Time out with T.O. - The next chapter

by Tom O'Connor, UNMC public relations | January 08, 2020

Image with caption: Tom O'Connor

Tom O'Connor

I admit it -- I'm a big softie.

I cry at movies. I choke up when they play "One Final Moment" after the Final Four. And I especially hate saying goodbye.

So, as I brace for my retirement on Jan. 20, I need to be honest -- my eyes are a little moist as I tap on my computer keys.

Retirement tea set for Jan. 15

The campus is invited to attend the retirement tea for Tom O'Connor on Jan. 15 from 3-5 p.m. in the Truhlsen Events Center on the first floor of the Sorrell Center.

Remarks will begin at 3:30 p.m. Bill O'Neill, director of public relations, will emcee. Bob Bartee, vice chancellor for external affairs for UNMC and UNO, will speak. If anyone else wants to speak, an open microphone will be available.

For the past 32 years, I have truly been blessed with the best public relations job in Omaha.

There is an endless supply of stories coming out of the medical center. And, better yet, some of the most amazing faculty members and staff to tell them. I've loved every minute of it.

Funny how this retirement thing sneaks up on you. In July, I will turn 70 -- ouch, are you kidding me?

As you get into your mid-60s, the question you invariably get from people is, "When are you going to retire?"

Then, once people learn that you are retiring, the question becomes, "What are you going to do in retirement?" Or, "What's your poor wife going to do with you around all day?"

Those are good questions, no doubt. And, I'll admit, I really have no idea how it's going to play out.

How do you know what anything is going to be like until you actually do it?

I've received some great advice from people I respect. Don't take on any new projects for the first six months. Stay active, join a fitness center. Find hobbies that you enjoy. Don't retire cold turkey, cut back and slide into retirement gradually.

It's a little overwhelming. But this much I know: after a 43-year career in public relations, the one thing I can do is be flexible.

I have absolutely zero doubt that I can handle this next chapter of my life.

I have an awesome wife (Karen). She's put up with me for 47 years. She's a Type A. I'm a Type B. We balance each other out. Best of all, she still makes me laugh -- every day.

So, yes, we will both have to figure out this new gig and adjust accordingly. But I know we can do it.

The positive indicators are all there. We both love to golf, we already belong to a fitness center, we have five grandkids within 15 minutes of our house, we love to take walks. The list goes on.

In my quest to better prepare myself for retirement, I recently sought the advice of Mike Callan, a longtime friend who recently retired.

Mike summed up retirement in 10 words -- "You will do half as much in twice the time."

That works for me.


Fill out the following. We welcome respectful comments pertaining to the subject of the article. Comments are subject to approval by UNMC.

Name (Required)

Email (Required)

Thank you, your comment will appear below once it has been approved.

Jodie Javorsky
January 15, 2020 at 1:32 PM

I admit, I never thought I would see this day come...Steve & I are so happy for you! UNMC's loss is Karen's gain! This campus will not be the same without you. I'm sure we'll see you soon! Jodster

Pamela Montgomery
January 15, 2020 at 1:25 PM

Congratulations have a wonderful time during what you like best.

Theresa Grutel
January 15, 2020 at 10:56 AM

Congratulations Tom! Enjoy your retirement!

Myron Toews
January 14, 2020 at 5:36 PM

Golf? I thought you were into bowling! Happy memories of good years. And best wishes. Nice that your wife makes you laughter — laughter is the best medicine—the opposite of UNMC’s “serious medicine” slogan.

Howard E. Gendelman
January 14, 2020 at 5:17 AM

With the highest regard and warmest affection for a job well done. Tom you are a class act and your achievements are a lasting legacy and inspirational source. Howie Gendelman

David Finken
January 13, 2020 at 9:32 AM

Congratulations, Tom. I always enjoyed working with you over the years. You are a true professional. Thanks for being such a positive influence on UNMC over your career

Paula Turpen
January 12, 2020 at 9:27 PM

Congratulations, Tom! I've always included you among the unsung heroes who make UNMC such a special place. The best to you and Karen!

