USFSP Community Remembers Terry Tomalin


Terry Tomalin

USF St. Petersburg grieves the loss of one of its own. Terry Tomalin, Outdoors Editor for the Tampa Bay Times and an adjunct professor at USFSP, passed away on Thursday, May 19, following a heart attack. Tomalin had taught on campus for four years, leading courses in the Florida Studies Program, as well as an innovative series of classes on leadership, in which he taught lessons of life outdoors.

“Terry will always be remembered for his boundless energy and tremendous contributions, first as a student in the Florida Studies Program, and shortly thereafter, as one of our finest and engaging instructors,” said Frank Biafora, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “He developed and taught some of our most popular courses, such as Florida Fishing Capital of the World, and Leadership in the Great Outdoors. Nobody could bring the classroom to life quite like Terry. In fact, Terry believed deeply about experiential learning and always built in outdoor field trips so students could more fully appreciate the natural beauty and history of the state that he loved so dearly. Professor Tomalin was not only all of this, he was family.”

Tomalin joined USFSP in 2012. He was particularly popular with his students, who say he was one of their most inspiring teachers. On Friday afternoon, a group was planning to meet up for a 10-mile run in his honor.

“Mr. Tomalin always taught us that a leader is someone who is resilient, and that attitude is everything when it comes to life,” said Psychology junior Juan Salazar. “I’m glad to have met him and had him as a professor. I will always remember the leadership lessons he taught me. He definitely has inspired me to be more adventurous and, most importantly, to give back to the community as much as I can.”

“Terry seemed like a great person to be around,” said Daryl Davis, a sophomore in the Kate Tiedemann College of Business. “He had a lot of energy. He enjoyed the outdoors and was a people-person. My heart goes out to his family and friends.”

“Terry Tomalin was one of my favorite professors and one of my personal mentors,” said Jozef Gherman, former USF Trustee and Student Body President. “He gave his life and his spirit to developing others. I will always cherish the lessons he taught me.”

USFSP’s Gary Mormino is the Frank E. Duckwall Florida Professor of History Emeritus and a co-founder of the Florida Studies Program. He says he first got to know Tomalin in 2009.

“Terry brought a wonderful new perspective to the Florida Studies Program. He had seen more of Florida, experienced more of Florida, and tasted more of Florida than anyone else, but he brought a newfound hunger to understand Florida. Or at least to consider new perspectives and ideas,” said Mormino. “Terry Tomalin contributed far more to the Florida Studies Program than he took in. We are grateful.”

WUSF reporter Mark Schreiner recently spent a day with Tomalin on campus, covering a canoe outing he led with students from the College of Education for a group of fifth graders from nearby Fairmount Elementary School.

“I had heard a lot about Terry from his work with my colleagues at WUSF on some previous stories, plus I liked his writing,” said Schreiner. “Within thirty seconds of meeting him, he had invited me to join his outdoor leadership class on a trip down the Suwannee River in November, where he promised I wouldn’t get eaten by an alligator. The rest of our few hours together, I had the chance to see how much he loved his students, the outdoors, and exposing the 5th graders from Fairmount Park to nature. He told me, ‘You get kids out here like this and you say, this is where we live, you know, this is where people have lived for thousands of years. It really puts them in touch with the environment, puts them in touch with their community and I think it makes them stronger and healthier.’ What a great idea, particularly for children who, despite living blocks from the bay, had never been out on it.”

Janet Keeler worked with Tomalin at the Times and on campus. “I worked with Terry for years at the Times where he was a never-ending font of story ideas. There wasn’t a section he couldn’t — or wouldn’t — write for,” said Keeler, visiting assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies.  “He was always game to attack a cooking-fish-in-the-great-outdoors piece for the food section when I was editor. And he wrote several travel stories for me, too, including a yearlong series on camping for newbies. He had boundless energy and I don’t believe I ever talked to him when he wasn’t excited about something.”

Tomalin was married to St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, also a longtime supporter of USFSP. “I’ve had the honor to work with Kanika on numerous occasions,” said USFSP Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska. “She has been particularly supportive of our programs and partnerships, of our work with the Innovation District, and the university’s role in the growth of St. Petersburg as a vibrant, downtown destination. My heart goes out to her during this very difficult time.”

“The outpouring of love and admiration for Terry from the faculty and staff has been extraordinary,” said Biafora. “We will morn his passing for a long, long while.  But, we will never forget all that he brought to our university community.”

Read the Times tribute to Tomalin.

Listen to WUSF’s most recent story with Tomalin.

Read this tribute to Tomalin by the USF Foundation.