USC Upstate Mourns Longtime Commission Chair, Local Business Leader Tommy Young

July 29, 2021 at 12:58 pm

The University of South Carolina Upstate community is mourning the loss of local business and civic leader Thomas R. “Tommy” Young III, who was a longtime chair of the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education and a steadfast supporter of USC Upstate. Young passed away peacefully on Tuesday, July 27, at the Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Hospice Home. He was 69.

Young served as chair of the Commission from 2011 to 2020, and was a member of the USC Upstate Foundation Board from 1999 to 2009. He was an advocate for the university, contributing his time and finances to support many initiatives throughout the years, including campus master planning, USC Upstate’s annual Founders Day celebrations and Commencement. He was a season ticket holder for Spartans basketball.

“While I did not have an opportunity to work with Commissioner Young, I am aware that he was well known and respected by so many on our campus and in the community,” said USC Upstate Chancellor Bennie Harris, Ph.D., who started in his role on July 1. “I was blessed to meet him during my interview and he was exceptionally warm and engaging. I was extremely hopeful that he and I would be able to work together to advance USC Upstate.” 

In 2017, USC Upstate acknowledged Young with an honorary degree of Doctor of Public Service for his service to the university as a supporter and advocate for higher education throughout South Carolina; for his contribution to the local workforce and economic development; and for his dedication in providing leadership to numerous arts, education, health care and service organizations, thus improving the quality of life in Spartanburg.

Gov. Henry McMaster honored Young in 2019 with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest honor, for his years of service and leadership. Young was also the 2010 recipient of the Neville Holcombe Distinguished Citizenship Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Spartanburg Area Chamber of Commerce, now known as OneSpartanburg Inc.

Fellow Commissioner Anne Flynn had known Young since childhood. She described her colleague and friend as “instrumental” to the development of the town and state he loved. 

“Tommy Young was a force for good, a force for Spartanburg and South Carolina,” Flynn said. “He was so involved in our community, in major corporate and civic organizations, foundations, and his church. Tommy’s leadership, vision and passion for USC Upstate—his appreciation of the university’s history and impact—helped move it to where we are today. Tommy was highly regarded and will be sorely missed.”

According to his obituary, Young was born March 25, 1952, the son of the late Thomas Rudolph Young, Jr. and Mary Jane Edwards Young.

He is survived by his wife of 45 years, Elizabeth Chapman Young; and their children, Thomas Rudolph Young IV (Kristy), Bryan Chapman Young, and Elizabeth Ann Young Miers (Lee); his siblings, Kenneth Edwards Young (Cindy), Dr. Edward Hotchkiss Young (Clark), Mary Jane Young McWilliams, Berkeley Wilson Young; Elizabeth’s brothers, Joseph Wallace Chapman Jr. (Ashley) and Norman Hinman Chapman (Muffet); and Tommy and Elizabeth’s six grandchildren, Thomas Rudolph Young V, John Wallace Young, Mattie Mae Young, Mary Elizabeth Miers, Ann Louise Miers, and Ruth Walton Miers, and many nieces and nephews.

Young graduated from the Spartanburg Day School in 1970 and then The Citadel in 1974. After graduation, he returned to Spartanburg and worked with his father at Young Office Supply Co., which was founded by his father and grandfather. Under Young’s leadership and that of his son, Thomas, the company, now known as Young Office, has grown to three locations in Spartanburg, Greenville and Asheville, N.C., his obituary said.

Young served in leadership roles with numerous community organizations, including as board chair for OneSpartanburg Inc., Mountainview Nursing Home, The Spartanburg Regional Healthcare Foundation, the Arts Partnership of Greater Spartanburg and the Spartanburg County Foundation.

His community work included 17 years of service on the board of the Spartanburg Hospital for Restorative Care, president of the Rotary Club of Spartanburg and The Piedmont Club, and president-elect of The Citadel Alumni Association. Young also served on the boards of the YMCA of Greater Spartanburg, the Spartanburg Boys and Girls Club, as well as the local chapters of the American Cancer Society and Boy Scouts of America.

“When I was a young lawyer returning to Spartanburg to practice, I had barely moved into my office when Tommy Young asked me to become engaged in the community in a variety of ways,” said Derham Cole, vice president for system affairs for the University of South Carolina. 

“It was hard to say no to Tommy, mainly because I could see the passion he had for Spartanburg and the many organizations he served,” Cole added. “His drive to make Spartanburg a better place was contagious, and the effects of his dynamic leadership will be felt in the community for years to come.  In particular, I am grateful for his dedicated service to USC Upstate, both on the USC Upstate Foundation Board and as Chair of the Spartanburg County Commission for Higher Education.”

Young’s leadership extended to various industry organizations, including the Steelcase Furniture Dealer Advisory Council, Independent Stationers, Carolina Office Products Association and the National Office Products Association, according to his obituary.

Funeral services for Young will be held at First Presbyterian Church, where he was a longtime member, deacon and an elder, at 11 a.m. Friday, July 30, conducted by Dr. Lewis F. Galloway and Reverend Joanne R. Hull. The entire USC Upstate community extends its deepest sympathies to Young’s family and friends during this difficult time. For information about ways to honor Young’s legacy, please contact Kim Jolley, Interim Executive Director of the USC Upstate Foundation at kjolley@uscupstate.edu or 864-503-7417.