One of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine's leading infectious diseases specialists has been named to a recently created endowed professorship that honors a veterinarian who studied at Virginia Tech almost 60 years ago.

Bacteriologist Thomas J. Inzana, of Blacksburg, has been named the first Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Professor of Bacteriology. Inzana, former director of the college's Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases, is a microbiologist who has invented several vaccines.

The endowed professorship has been made possible by a donor-directed addition to a more than $1 million bequest made in the late 1990s that is now generating immediate resources to fund the endowed professorship. Other provisions of the gift have been funding student scholarships since its inception.

"Gifts like this contribute immeasurably to the vitality of our institution," said recently retired VMRCVM dean Peter Eyre. "Endowed professorships help us retain and develop our brightest, most productive faculty members. That directly enriches the educational experience for our students."

"I'm honored to be selected for this prestigious professorship," Inzana said. "We live in an age where infectious diseases pose a major threat to public health and animal productivity. I hope that my work will reflect well upon his career and his desires to serve the profession in the future."

Inzana is a noted molecular microbiologist who has generated more than $4 million in extramural funding and been awarded three patents for intellectual properties arising out of research that has led to the development of vaccines for economically important agricultural diseases.

Most recently, Inzana has been awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Army to develop a vaccine for tularemia, a bacterial disease that is caused by an organism listed as a Category A bioterrorism agent by the Centers for Disease and Control in Atlanta.

Inzana also brings considerable teaching experience to the endowed professorship. His research achievements help illuminate the "real-world" importance of microbiology for DVM students enrolled in the microbiology sections as well as those fourth-year students studying microbiology during the Laboratory Services clerkship. Inzana is also currently mentoring five post-DVM and non-DVM graduate students, helping them prepare for careers in veterinary and medical microbiology.

A former director of the Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Inzana also serves as director of clinical microbiology in the veterinary teaching hospital and conducts teaching, service and research through his appointment as a professor in the department of biomedical sciences and pathobiology. He is a diplomate of the American Board of Medical Microbiology and a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology.

Bacteriology was an intriguing discipline for the late Tyler J. Young ('34, '38), who earned a B.S. in biology and an M.S. in pathobiology and bacteriology from Virginia Tech during the Great Depression-wracked 1930s. He grew up during a period of American history characterized by infectious disease scourges that devastated farmers' herds and flocks through mortality, quarantines and depopulations.

After earning a degree in veterinary medicine from the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1940, Young served his country in World War II and landed on the beaches of Normandy during the second wave of the D-Day invasion. He left the armed forces with five battle stars, having achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Then, with his beloved wife Frances at his side providing business and management support, he operated veterinary practices in Memphis and Kingsport, Tennessee for 28 years. Throughout his career in private practice, he remained active in public practice, conducting laboratory and fieldwork for the U.S. Army, the Florida Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In 1980, ever reluctant to "retire," Dr. Young and Frances moved to Opelika near the Auburn University campus, where he continued to serve his profession through that university as an adjunct professor and a USDA laboratory scientist. He finally retired in 1992, 52 years after earning his DVM degree.

Tyler and Frances Young were more than lifetime companions; their lives together were intrinsically connected by a shared commitment to serve humanity and the animal kingdom through the profession of veterinary medicine. Tyler served as president of the Southern Veterinary Medicine Association, was recognized as the Tennessee Veterinarian of the Year in 1967 and earned many other honors and commendations for service. Frances served as president of the Southern Veterinary Medical Association Auxiliary and was recognized as the 1990 "Layman of the Year" by the Alabama Veterinary Medical Association.

Though Tyler passed away in 1996, and Frances is enjoying her retirement years, the Youngs' life-long involvement with veterinary medicine lives on through generous gifts that promote faculty excellence and provide educational opportunities for future generations of students at both the VMRCVM and the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.

The new Tyler J. and Frances F. Young Professorship is a compelling new expression of their shared commitment to the profession, and Inzana's appointment is an exceptional affirmation of the late Dr. Young's appreciation for the important role that the science of bacteriology plays in animal and human health and well-being.