Story courtesy of Kristi Evans, Campus News
Sue Young’s role as principal secretary in Criminal Justice is the closest she has come to fulfilling her youthful aspiration of becoming a police officer. She will retire in May after serving NMU in various capacities over 41 years. Young chose full-time employment over college upon her graduation from Negaunee High School. She spent seven months working as the secretary for NMU’s credit manager in the basement of Kaye Hall before landing a civil service job with Northern’s ROTC program. She recalls the turbulence on campus during the final years of the Vietnam War.
“The first day I started with ROTC—it was based in the Marquette armory back then—someone had thrown a shot glass at the window and it had smashed all over the floor,” she said. “I thought, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ Later, after the Kent State shootings and riots, people etched four crosses on the building. It was an interesting time. Emotions were running high across the country and we felt it here as well. But I spent 18 years with ROTC and loved working there. It was like a close-knit family environment. You didn’t have the differentiation of an NCO [non-commissioned officer] versus officers. We held outings with families and hosted a lot of activities for the students.”
After her bosses' multiple requests to the Army’s headquarters that she be promoted were denied, Young regrettably decided to transfer to Housing and Residence Life. A reorganization of that office sent her to Alumni Affairs. She soon realized she missed working directly with students "to help them succeed," so she returned to academics, assuming secretarial duties for both the Political Science and Languages departments in Meyland Hall. Young made her final move 14 years ago when there was a vacancy in Criminal Justice.
“I always wanted to be a cop, but never got there, so I figured this was the next best thing," she said. “It helps that I have a wonderful boss. Dr. Kapla is an NMU grad and a great guy morally and ethically. We’re a small unit, but the third most popular academic program. We offer the university’s first fully online bachelor's program—loss prevention—and all but one of the courses required for the criminal justice major are available online. We also have an online master’s degree.
“There are lots of opportunities for non-traditional students. We’ve worked with veterans serving in Iraq and Afghanistan to finish their degrees. I remember one returning vet who stopped by the office to say thank you and that he wouldn’t have been able to finish his degree without my help. That was very rewarding.”
Outside of work, Young completed a two-year business degree and was working toward a bachelor’s when she lost half of her hearing following radiation to shrink a tumor behind her ear. Worried it would be too difficult to audibly absorb lecture material in large classrooms, she decided to stop taking courses.
In her free time, Young enjoys partridge hunting and completing construction projects with her husband, Scott. When the couple built their log cabin north of Champion, she designed the floor plan. Young also enjoys confronting challenges related to time management and re-organization.
“I’m anal-retentive when it comes to organizing, which probably comes from growing up in a family of nine and having to make the most of limited space. My mom was an excellent homemaker and I learned from her. California Closets could have been my idea. If money were no issue, I would have loved to turn organizing into a career.”
After she and her husband retire this year, Young plans to spend more time visiting her daughter Lori and son-in-law Steve in Milwaukee, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and with seniors teaching them computer skills and perhaps making rustic cedar furniture. She also enjoys gardening/landscaping and doing stained glass and other crafts. Her last day is May 24, but the countdown has already begun.
“That’s only 15 more Mondays. I’m excited!”
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