Emily McElroy
January 09, 2020 at 7:44 PM

Tom, thank you so much for everything you have done for the campus. I have always appreciated your support of the library. I am glad we will still see future columns.

Steve Dixon
January 09, 2020 at 2:35 PM

Tom. I always appreciated working with you for the 25 years during my tenure at UNMC. Have a most wonderful retirement. Steve

Paul Baltes
January 09, 2020 at 2:08 PM

These comments are like an episode of "This is Your Life!" It has to be quite a ride for a self-proclaimed "softie" like Tom to look through it all. I don't necessarily have anything that hasn't been shared already... only to say that your years of service to the med center and to Omaha as a whole will have a lasting and very positive impact. Glad to have been here for part of it and I can't tell you how much I've appreciated your perspectives and knowledge on those "big days" when the phones don't stop; and on the slower days when we're making them ring. Cheers!

Abby Meyer
January 09, 2020 at 11:38 AM

Congratulations on your retirement, T.O.! No one deserves it more. You are one of the greatest PR professionals Nebraska has ever seen, a true living legend. It was such an honor to work alongside you, as I learned so much about media and public relations from you. I always enjoyed our conversations about how social media can be leveraged to tell stories as well. UNMC definitely won't be the same without you, as your ability to connect with anyone and everyone on campus, and develop a strong relationship with them, is unmatched. You embodied what working in PR looks like. A testament of this is how many faculty members told me "Oh I know Tom!" when I told them I was from UNMC PR. I'm so glad you'll still be writing your Timeout With T.O. columns! Best wishes in your retirement, enjoy it! - Abigail Beecher

CB Gurumurthy
January 09, 2020 at 10:53 AM

UNMC has earned a fantastic name in the community. It is YOU T.O! that has made this possible, by your effective and elegant way of telling the stories of UNMC to the community, done for over three decades. UNMC will miss you, Tom. Wish you all the best in your next phase of life. Gurumurthy

January 09, 2020 at 10:31 AM

Sniff, sniff. Tom, you have been my mentor and taught me so much. Not only do you have the technical skills, but also a good sense when it comes to media. You've also been the best boss to work for. You don't hover, but you support. I too will miss the laugh and your presence. I wish you grand fun in the next chapter. Best, Victory

Aurelie V.
January 09, 2020 at 10:25 AM

Congratulations T.O! It's been a pleasure working with you. You were the first person to introduce me to people around campus when I first started at UNMC -- I really appreciated that. Enjoy your retirement! You will be missed!

Dawn Nevarez
January 09, 2020 at 8:21 AM

Tom, you my friend are an amazing fountain of wisdom & knowledge. You are a person everyone wants to be able to say, "he knows my name." I am honored to be one, Aquarius.

Liz Kumru
January 09, 2020 at 7:53 AM

Tom, you and I go way back to those good old Mutual days, but, the past 26 years we've worked together at UNMC have been magical. You were instrumental in making this the best PR team in the city and I'm proud to have been a part of it. We've seen monumental changes on this campus and your spectacular PR skills have made sure the world knew about them. You've touched so many lives in a positive way, including mine. You're the best! I will miss you and, yes, your distinctive laugh. I know Karen and the grandkids will keep you more than busy. Enjoy every minute of it! Congratulations on a life well lived.

Bill O’Neill
January 08, 2020 at 6:42 PM

Tom, You have been and will continue to be a terrific colleague, mentor and friend! We will miss your work, your infectious laugh and your nicknames. All the best, Billy Bob

Mary Haveb
January 08, 2020 at 6:32 PM

Tom, you have been such a powerful force in telling the world about the important work being done at UNMC. Your smile is permanently fixed in every hallway. You will be missed and I am so pleased that you are going to continue "Time out with TO". Enjoy your retirement. We will never forget you. Mary Haven

John Reinhardt
January 08, 2020 at 5:32 PM

Tom, congratulations on a great career and thanks so much for all you have done for UNMC. It was always a delight to work with you. Retirement IS great, and I know you will “adapt” to more free time, golf, and “working” as little or much as you want. Godspeed as you begin this next adventure.

