Roane State grad has life-long passion for education

CROSSVILLE – When it comes to showing her three children the importance of education, Candice Neely remains a role model. But getting to her current position as human relations manager of two of Crossville Ceramics’ three huge plants included some educational detours.

After graduating from the county’s only high school, Neely enrolled at Roane State’s Cumberland County campus with the plan to follow in her mom’s footsteps and become a teacher. 

Her career goals changed, however, after she landed a job in 2002 at a telecommunications firm in Cookeville. Business operations intrigued her, and she switched her Roane State studies to contemporary management.

Neely ended up working full-time during the day and driving back to Crossville to take night classes twice a week at Roane State. “It was an excellent opportunity for me to go to school, work and be a mom,” she said.

Life’s unpredictability derailed her college career when she lacked just three hours of college credit, but she returned to Roane State four years later to finish her associate degree in 2008.

Her Roane State classes were “awesome,” Neely recalled. “They showed me the human relations part of business as well as all aspects of how a business runs.”

She went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in organizational development from Tennessee Tech in the 2+2 program, where Tennessee Tech classes are offered at Roane State’s Cumberland County campus. “That makes it so easy for people with jobs to continue to have dreams,” she said.

Along the way, Neely left her 13-year-career at the telecommunications firm to take the job at Crossville Ceramics. “I haven’t regretted it,” she said of her decision.

That company, which manufactures a variety of tile products, has more than 500 employees, including those working at the firm’s 29 distributors across the country. She personally supervises five stores, called Crossville Studios, in Colorado. Her job involves the myriad of duties associated with human relations, including hiring and training employees.

Neely’s lifelong passion for education includes a master’s degree in Human Resource Leadership from Tennessee Tech that she obtained through online classes just last May.

She and husband Brad Neely are the parents of three teenagers, Kelsee, a junior at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, where she is on a golf scholarship, sister, Brylee, and brother Bryson, students at Cumberland County High.

Even now, Candice Neely’s passion for education persists. She wants to one day become an adjunct professor, teaching business classes at Roane State’s Cumberland County campus. “Hopefully, one day I’ll get to teach at Roane State.”

Roane State is a two-year college providing transfer programs, career-preparation programs and continuing education. Founded in 1971, the college has locations in Roane, Campbell, Cumberland, Fentress, Knox, Loudon, Morgan and Scott counties as well as a branch campus in Oak Ridge. For more information, visit or call (865) 882-4554.

Remember, eligible adults can now attend Roane State tuition-free with the new Reconnect grant. Learn more at

Submit your story ideas to the Upper Cumberland Business Journal! via email.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.