Soon after we began writing Thom’s obituary this morning, we realized that our task at hand — doing justice to a man with an undeniably vast impact on the lives of an incredible number of people — was simply impossible. As we took a step back and a long, deep breath, the solution became clear. Compiled here is an extensive list of tributes and testimonies that we as a Vision staff feel serve as a proper testament to the beautiful life that was Thom Storey’s.
If you would like to contribute to this article please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This page will be updated as we receive more tributes.
Dorren Robinson, Vision faculty adviser, instructor of journalism
I always said Thom Storey was my work husband.
He always said we were Mutt and Jeff.
What we were, were opposites.
I pushed him on the ledge. He pulled me off.
He was the short to my tall. He was the ying to my yang.
He was kind and gentle. I am a bull in a china shop.
But we’re family. We go back, way back. Back to our days at The Tennessean in the 1990s when he was the travel writer and I was a freshly minted journalist.
When Thom left the paper to start the journalism program at Belmont, I wished him well. Years later, he welcomed me in as a freshly minted instructor.
Any success I have had here at Belmont is because of the short man in the Hawaiian shirt with the quick laugh. I learned compassion and love from him. He taught me temperance…and that there is no food that he couldn’t grill.
Thom was a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of guy. And what you got was good, goofy and endearing.
He was a masterful journalist, fully aware of the power and beauty of words, and as such built a strong department full of people with diverging opinions and personalities. He served as the glue.
For nearly 10 years we have mirror-taught Media Writing I, a course he created and I loved. One element we both relished was the obituary assignment where we spring on the unsuspecting class the fact that they have to write an obituary on their professor. That assignment taught students how to do interviews and handle facts, and it provided both Thom and me with many laughs as students misspelled our names and aged us by decades.
For years I have given loquacious quotes on the fake death of Thom Storey, who always found amusing ways to “die.”
Today I cannot find the words, cannot express the emotion, the sadness. There is so much he still had to teach his students and me.
Dr. Sybril Brown, Professor of Journalism, Department of Media Studies
He could make the best out of any situation, and if he couldn’t, he could find the joke.
Thom was an absolutely amazing leader. He was the glue holding our department together. He balanced our personalities, our strengths, our dreams, he allowed each faculty member to flourish. It’s hard to come into the office and not see the light on in his room. But as I think about it, he was the light. God wanted that light on a higher plain. As we remember him, we have to remember humility, honesty and humanity. He loved life and life loved him. He lived. There wasn’t a roller coaster he and his daughter found that they wouldn’t ride. As for us professionally, he represented us in every way. Thom and I were opposites. I’m black, he’s white. I’m female, he’s male. He’s print, I’m broadcast. Yet it didn’t matter. You would never know it. and it takes a heck of a person to pull that off in the world we live in. So we owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for creating the journalism program and revamping it in 2003 when I was hired to lead the program and for continuing to be a journalists’ journalist in spite of the changing climate.
But to Belmont, he was an anchor player. So we’ve lost our anchor. Yet we will remain balanced and remember his heart. Because he truly was a man with a big heart.
Rick Bengston, Professor, Media Studies Department
It is not possible to summarize the 29-year relationship I had with Thom at Belmont. It’s ironic, since Thom was a prolific writer, I would have asked Thom to edit and help me with the right way to communicate my thoughts.
Thom was a member of the search committee when I interviewed in the spring of 1989. One thing I will never forget is when Thom said, “the university should have done better than that.” He was referring to the search committee dinner we had at Wendy’s.
In 1992 Thom and I were on a university trip to discuss student exchange programs with universities in Germany and Russia. I will never forget one evening when Thom and I went to dinner together in Germany that he offered to order for both of us. Since I did not speak one word of German, I said great. All I can say is the food that was brought to our table was not what we thought we were ordering. We continued to laugh about that over the years.
Thom was the glue that kept our diverse Media Studies Department functioning and always moving forward. He was an unbelievable department chair, colleague, and friend. In addition to all of his responsibilities, he was the department psychologist.