Robb Crouch
January 08, 2020 at 4:46 PM

Tom, you are going to missed a lot! I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to work with you for 20 years through the hundreds of things you have done for the university foundation and the amazing, generous supporters of the university. Thank you, thank you!

John Keenan
January 08, 2020 at 4:12 PM

Tom, it was a pleasure working with you and learning from you. Thank you for all you did to help me find my footing at UNMC.

Ann Anderson Berry
January 08, 2020 at 4:11 PM

Tom is an institution of his own here at UNMC. I have to give him so much credit for all of the wonderful stories he has crafted and how connected he keeps us all through his humanistic understanding of the important work that happens here every day. On a personal note, Tom, your work has helped me in my career and even more importantly, it has helped promote the needs of my patients and their families on campus, across Nebraska and around the world. Thank you for your dedication and your brilliance! I'm so glad you will be hanging around on your own terms! Ann Anderson Berry

Karen Burbach
January 08, 2020 at 4:07 PM

Tom, if PR was a sport, we would retire your number and hang it from the rafters! You have had an amazing career and are one of UNMC's strongest ambassadors. It has truly been a privilege to work and learn from the best! Best wishes to you and Karen.

Aileen Warren
January 08, 2020 at 3:44 PM

Tom, you will be missed. Wishing you and your family the best today and always. Thanks for everything you did to make UNMC what it is today.

Catherine Mello
January 08, 2020 at 2:30 PM

T.O. Your legend will live on in perpetuity! We will miss you so much. Keep in touch and thanks so much for all you have done to support the Alumni Association over the years.

January 08, 2020 at 1:34 PM

T.O. Thank you for all the stories you've told about UNMC as well as the memories we share from 30 years of knowing each other. I am happy to hear that your "Time Out" column will continue. Best wishes for a fabulous retirement! AK-47

Rich Watson
January 08, 2020 at 1:24 PM

Enjoy the next chapter of your amazing life T.O.. Turn your phone off and take some golf lessons. We sure are going to miss that laugh of yours. Come back and see us every once in a while.

Matt Pohren
January 08, 2020 at 12:58 PM

Congrats, Tom. I'll add to the list... complete some 5k, 10k, or heck, even a half :).... Just a thought.

Christi Kjar
January 08, 2020 at 12:16 PM

Tom, I have been on campus for 30 years and I always knew there was one person that I could contact at anytime, which wasn't often, and be greeted with a genuine, friendly reception. I feel if you approach retirement like you approached the past 32 years at UNMC you will have one heck of a ride. ENJOY IT!!

Jennifer Bull
January 08, 2020 at 12:13 PM

Tom, congratulations on your retirement. If it's not apparent to you yet (read all the comments on this article), you have made a positive impact as a respected PR professional throughout your career, in the field and at UNMC. I'll miss your stories unless you're planning on writing a book! I look forward to hearing about your next adventure. The future is waiting!

Lana M.
January 08, 2020 at 11:35 AM

Tom - when I started at the Olson Center 25 years ago, you were a major influence in my getting acquainted to UNMC and all the people that would help guide our direction. I so appreciate your help over the years and am happy for you as you move on to this next (and well deserved) exciting adventure.

Lisa Chudomelka
January 08, 2020 at 11:22 AM

Tom's love for UNMC cannot be overstated. This place is better because of Tom. Thanks for all you have done and are going to do. Enjoy your retirement.

Kalani Simpson
January 08, 2020 at 11:16 AM

Tom is one of my favorite people. We are going to miss him more than anyone can say. Hopefully, we'll still see him often, to share more stories, laughs and pointless trivia questions. Aloha oe, Tom.

