Terese Karmel, 78, instructor and pre-journalism advisor at the University of Connecticut, died at Hartford Hospital on Tuesday, Dec. 26 from congestive heart failure, according to a Facebook post by the UConn Journalism Department and a separate post by Karmel’s brother, Martin Jay Aronoff.
Karmel was better known as “T.C.” by colleagues, friends and family. She lived in Storrs, Connecticut and is survived by two children, Allison Thomason and Jamie Karmel.
Karmel was born in Washington D.C. and graduated from George Washington University with a master’s degree in journalism, Aronoff wrote in his post.
Aronoff also posted about the widespread career his sister had. It included being a sports writer at the Hartford Courant, an editor and feature writer for the Willimantic Chronicle, a beat reporter and author of a paperback on the UConn championship women’s basketball team, writing feature articles on horse racing and teaching journalism courses at UConn.
On her work at the Hartford Courant
Karmel had started at the Courant at the State Bureau System. Donna Larcen, a colleague of Karmel’s at the Hartford Courant, said although they never wrote together, they had remained friends. Like many who knew her, Larcen described Karmel as being funny.
“She’d just put her head back and laugh,” Larcen said.
Larcen remembered Karmel as a generous person who was happy to help. They would trade stories back and forth to each other to see what was missing.
“She had an eye for detail…but connecting it to a human story,” Larcen said.
Tom Condon, another former colleague of Karmel’s at the Courant, told a story of how Karmel had recently sent him a book she thought he would enjoy. When he sought her out to talk about the book, he found out she was in intensive care. She was looking out for him despite the condition she was in, Condon said.
Condon was working in the news department while Karmel was working in sports, but they got together after work, and Condon would hear about her family, especially her brother and kids, he said.
Larcen also emphasized how family-oriented Karmel was. She adored her children and four granddaughters, Larcen said.
“If you went out to dinner with T.C., inevitably, she’d talk about how proud she was of her kids, what the grandkids were doing…what they seemed to be interested in,” Larcen said.
Gail MacDonald, Associate Professor-in-Residence in the UConn Journalism Department, had called Karmel, her friend and colleague, a leader in journalism.
“She was a pioneer for women seeking to be taken seriously in (the) world of sports journalism,” MacDonald wrote.
In a later phone conversation, MacDonald said how uncommon it was for women to be put into sports reporting roles at the time. Jim Smith was a reporting editor at the Courant who encouraged Karmel and saw that she was assigned a sports writing position at the Courant, MacDonald said. She was only one of three women in the sports department at the time.
“She certainly…was in a vast minority,” Macdonald said.
Karmel also had a passion for baseball. She was a diehard fan of her hometown team, the Washington Nationals, as well as the St. Louis Cardinals. She had a Mike Matheny bobblehead that she would bring into her sports writing class during baseball season.
“She was always talking with colleagues about different games and different players,” MacDonald said.
A staple of the Nationals is their in-game mascot race with old presidents. Karmel had done a project on the race and presented it at the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016, Mike Stanton, Associate Professor within the UConn Department of Journalism, said. The previous year, she was picked to read her poems about baseball at the hall.
“You gotta write what you love,” Smith said.
And Karmel did.
“You’re not going to sports without me,” he remembered her saying. He described Karmel as “a generator of story ideas.”
“We were just chatting one day in the sports department, she brought up how she loved to listen to game(s) on her transistor radio. We both saw it at the same time -- a story!” Smith wrote.
“She tore the beat up,” he added, talking about how Karmel covered the minor league baseball beat for the New Britain Red Sox, later known as the Rock Cats.
Smith remembered when she recruited one of the players to write a diary about what it was like to play in the minor leagues, a piece that was “incredibly well-received.”
“She coached him on his writing,” Smith said. “She was so innovative and loved what she did. She did stuff we’d never done before.”
Ending a career at the Hartford Courant, Karmel went on to write for the Willimantic Chronicle in 1985.
Daryl Perch, a colleague of Karmel’s at the Chronicle, called her an amazing journalist, who was fast and accurate.
“She was really tops,” Perch said. “I wish all journalists could be trained by her.”
Perch had known of Karmel at the Courant and her writing for the Willimantic Bureau while Perch was at the Chronicle.
