WSSU’s public relations chief Nancy Young retires

WSSU’s public relations chief Nancy Young retires
May 28
00:00 2015

In photo above: Nancy Young, director of public relations for Winston-Salem State University, will retire after six years at WSSU. (Photo by Erin Mizelle for the Winston-Salem Chronicle)

Nancy Young stares into her past as she sits in her office in Blair Hall at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU). On Friday, May 29, she will no longer be able to do that there, for the space where she has worked with two chancellors, former Chancellor Donald Reaves and current Chancellor Elwood Robinson, and not only met co-workers who turned into friends and students who turned into children, will not be hers anymore.

She must release that space where moments in a day would turn into a lifetime of memories and where she said it’s time to let go.

“My commitment, in my mind, was to stay as long as Donald Reaves stayed. When I had the opportunity to meet Elwood Robinson, I wanted to stay and help him get settled. I adored Donald and I adore Elwood. They are just two good people who have the best interest of the university at heart,” she said. “I think it’s a good time to leave, and I think things are in pretty good shape.”

Young was named the director of public relations in April 2009 by Reaves but insists that she was never vying for the position.
“I didn’t see it as a job interview. I had been talking to some of his folks about how I thought the whole marketing/communications area should be structured. At the time, I had my own little consulting agency that worked with nonprofits, so I thought ‘Maybe I’ll get some contract work out of this.’ He said, out of the blue, ‘What would it take to get you to come to work here’ and I told him as long as he gave me a little time to do things that I need for my mother and a little bit of flexibility. He said ‘fine’ and I said ‘fine.’ I didn’t even ask what the pay was. It just felt right,” she said.

The Belews Creek native has held several positions around the city in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors, even working for herself for a while.

She has served as a media consultant for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina, the YWCA of Winston-Salem and The Advocacy for the Poor. She also worked as the corporate vice president for communications and community relations for Russell Corporation in Atlanta and Alexander City, Alabama.

The bulk of her experience comes from her tenure with Sara Lee Corporation/Branded Apparel (now Hanesbrand). There she held management positions in the Corporate Affairs and Community Relations area, making her responsible for the corporation’s media and community relations programs, as well as public relations strategies, corporate contributions and communications.

Young credits her time at Sara Lee with tying her in to the African-American community and all it had to offer. She said that it was there she met some key players in the community and WSSU. She said that she didn’t know a lot about the school but instantly fell in love with it.

“I spent a lot of time in the African-American community, so I know a lot of people. I’m a known entity, which was very helpful, particularly when working with alumni. That’s because of the acceptance and affection I was able to enjoy from the African-American community,” she said.

Young said she has tried, for the past six years, to help others around her see what potential the school has and rid it of the stigma that can be associated with historically black colleges and universities.

“We have some great professors, staff students, culture, athletics and a great band. It’s a fun place to be, and I’m going to truly miss it,” she said.

Randy Mills, vice chancellor for finance and administration, said that Young’s absence will be felt around campus.

“Nancy Young is the consummate professional. She’s represented us with skill, grace, and integrity when the stories were good, and sometimes when they weren’t,” Mills said. “She has WSSU red in her blood and always took great pride in her work and in this University. We will all miss her greatly.”

While Young said that she will miss those she worked with including her staff, professors, deans and reporters, it’s the students that she’ll miss the most.

“Every year I have the opportunity to get connected with certain groups, like the student newspaper and the student government officers. It’s just a joy to have them around, to talk to them and hear their thoughts, sometimes giving advice when they ask and being there for them. I always shed a few tears at commencement because my babies are leaving. They’re like my children.”
She plans to spend the bulk of her retirement enjoying time with her mother, who is 99 1/2 years old and lives with her.
Young said she plans to take advantage of some things she didn’t have time for while working at WSSU.

“I don’t plan on missing any home football games. I hope to get to more basketball games than I have in the past, and some baseball games,” she said. “I’ll be here for Homecoming and Installation.”

She also plans on championing a cause near and dear to her heart: the need for HBCUs.

“They serve a huge purpose, not only because of the environment it creates, but the opportunities it creates for our students to develop skills in addition to knowledge. I think it helps anyone who feels like they’re a minority feel like they can be leaders reaching their full potential,” she said.

It is not known yet who will replace Young.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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