Robin Taylor
January 08, 2020 at 11:11 AM

Tom, congratulations on retirement. Thanks for everything you have done for our department and the entire university. You will be missed! Glad to know Time Out with T.O. will continue. Wishing you and Karen the best on your next adventures. Rockn' Robin

Sandy Willett
January 08, 2020 at 11:05 AM

Congratulations and well said! On so many occasions, so many stories! You will be missed! Godspeed!!

Cory Shaw
January 08, 2020 at 10:58 AM

Congrats Tom! We will definitely miss your steady hand. Hit'em straight!

Taylor Wilson
January 08, 2020 at 10:47 AM

All the best to you Tom! Who will I bother with all of my UNMC history questions now? Good thing I still have your phone number :) Seriously, congratulations. The number of comments on this story should be a great indicator of the impact you've made here and the goodness you've spread throughout your career!

Nicole Lindquist
January 08, 2020 at 10:22 AM

Hard to believe the day has come! You should be proud of all you've done for UNMC and for people like me who learned from the best while we were there. So happy for you on your retirement and grateful for the years we worked side by side. Congrats, TO! You're the best :)

Laura Bilek
January 08, 2020 at 10:19 AM

Congratulations! You will be greatly missed.

Keith Swarts
January 08, 2020 at 10:12 AM

Tom, my friend. Congratulations. You have been truly a friend to me during your tenure. We have had many endeavors from the pond at Elmwood Golf course, to your first Ball in Valentine to your very first international trip, just to mention a few. . The legacy you will leave here on January 20 will always be remembered as well as knowing that you were instrumental in helping to promote UNMNC to the recognition it has today.. Good luck my friend and happy trails. Show the world how to put on socks!!!

Kaleb Michaud
January 08, 2020 at 10:10 AM

Will miss you - congrats and thank you for helping make my transition to Nebraska so smooth. Grateful for you and all you have done and will do!

Heidi Kaschke
January 08, 2020 at 10:07 AM

You are a legend, T.O. Congratulations and best wishes on your retirement.

Marsha Morien
January 08, 2020 at 9:54 AM

Tom, I've never seen so many comments on a post! You have so many friends who will be cheering you forward. When Arizona comes on the horizon for you and Karen, look us up!

Linda Spellman
January 08, 2020 at 9:53 AM

Hi Tom! This is Lulabell from the old Biomedical Communications. I have known you for the past 30 years and what a joy that has been. You were always a delight when you past my desk every morning. I am so glad I got to know you. Have a great retirement with your family and friends.

Iqbal Ahmad
January 08, 2020 at 9:46 AM

Congratulations Tom. You are opening a new chapter and I am sure it will as enjoyable as the previous one. We all will miss you.

Nizar Mamdani
January 08, 2020 at 9:43 AM

Congratulations my friend. I retired last year and love it and I know you will too. It was great to know you and work with you. Miss our Japanese lunches and positive talks. You’ve been a great mentor for me. You have one of the greatest asset with you - Karen. I know you’ll both make the best time of your retirement. Have fun and enjoy your retirement in good health. Wishing you all the best. Marsha and Nizar

Joseph Siu
January 08, 2020 at 9:26 AM

Congratulations Tom! Glad to know you through a few PR efforts on our global initiative and thanks for your connections to let us going to the top of the building at OPC to host impossible events. Enjoy your next chapter and stay active!

Stacie Hamel
January 08, 2020 at 9:25 AM

T.O., it's been an honor working with you the last 8 years and, before that, from the other side of the reporter's notebook. You will be hugely missed in PR. S.H.

Nicole Hackendahl
January 08, 2020 at 9:10 AM

Tom, I couldn't help but notice - the UNMC Today story just below yours promotes Dr. Jerry Walker's "Health, Happiness & Harmony: The Holistic Essentiality of Hobbies," presentation on Jan. 21. Coincidence or a gift from the Olson Center on your first day of retirement? :) Congratulations!