“I was thrilled,” Perch said, describing the feeling when Karmel came to the Chronicle to interview for a suburban editor position. They became friends by sitting across from each other at the Chronicle.
Perch recalled a story in which T.C. had played a joke on her at the publication. It was Halloween and the Chronicle was getting “millions” of phone calls about costumes and having someone from the Chronicle go and take photos. Perch described getting a phone call while they were on deadline.
“This lady…from a bank called,” Perch said. “She said, ‘You have to come down to the bank because you have to send a photographer because we’re dressed up as witches and we look so great and you have to come down here.’ She was so funny. She said, ‘Well, I want to talk to the man in charge,’ which was kind of a sore point, I was actually in charge…I got kind of piqued…and I said I’m sorry, we’re not going to send someone. She said ‘I’m the best witch in Eastern Connecticut.’”
Something had moved Perch to look up from the phone, she recalled.
“There’s T.C. sitting across from the desk with the phone in her hand, laughing her butt off,” Perch said. “And there’s the whole newsroom is laughing…it was her on the phone just pulling my leg.”
Someone had snapped a photo as they were both laughing, Perch said.
“She had it put on a mug for me,” Perch said. That was Karmel’s last Christmas gift to her, Perch said.
Perch was the news editor while Karmel was in charge of the town news operations, Perch said. Between the two, they would choose stories that they thought were the most important, Perch said. Meticulous, honest and open, Karmel knew what she was doing and would guide reporters, Perch said.
“You didn’t have to tell her something twice,” Perch said. “She really had a gift for mentoring people.”
Perch also described Karmel as an extremely kind friend.
“Any time there was an occasion, she would show up at your door with a really amazing gift that you didn’t even know you wanted,” Perch said. “As I’m sitting here talking, I’m looking at a beautiful watercolor of birds because I’m a bird watcher and she commissioned someone in Mansfield to paint that for me. That’s the kind of stuff she did.”
Karmel would even bring toys for Perch’s two grandsons.
“When the last one was born, she sent a fruit arrangement with balloons and everything,” Perch said. “Just amazing.”
The two friends would celebrate their birthdays within the same week with a dinner and gift exchange, Perch said.
“She loved lobster,” Perch said. “I can’t imagine what (life) will be like without her.”
Karmel taught at UConn for about 30 years and had a large influence within the UConn journalism department, even to those that retired.
She had written a poem for Associate Professor Marcel P. Dufresne that she read in front of a party hosted by the department in his honor.
“It reflected our friendship, shared interests and conversations on so many topics,” Dufresne wrote. “She wrote this while pushing herself to finish her semester duties, despite being seriously ill. It touched me deeply, especially when she wrote how much she would miss me around the department.”
“She was very hands-on, very fun,” Stanton said. He spoke about how she was invested in Fantasy Football and would ask himself and other students for suggestions.
He added how she would have her students not only watch press conferences for professional sports, but she would take her students to press conferences for UConn teams, Stanton said.
Karmel made her mark at the UConn journalism department not only as an instructor and pre-journalism advisor but also writing about UConn women’s basketball.
Charles Monagan, former editor in chief of Connecticut Magazine, wrote about how he looked forward to her calls during his 24 years at the publication.
He called Karmel the “unofficial UConn correspondent” and how she would always call about the latest from Eastern Connecticut. Monagan wrote about how Karmel wanted to profile UConn’s next rising basketball star.
“She was a good, thorough reporter, willing to go to that one extra source for the quote that made all the difference,” Monagan wrote. “Her hoops profiles ranged from Chris Smith and Nykesha Sales to Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, Emeka Okafor and others. Her contributions over many years greatly enhanced the quality of the magazine.”
Karmel had a variety of interests outside of sports, such as opera and Shakespeare. Maureen E. Croteau, Department Head and Professor of UConn’s Department of Journalism, said Karmel had bought a poster about Shakespeare’s tragedy that she had hung on her door for about a year and a half.
“She would take one of those bargain buses into New York City with a friend of hers and they’d go down to the MET to take in a performance and come back the next day and teach,” Croteau said, adding how Karmel would rave to her classes about the opera the next day.
On her dedication to her students
“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know her,” Croteau said. “It goes back that long.”