Things I will miss and always remember about Thom:
His daily dose of sarcasm
Our discussions about family and life in general
His love for Belmont
His love for his students and colleagues
His vision to keep the Media Studies Department moving forward
His open-door policy
When he would say “I’ll never get that hour back” (referring to a meeting that was not productive or important)
His faithful support for the Buffalo Bills
The results of his racquetball games with Bill
His stories about his famous hot wings
You could talk to him about almost anything and I did, except politics.
His love for Madison and Caroline
Thom had an impact on thousands of students over his career at Belmont University. He was respected by professionals, Belmont colleagues, and students. We are truly blessed that Thom had such a profound effect on our lives and we will miss him, but we will never forget him.
Dr. Rich Tiner, Professor, Department of Media Studies
Thom was actually the chairperson of the search committee when I came to Belmont, so I met him twenty some years ago. Speaking more broadly, from the perspective of the department, I think Thom and the Media Studies department are almost synonymous concepts. He’s not only been the chair of the department, but he really kind of designed the thing. He started journalism at Belmont, and the directions that the department has gone have been led by Thom. So it’s really hard to conceive a media studies department without Thom Storey. Coming from a print background, he had a really good ability to see the big picture in terms of media and in terms of journalism, and some of those directions he took were adding the electronic and digital media components to the department. Belmont media studies and particularly journalism have really stayed ahead of what’s happening in the rest of the country and other programs because of his vision.
It might surprise some people to know that Thom was kind of a quiet leader. He was so outgoing and friendly that in terms of his leadership style, it was very quiet and non-confrontational. I remember he used to send out departmental emails, in the last several years his salutation was “friends.” And that’s kind of the way he led the department. I think of it as servant leadership, colleagues but also friends.
For me personally, I’ll miss our friendship the most. For a long time we’d play golf together and just talk about things. When I think about my own personal path at Belmont, I remember during my interview process at one point we came across the requirement that all Belmont faculty are Christian. And I remember saying “Thom, I’m not Baptist,” and Thom responded “I don’t think that will really be a problem.”
One of my other, more vivid memories was the morning of 9/11. My class ended and I opened the door, and there Thom was standing, waiting for my class to end to give me the news of what had happened. And it just seems like every step along the way that it’s been Thom who’s been there to interact with, to share those important moments of our lives we think about.
Probably the biggest honor was when Thom and Caroline asked me to perform their wedding ceremony. That was a pretty special honor that I won’t ever forget.
Jen Duck, adjunct professor, Department of Media Studies
To try to put into words Thom’s impact on the Belmont community and beyond is near-impossible. His lessons spread far beyond the classroom. It’s rare to find someone as genuine, kind, encouraging and embracing as Thom.
The first time I met Thom, he asked me to speak with his Media Ethics class. I had just returned from Ferguson, Missouri after a very intense two weeks of protests over the controversial death of Michael Brown. Obviously, there were a lot of ethics lessons to discuss given the nature of this story, but it was the conversation after class that left the biggest impression.
At first, Thom and I talked business. He asked if I would like to be an adjunct professor. After seeing first-hand how all of his students gave him — and in-turn, me — their full attention during a 45 minute class discussion, I responded with a quick “yes.” The conversation then turned to our families. Thom was one of the first people I told that I was pregnant with my first child. In business meetings, I’m usually pretty reserved when it comes to my personal life, but because of his nature, I felt so comfortable telling him. Although we had just met, every part of Thom was beaming with joy for me. Anyone who ever talked to Thom knows that even his eyes had a way of smiling when he spoke. He immediately started talking about his beautiful daughter Madison and his wife Caroline. It was obvious after all of his achievements in life, they were his greatest pride and joy.
I spent the last two years learning from Thom, and I’m grateful for every minute I had with him. I continued to speak to his classes between my assignments at CNN and while teaching my own class at Belmont. He always asked tough questions about the latest headlines or stories I covered, and I respected that most of all. His questions, along with his guidance, made me a better journalist and professor.
