At 18, Nursing Student May be Youngest Graduate in College’s History

Jacqueline Gaddis is getting a head start on her nursing career.

Gaddis—who will receive her degree on Friday from the College of Nursing—is the youngest graduate that college officials can remember. She is only eighteen.

The Gaddis family. Jacqueline and Madeleine are standing behind their mother; Madeleine is on the left and Jacqueline is on the right.

The Gaddis family. Jacqueline and Madeleine are standing behind their mother; Madeleine is on the top row, third from left, and Jacqueline is on the top row, far left.

She entered college at age fifteen and is graduating alongside her twenty-year-old sister, Madeleine Gaddis, who entered college at age sixteen.

“College has been a part of my transition from adolescence to an adult,” Jacqueline said, “Entering college at fifteen might not be normal for other people, but it’s my normal. I don’t have anything to compare it to, so graduating at eighteen years old doesn’t feel weird to me.”

The sisters, along with their fourteen other siblings, were homeschooled. Jacqueline completed her middle school credits in two years, and both sisters completed high school credits and the ACT in three years. The flexibility of homeschooling allowed them to enter college early and at the same time.

“Being homeschooled made my transition to college really easy because I learned how to teach myself things, which helped with the workload that accompanies the nursing program,” said Madeleine.

Jacqueline concurred with her older sister: “The independence that’s required of homeschooling is a good setup for college. Most of the credit, however, should go to our parents. They started us in first grade at five years old and always encouraged us and inspired us to complete our work with excellence.”

Madeleine, left, and Jacqueline Gaddis.

Madeleine, left, and Jacqueline Gaddis.

Family played a large role in the sisters’ success in many ways.

Both parents come from a medical background—their father, Richard Gaddis, is an internal medicine physician, and their mother Tami earned her bachelor’s degree in medical technology.

Madeleine and Jacqueline are the second- and third-oldest of their siblings. Their older sister, Evelyn Amos, graduated from the College of Nursing in 2014 and is involved in short-term mission work with her husband, Adam Amos, through an organization called International Christian Resource. The couple lives in Indiana and takes medical students on international mission trips.

Being in the College of Nursing together gave each sister a sounding board and a cheerleader, as well as someone to hold them accountable.

“Going through one of the most interesting points of our lives—college—together was incredible,” Madeleine said. “Jacqueline has kept that zest for life from when she was young and is very passionate about college.”

Jacqueline added, “Our personalities are so different—we balance each other out really well. I’m not very indecisive—in fact, sometimes I’m hasty—but Madeleine balances me out and forces me to think things through.”

Jacqueline and Madeleine say they chose nursing because they wanted careers that are focused on caring for people in need and building relationships with others.

“Back when I was in high school, when I was assessing what I wanted to do in life, I wanted to choose something that—no matter where God took me in life—the skills I acquired would be useful to me for the rest of my life,” said Jacqueline. “Whether it’s while I’m traveling, for my job, or in my role as a wife and a mother, the skills I have acquired through nursing will apply to everything in life.”

Jacqueline and her fiance, Daniel Creech, will get married two weeks after graduation.

Both sisters are still contemplating their future plans before lining up jobs.

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034, ablakely@utk.edu)