Karmel was so concerned and genuine about the students succeeding, Croteau said, and was excited when they did well.
“When they didn’t do well…in class, she thought ‘well they’ll do better the next time,’” Croteau said. “Not all people who are in their 60s or 70s liked to be around people who were in their 20s. She did. She enjoyed students. She was in many ways as young as they were.”
As an advisor, Karmel would take students seriously and help the students become successful once they became full majors, Macdonald said. When Karmel was a lab instructor for Newswriting II, she had good suggestions and took student feedback seriously on what worked and what needed changes, Macdonald said.
“She always saw the positives in students,” Macdonald said.
Condon also spoke about how encouraging Karmel was of her students, saying how she was “beating a drum” for the UConn interns at the Courant.
“(She) clearly knew the students very well,” Condon said.
Julie Serkosky, Assistant Professor-in-Residence in the UConn Journalism Department, wrote in an email about how devoted she was to her students and the department.
“A few weeks ago, though clearly exhausted, she said she continued to come in to the office because her sportswriting students had signed on to get her as a teacher -- not a substitute,” Serkosky wrote. “She also said that teaching and advising kept her going.”
UConn students and her influence
UConn Class of 2017 Alumna Molly Burkhardt spoke about how she thought Karmel was one of the strongest professors at UConn and how her classes were always “unique.”
“Her passion for baseball, especially the Nationals, was something I admired, and I enjoyed being able to talk in depth on various sports topics with her,” Burkhardt said.
Many of her students remarked on how, although she was a tough grader, it helped them grow as writers.
“The thing about TC was that she never sugarcoated anything,” wrote Stephanie Sheehan, sixth semester journalism and communications major. “If you wrote something bad, she would tell you straight up that it was bad.”
Senior journalism major Eliza Kanner remembered meeting with Karmel after getting corrected work back with a lot of red marks. Kanner remembered Karmel telling her that, “I'm hard on you because I know you have it in you to succeed."
UConn Alum Class of 2017 Joseph Burns also remembered a time when he learned from Karmel’s grading.
“I especially remember our first big assignment, everybody failed,” Burns wrote in an email. “People were mortified, but she made it clear that nobody gets it right the first time. She told us what we did wrong, blunt and to the point, and made us rewrite it until it was worth reading.”
Burns wrote about how Karmel was his reason for switching into journalism. He wrote about how he had learned how practical and hard journalism was-- he had signed up for Newswriting 1 to only fulfill a W course, but Karmel convinced him to take her sports writing class in the spring.
“I thought I knew sports before that, but I realized there was so much more out there when she would talk to us during class,” he wrote. “I would come into class talking about the NFL and she would cut in and ask if we were keeping up with American Pharoah, or have us interview a woman she swam with who had swam the English Channel 15 times.”
UConn Class of 2011 Alum Adam Giardino recalled how Karmel helped him in in his senior year. At the time, he was sports director for WHUS and one of the games he covered was the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona. Karmel’s brother was also at the Fiesta Bowl and wasa a statistician for the broadcasters.
“It’s like an hour, hour and half before kick-off of this massive New Year’s Day football game,” Giardino remembered. “We’re just in the student radio booth and all of a sudden her brother totally unannounced just walked in...just came down…chatted with myself and the other broadcaster for just 10-15 minutes, (And he said,) ‘Yeah my sister spoke highly of you guys and how smart you are, and the future you have in this field.’”
A job not finished
“At the time of her death…she was working on a magazine piece that she was finishing,” Croteau said. “A book on the Holocaust that was still in the works. She was looking forward to the coming semester.”
“She was interested in everything that happened here,” Croteau said. ‘Here’ was Eastern Connecticut, where Croteau said Karmel was working on a proposal on.
One of the the last things Karmel did at the end of the semester was bring in desserts and other foods to thank everyone in the department while she was fighting her illness, Croteau said.
“She was very appreciative,” Croteau said.
Karmel’s family will be receiving visitors on Tuesday, Jan. 2 from 1:30-2:30 p.m. at Potter Funeral Home, 456 Jackson Street, Willimantic, according to a Facebook post from the UConn Journalism Department. There will be a funeral service following at 2:30 p.m. at the funeral home. The burial will be in Storrs Cemetery.
Kimberly Nguyen is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.