To say that he will be greatly missed is a massive understatement. Although he left us too soon, we are all better people for having Thom in our lives.
Doug Howard, Dean of Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business
Thom Storey was an astute professional journalist, a gifted and beloved academic, and both a gentleman and a gentle soul. He loved his family, his students and his faculty colleagues. The light in his eyes reflected his deep Christian faith and compassion. I will miss him every day. My deepest sympathy to all of Thom’s family.
Dr. Thomas Burns, Provost
It is with great sadness that I write this afternoon to let you know that our colleague and friend, Thom Storey, died this morning following a lengthy battle with cancer. Thom has been a member of the Belmont faculty since 1985 and served as chair of Belmont’s Media Studies department. After starting his career as a sports writer and columnist, he moved on to cover a variety of topics, including working as a copy and travel editor at The Tennessean for many years. He was a past recipient of Belmont’s Chaney Distinguished Professor Award and was named Journalism Educator of the Year at the Southeast Journalism Conference.
Information on services will be shared as soon as they are available. In the meantime, please join me in praying for Thom’s wife Caroline, his daughter Madison and their extended family and friends as well as for the entire Belmont community as we all grieve this tremendous loss.
Dr. Vaughn May, Professor and Department Chair, Department of Political Science
Thom Storey was the best boss I ever had. He was also the best kind of academic: collegial, smart, kind, patient and unpretentious. His sense of humor was legendary, and I always knew a joke was coming when he would flash that mischievous smile. I hope that when I get to heaven, one of the first things I see is Thom grinning on the other side.
Perhaps most importantly, Thom knew the proper balance of work and family. Now that I am a father, I realize how difficult that feat is, and I’m amazed at how easy Thom made it look.
Belmont lost part of its soul today.
We lift up Madison, Caroline and Thom’s extended family in our prayers.
Dr. Shelby C. Longard, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology
Thom was a kind and gentle soul; he was so giving with his time and his laughter. When he helped bring me to Belmont in 2007, he was acting as Associate Dean of the Social Sciences. His office aligned with the suite doorway, and as I walked toward my own office in Wheeler, I would see him there. His door was usually open, and he was always there for me when I needed him. He was ever mindful of the needs of junior faculty. He made me feel valued here and mentored me in ways I can only now appreciate. He had my back at every turn. When I needed advice, he was always there. And it went past the workplace. I remember one time I was not feeling well and he and his sweet daughter, Madison, came to keep me company and brought food to cheer me up. I’m so saddened by his loss, which is a tremendous one for his dear family both at home and here at Belmont. He will be missed dearly.
Nathan Griffith, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science
Thom Storey was an exceptional man. He made every room friendlier simply by being in it; he set people at ease and made them feel comfortable and valued. He never ran from the truth, but he never failed to find the humor in any struggle. No matter the burden, talking with Thom always made it feel lighter. Thom met everyone with respect, with compassion, and with an impish smile that promised something fun was about to happen. He took others seriously, but never himself. I miss him terribly.
Bonnie Wagonfield, Administrative assistant, School of Social Sciences
To the man I had utmost respect for, a true gentleman, a wonderful and caring father to Madison and loving husband to Caroline. Thom brought me to the School of Social Sciences 18 years ago, and I will be forever grateful to him for that and for his friendship over the years. He had a passion for teaching, mentoring students and developing lasting friendships with them. What a void we will have at Belmont without him, but I will look forward to meeting him again in the heaven above.
Michelle Williams, The Associated Press, Director of Major Accounts, Belmont Class of 1989, Vision Editor, 1985-1987
Thom is one of the most important people in my life. I won’t use the past tense because his legacy lives on through me and countless other students whom he taught, mentored and, if you were lucky, befriended. He gave me the foundation on which to build a career, and then became a life-long friend, someone I would go to for advice, both professionally and personally.