Anne Lawlor
January 08, 2020 at 9:03 AM

TIC TOC, it has been such a pleasure working with you during my 21 years on campus. I know you and Karen will thoroughly enjoy the next chapter and I'm glad to know I'll see your byline in the Today for awhile longer. My very best wishes to you, my friend. ABC

Peter Iwen
January 08, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Tom, May God bless you with a long and healthy retirement!

January 08, 2020 at 8:53 AM

All the best in retirement Tom! You have been an amazing friend and writer of awesome stories about the people and accomplishments of UNMC. I am one that has been honored by a nickname! I will always treasure it and you! SuzyQ or on busier days, SQ

Amy Lamer
January 08, 2020 at 8:51 AM

I am so happy for you but I am going to miss you. When I see your name pop up on my phone display, I always smile. I'm sure I'll run into you at a sporting event around town. Congratulations!!

Chandrakanth Are
January 08, 2020 at 8:49 AM

Congratulations my friend!. You should be proud of what you have accomplished. You have a been a great asset to our campus- doing all the valuable work in the background and doing your job with silent efficiency and grounded decency to make us look better than we are. Best wishes for your well-deserved retirement and hope you get to spend some valuable " yourself" time with your family. Chandra Are

Kacie Baum
January 08, 2020 at 8:47 AM

Congrats TO! You will be missed.

Tanya Custer
January 08, 2020 at 8:40 AM

Congratulations Tom!

Judi Walker
January 08, 2020 at 8:40 AM

Congratulation Tom! I have always enjoyed your columns. Will look forward to them for the next six months..then it is off to the races for me too.

Sandy Williamson
January 08, 2020 at 8:27 AM

Best wishes on your retirement! Having been an employee for 32 years, you have left your mark on this campus by documenting the moments and memories of UNMC history through your writing. I have enjoyed reading your articles over the years and am happy to know you will continue.

Jeanne Ferbrache
January 08, 2020 at 8:23 AM

Congratulations Tom. It's been a pleasure working with you. I'm right behind you April 1st!

LaDonna Tworek
January 08, 2020 at 8:15 AM

Congratulations Tom - - I have enjoyed working with you through the years. I wish you the best and hope you have many exciting adventures ahead of you.

Tracy Hanzek
January 08, 2020 at 8:07 AM

Congratulations Tom! Thank you for all of the contributions that you have made to this campus and for sharing your view of it with all of us for so many years!

Nicole Gamerl
January 08, 2020 at 8:06 AM

I wish you the best, Tom. You have been such a pleasure to work with over the years.

Jayme Nekuda
January 08, 2020 at 8:00 AM

Retirement is not the end of the road. It is the beginning of the open highway! Congrats Tom. JimmyJ

Sue Pope
January 08, 2020 at 7:45 AM

GREAT article! Congratulations Tom - you will be missed!! (I am not far behind you though!)

Lisa Runco
January 08, 2020 at 7:38 AM

Tom you are simply the G.O.A.T. I will miss you terribly but am thrilled for you and your family. Enjoy this next phase, you deserve it so much! Thank you for all you have done for UNMC for so many years, you are a treasure to so many people. Farewell dear friend.

Carol Russell
January 08, 2020 at 7:21 AM

Tom, I am helping with grandchildren that afternoon and won't be able to make the event. I can't believe you will no longer be a shining star at UNMC. Congratulations on retirement!! Looking forward to seeing you around and about Omaha!! Carol

Fran Higgins
January 08, 2020 at 7:15 AM

Best wishes, Tom! We’ll miss you.

Kent Sievers
January 08, 2020 at 7:09 AM

Congrats, Tom. I've only been at the university for seven months, but I'm really going to miss you, your knowledge and hearing your laugh from the other side of the office.

Carol Gaebler
January 08, 2020 at 6:45 AM

You will be missed, Tom! Enjoy every moment - you deserve it!

Mike Sitorius
January 08, 2020 at 6:31 AM

Tom, Congratulations my friend. You have been a steady, strong asset to UNMC for the last 3 decades. The best for everything to you , your family and friends.