC scholarship at C-N as a nursing major. “I knew I wanted to do a career that would be taking care of people,” said Young. “That’s where my heart was called to be.”

Young said what she found at C-N was special. “The nursing professors, the smaller community, and family environment really sets people up for success,” she said, crediting her nursing professors for always taking time. “They’re also genuinely invested in your outcome and in you as a person. Dr. Casalenuovo was our ROTC mentor and he definitely went out of his way.”

It was the combination of caring and academic rigor that Young still remembers fondly.

“That toughness challenges you, and it makes you grow and do things you didn’t think were possible,” she said. “But you’ve got your teachers on your side, even though they’re going to push you, they’re on your side to help you cross the finish line.”

But it wasn’t until three years after her 2007 commissioning from Carson-Newman that Young fully realized how much her professors truly were by her side.

While stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, serving as a labor and delivery nurse, Young received a call from home that her younger brother Raymond was in ICU and not doing well.

“I called my commander and they let me leave work,” she recalled vividly. She and her husband Major James Young, a 2005 C-N alum, quickly hit the road back to East Tennessee.

“I was not in a good headspace to drive, but (James) was able to drive the six hours back,” Young said before pausing, “He ended up passing.” Raymond was 15.

With memories rushing back, Young recalled images she continues to cling to.

“A couple of weeks later, we’re standing there in the funeral home, and I look over and I see Dr. Casalenuovo. There were two other nursing professors and Ms. Angie Wood and I think Dr. Kraft was there. They had come with the freshman ROTC students…to my brother’s funeral. I hadn’t even had contact with them. I didn’t tell them; they just heard about it somehow,” she said. “I will never, ever forget just looking over and seeing them…it was so powerful. They had remembered and remembered who I was, and took time out of their day to come.

“After all those hugs, I felt truly loved and cared for,” Young said. “I would say that moment instilled in my mind like ‘I’ve got to get back to Carson-Newman one way or another in my career and give back to the community that gave a lot to me.’ I wanted to serve the cadets like I was served and try to leave a legacy of making them feel like I was made to feel when I was here.”

This past summer, after several pieces falling into place, Young’s proclamation came to fruition as she returned to Mossy Creek to lead the Eagle Battalion. Having accomplished much in her military career, earning honors, awards and distinctions, Young looks forward to this new life-chapter. She also has great hopes for her cadets.

“My hope is that the cadets that go through our program realize the gift that Carson-Newman gives them by having a Christian worldview and the love and support they have from their faculty and the staff here,” Young said. “I hope they realize just how invested everyone is here for their success.”

And if her C-N homecoming wasn’t sweet enough, in September Young was able to hold a military promotion ceremony surrounded by friends, family, colleagues, former teachers and professors. The opportunity to be commissioned on the same stage that she was first commissioned as an officer from C-N ROTC, coupled with receiving her first salute from her father, Raymond, a retired U.S. Army sergeant, was almost too good to be true. It was a time of both celebration and reflection for the newly minted lieutenant colonel. 

“I struggle to find the words to describe how powerful and special that was for me,” she said. “To return to where it all started was just so special. I’m just so blessed and overwhelmed. Time is a gift and I’ve really grown to appreciate that.”

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