I was enticed to Belmont with a scholarship and the promise of a journalism program. That was the fall of 1984. The next semester, Thom arrived to build it. Within a year, the Belmont Vision moved from the English Department to Thom’s supervision. He named me editor and together we made it into a real newspaper. We had a tiny reporting staff, and often it was just me and Thom on layout nights, writing headlines and running copy through the glue machine to paste up the pages. Pica poles and proportion wheels. And, of course, great music. Before playlists, there were mixed tapes, and Thom was always ready for production nights with an eclectic selection ranging from Mel Torme and Bob Dylan to Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello.
I was one of the first graduates of the School of Communications, now Department of Media Studies, and The Vision became a perennial winner in collegiate media competitions. Thom made that possible through hard work and high standards. He continued to create opportunities for me and other graduates as we pursued our first jobs and later promotions. He was so proud of us, and, in turn, we wanted to make him proud.
I will miss Thom’s distinctive laugh, his cynical sense of humor, his vast musical knowledge and his skill at making the best Buffalo wings I’ve ever eaten. Most of all, I will miss his kindness, support and guidance. My life was made better by knowing him.
Chris Villines, Former Vision Sports Editor, 1988-1990, Communications Manager, Tennessee Farmers Cooperative
For someone whose love of writing was fostered by Thom Storey, the news of his passing has me uncharacteristically struggling to find words that properly portray how much he influenced me. But I’ll do my best.
When I came to Belmont in the fall of 1986, I was searching – searching for what my true talents were and where I could apply them. On my way to class one morning, I saw something affixed to a tree on campus that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would end that search and change the course of my life.
It was a flyer inviting those interested in writing for the student newspaper, the Belmont Vision, to come to an informational meeting. One of their areas of need was sports. “I’m a sports fanatic,” I thought to myself. “And my English teachers always complimented me on the papers I turned in. I’ll go and see what this is all about.”
That meeting nearly 32 years ago is where I first encountered the man – still in the infancy of his prolific run at Belmont – who would groom me and countless other aspiring journalists: Thom. He made an immediate impression with his enthusiasm, wit, infectious laugh, and ability to comfortably interact with students of all backgrounds. Plus, I loved his office, which was welcoming and laid back with an eclectic mix of music playing from his collection.
That was the first of many, many hours spent under Thom’s leadership, both in the Vision office and in the classroom. It was the kind of experiential learning you can’t put a price tag on; it was that valuable. There’s no way I’d still have a career that has writing as its primary focus without it.
But as serious as Thom was about his craft, he was just as intent on making sure those under his tutelage enjoyed the college experience. I’ll never forget the Vision staff parties he hosted, where I was first introduced to authentic Buffalo Wings (after all, Thom was from Buffalo). No wings since have come close to measuring up to his. His joy came from seeing others enjoy themselves in his company.
More than 30 years after my journey with Thom started, we still kept in touch, met for meals and “mini Vision reunions” when our schedules allowed, and enjoyed several rounds of golf together. Oh, how he loved the links. And he could be sneaky long with his tee shots.
And now, in seemingly the blink of an eye, Thom is gone.
It hurts – a lot. I hurt for his beautiful wife, Caroline. I hurt for his daughter, Madison (a student at Belmont and a kind, talented soul like her father).
But through the pain, I’m at peace knowing that he won’t be victimized by damned cancer anymore.
Rest In Peace, my friend. Heaven’s getting a good one.
Mark Townsend, Class of 1990, Belmont Vision Editor 1987-88, Sports Editor 1988-89, Editorial Advisor, 1989-90. B.A. in Journalism
I had been at Belmont for two years without ever really feeling like I’d found my niche. I remember reading that the Vision was looking for reporters and I loved reading and had a strong English background, so I thought it might be fun to see if it was something I could do. It didn’t take long after meeting Thom and Michelle Williams to realize that I had found my college home.
