Tom O’Connor prepares for retirement after illustrious career in journalism, PR


Samantha Weideman

Tom O’Connor, senior associate director, UNMC Public Relations.
Headshots taken in the Michael F. Sorrell Center for Health Science Education on the UNMC campus in Omaha, Nebraska on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Photo courtesy of UNMC


Of the many compliments one could bestow upon Tom O’Connor, current senior associate director of communications at the University of Nebraska Medical Center Department of Public Relations, the one that best suits him is ‘humble.’

A decorated and accomplished journalist and PR professional, O’Connor is much more interested in telling the world about UNMC’s accomplishments than he is about his own.

His numerous awards, however, deserve to be noted. In 2016, he was honored by the Omaha Press Club as the recipient of the 148th Face on the Barroom Floor before a sellout crowd – O’Connor has served as chair of the OPC Face on the Barroom Floor Committee since 2002. In addition, he received the PRSA Professional of the Year Award (1994), UNMC Gold “U” Award (2005), the UNMC Silver “U” Award (2000 & 2012) and the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Communication’s Communication Achievement Award (2009).

“I love the people here,” O’Connor said. “They’re doing cutting-edge research that has never been done before. They’re taking care of the sickest patients and making them well again. They are training and educating these health professionals for generations to come. Omaha and Nebraska are lucky to have a place with this kind of talent. They’re really sharp people.”

O’Connor is set to retire Jan. 17, after a 32-year tenure with UNMC. At 69, O’Connor said he’s “not an early retiree at all.”

“I’m really a glass-half-full type of guy, so I’m ready for retirement,” O’Connor said. “I think it’s gonna’ be fun. I’ll stay busy. I’m not worried one iota.”

The PR specialist said he’ll be stepping down as chair of the Face on the Barroom Floor committee at the Press Club and will be ending his position on the UNO Gateway Advisory Board, as he said he thinks they require an individual engaged in the communication field, and either would be “too hard” if he’s not working every day.

“I’m not going to chair that committee and sit in front of a computer all day, but I’ll keep my fingers in that community,” O’Connor said. “And [the Gateway] needs somebody that’s engaged in the PR field still. I enjoyed the heck out of that, but this is a good time for me to leave the board.”

In addition, he is looking forward to more travel and hanging out with his wife, Karen (with whom he’ll be celebrating his 47th anniversary next month), as well as his two children and their families, which include five grandchildren. He also plans to keep chasing his elusive first hole-in-one.

O’Connor is optimistic the med center will let him keep writing in his retirement. He’d like to continue writing his “Time out with T.O.” column, which spotlights various individuals and events on the UNMC campus.

“I think people like to read them because they’re personal,” O’Connor said. “It’s just so fun to write them in and I would love to keep doing that.”

But the plan isn’t set in stone.

“Who knows?” O’Connor said. “I don’t know what retirement is going to be. I may decide, ‘hey, I’m not going to write anymore, I’m done.’ But I’m going to try it for a while. So that’s my game plan.”