A year after walking into his office, I became the Vision’s editor and a 20-plus year career in journalism took off. More importantly, what began that day in 1986 was a 32-year relationship with a man I considered a teacher, a mentor, but most importantly a real friend.
In those early days, we had a ‘massive’ journalism program featuring at least eight people, so we were a pretty tight knit group. We worked long hours together, but always found time for fun outside the classroom. As a writer, he made me better because he refused to compromise. He forced me to give my best by covering my early papers with red ink. He seemed to know that was what I needed and he pushed me to be better than I thought I could be. It worked.
With just 10 years difference in age between us, Thom was as much a big brother as a professor, and even though he was all business inside the classroom, he busted my chops at a pretty good rate outside. I tried to give as good as I got, but I never seemed to get the last word.
In the decade after graduation, we played golf and racquetball together (I only beat him once on the links, but got my own back indoors), shared more than a couple of beers, laughed as we watched his dog Ovid make 100 laps around the dining room table, and ate our weight in wings as we watched the Buffalo Bills lose four consecutive Super Bowls while wearing the ugliest blue, red and white striped pants. He introduced me to the biggest vinyl record collection I had ever seen and turned me on to the likes of Warren Zevon, Southside Johnny, Omar and the Howlers and the Blues Brothers. For years he gave me a hard time because I dropped a railroad tie on his foot as we tried to rebuild the wall of his driveway, but I countered by saying I took my life in my hands every time I rode in his old Toyota. As one of my groomsmen, he instigated a prank at the altar on my wedding day, then tore the house down with his dancing at the reception.
We drifted away from each other for a while when I moved to North Carolina, but I was lucky enough to rekindle the friendship over the last few years. I got to meet his lovely wife Caroline and his incredibly talented daughter Madison, and today my heart hurts because he was so happy before being taken away from them too soon.
There are so many more memories and moments I could relate, but I can almost hear him saying “Get to the point. Where is this going?” Plus, it’s getting a little blurry at the moment – as it has on several occasions today.
I’m going to miss his wit, his stories, his love of life, family and friends. I would give anything at this moment to stand on the first tee with him just one more time.
Rest in peace my friend.
Steve Cavendish, Former Vision Editor, Belmont Class of 1993
Mentors are funny things.
(For the record, Thom would hate this lede. “What’s funny about them, Steve? Why don’t you just say what you want to say and not set it up with some cute statement,” he might/should/would say.)
They’re not your parents, though you might spend decades seeking their approval. They’re not always close friends, though you might share your deepest secrets with them. And they’re not your pastor, though you may turn to them first for advice.
Thom Storey was my mentor. I wandered into the Vision’s offices in the fall of my sophomore year wanting to write a column (because, sure, the world NEEDED to know my opinion). He politely introduced me to the editor, Ian Campbell, and suggested that maybe I learn to write something before I was handed a column. Over the next four years (not a typo, some of us needed a little longer), Thom was always there to prod or sometimes kick me in the right direction. When I became editor, he let me make mistakes (an underrated quality in a mentor), helped me correct and learn from them, and then helped me get the internship which became a job which became a career. I owe him everything.
For the last 25 years he’s played the same role. I’ve lost track of the number of times I called Thom with some news or a problem or just something that I knew he would enjoy. He was a counselor supreme, someone who paired an unmatched ethical compass with an absolute joy for good journalism. I will miss his laugh most of all.
Belmont has built a lot of really nice, shiny spaces over the last few years. The dungeon in the back of Gabhart that housed the Vision has been replaced with a succession of nicer offices. Curb dwarfs Striplin. There are enough dorms now to house an army.
But none of that would matter at all if it weren’t for people like Thom, who valued what students did when they were in his classroom and then quietly supported them for decades after they left campus.
Brice Minnigh, Former Vision Editor, Class of 1992
Contributing to Thom’s obituary is both heartbreaking and poetically ironic, for it was Thom who first told me that “Every good journalist starts by writing obits; you have to get your facts perfectly straight because you’ll never get a second chance with an obit.”
Thom was the consummate journalism professor because he was, first and foremost, a journalist, and he also happened to be a damn good teacher who actually practiced what he preached. His solid ethical grounding has given me a strong, practical foundation over nearly three decades of working as a journalist, and his words of wisdom have echoed in my head countless times over the years.
In an era when journalism standards have slipped dramatically all over the world, Thom’s achievements and influence remain an unwavering beacon of light for those who truly value the importance of sound journalism to a functioning civil society.
I’m heartbroken that Thom is no longer physically with us, but I’m comforted in knowing that his influence will live on in the actions of the many journalists he helped to shape.
Al Tompkins, Senior Faculty, Broadcast and Online Organization at The Poynter Institute
Thom was a guy who believed journalism educators should be real journalists, so he wrote, reported and edited as he taught.
His students loved him, often saying Thom’s class, even when it took on complex subjects, were among their favorite classes at Belmont.
He was a lifelong learner. He never stopped learning, and it made his teaching fresh and relevant.
His vision of pushing Belmont’s journalism teaching into the digital age was cutting-edge when it began in 2003.
On top of it all, he was a gentle, decent guy. We could use more like him.
Zach Gilchriest, current Vision Editor, student
Like most people I talked to today expressed, I too struggled to find the right words to put down that would do justice to the memories, happiness and sheer impact that Thom Storey brought to so many people.
But writing this at the end of what feels like the longest day in recent memory (there are several truly sluggish, awful days at the Vision office that now seem like nothing in comparison) I’ve found a few things that seem right to say.
Thom had an undeniably vast influence and impact on so many lives over the years — the surge of messages and tributes that flooded into the Vision’s inbox all day were proof. Reading through them, I couldn’t help but see the beauty in how much a single life can positively impact others, or how much comfort and joy can be found in sharing experiences and memories. At the head of all of those tributes — spanning decades — was Thom.
Thom, who kept an unwavering interest in his students’ lives and development. Thom, who knew how to play devil’s advocate to an infuriating, yet effective degree in Media Ethics. Thom, who knew how much a simple “good job” could mean after finishing work on a grueling story. And Thom, who always knew how to rock a Hawaiian shirt.
Rich Tiner put it spectacularly: Thom and Belmont’s media studies department are almost synonymous, so it’s difficult to imagine this place being anything close to the same without him. But there’s comfort in knowing not only how deeply he’ll be missed, but how intensely his spirit will be kept alive.
Melissa Kriz, current Vision Managing Editor, student
Thom Storey was the epitome of what every student hopes a professor and adviser will be. He was always willing to listen when you had doubts about your major or field and was always willing to take the time to teach you more if you were willing to learn more. He held firmly to his ethical principles, always making sure to teach his students what it means to be a responsible and ethical journalist in a time when ethics matters more than ever. It was because of his teaching that I hold to these same principles so strongly. He was a strong supporter of his students and they knew they were his priority. He was a massive part of the media studies department at Belmont, and he will be fiercely missed.
Bronte Lebo, current Vision Copy Editor, student
When I think of Thom, the first thing I remember is seeing him with his Hawaiian shirt and disarming smile, immediately making me feel comfortable and sitting down with me to explain exactly what classes I needed to take when I was a scared freshman at summer orientation. Next, I remember interviewing him for the infamous obituary assignment in Media Writing I, trying to make sure I asked all the right questions and seemed confident and capable. I didn’t expect him to be impressed, I just didn’t want him to be disappointed. I definitely stuttered and left awkward pauses in the conversation at times, but he didn’t make me feel bad about it. And he had a twinkle in his eye the entire time, laughing as he told me stories of his favorite memories with Dorren and smiling as he explained the legacy she created at Belmont.
I never expected to be writing about Thom’s legacy less than a year later, but here I am, trying to find words to express the impact Thom had on my life. We weren’t close, but Thom was my adviser, and I looked forward to the day when I would have him in class. I hate that I will never have the chance. Most of our interactions were pretty straightforward, signing forms and picking classes. But he always made me feel welcome in his office, and somehow he made even the most boring advising meeting feel enjoyable. It wasn’t anything he said or did, it was just him. He radiated a kind of warmth and joy that just made you want to get to know him better and learn everything you could from him. I think that’s his biggest legacy.
I would love to someday be as talented a journalist as Thom was. But, more than anything else, I want to be the type of person Thom was, the kind who makes everyone feel at home. I want to find that delicate balance between telling it like it is and being kind — which Thom somehow mastered in a way I will never fully understand. I want to be able to smile and instantly brighten someone’s day the way he did for me every time I stepped into his office. That’s the legacy Thom left in my life, and that’s the legacy I want to carry on.
Caitlin Alexander, current Vision staff, student
Thom Storey was one of the first professors I met at Belmont. I had the pleasure of taking one of his classes his last semester teaching. He was always wearing a smile on his face along with a Hawaiian shirt most days. He brought us candy on holidays and kept us laughing with his jokes. I am forever thankful I had the opportunity to learn from him and get to know him. Thom was more than a teacher, he was a friend. He was an inspiration and a mentor. He was a fighter, and his memory will be held dear to everyone who knew him.
Rebecca Arnold, former Vision Editor, Class of 2017
Thom Storey was one of the first faces I saw when visiting the journalism department, and he continued to be an integral part of my time at Belmont.
I learned more from him than I ever expected. I could always count on his never-ending support both in and out of the classroom.
His ability to connect with his students made every second with him more enjoyable. He could make anything interesting, and he helped make me interested in everything.
He’s one of the reasons I continued journalism. He took my writing weaknesses and made them into strengths. He made me more confident not only in my writing but in myself.
I can never thank him enough for that. He will be incredibly missed.
Riley Wallace, former Vision Editor, student
Throughout my time at Belmont, Thom Storey was a constant source of help, friendliness and humor to me as both an adviser and journalism professor. He knew his field well and was always excited to share the knowledge that he had accrued with his students, always available to give encouragement where it was needed, always prepared to calm whatever anxieties his students brought to him. He cared about us and gave us his time and attention both in class and outside of it, sharing his professional and personal experiences so that we could more preparedly have our own. I know that he was very, very loved among his students and in his department, and that his absence will be felt deeply for a long time to come.
Autumn Allison, former Vision Editor, Belmont alum
The first time I met Thom Storey he was all smiles and wearing a Hawaiian shirt while he tried to assure my wary parents that journalism was a worthy pursuit for their daughter. The grins and general aura of laid-back but welcoming professor did the trick and sealed his descriptor as “Hawaiian Thom” with my parents for the reminder of my time at Belmont.
I’d soon learn that both were a staple for Thom, just like I’d learn that his sly grins held a different meaning.
There was one for in class debates that refused to show his opinion as each of us attempted to defend our interpretations of Sunshine laws and the SPJ Code of Ethics. And then he’d turn around and rip your defense completely to shreds. One that was present during one-on-one meetings, as you clutched a story just bleeding of red ink, to push you to find the angle in the feature you missed.
But my favorite grin of Thom’s will always be the one he wore when he had just told a joke. Thom was his own biggest fan when it came to jokes. He was filled with morbid quips and a lot of puns that you had to pay close attention to hear. With each of those little jokes, that grin would spread across his face as he waited for someone to react.
Thom was always in on the joke and found a way to keep that lively spirit in everything he did. Including willingly dancing in a Kesha parody video (I swear it was for journalism). And that to me is the true Thom Storey Story, a great man, friend and educator that did his best to find the humor in all situations.
Courtney Martinez, Former Vision Editor
I took “Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth” as one of my first classes at Belmont University. I didn’t know what to expect from the class when I signed up; all I knew was that media studies professor Thom Storey taught the class and I liked the title.
Funny how I came to learn over my four years at Belmont that truth is what Thom Storey knew best. He never shied away from it and challenge us to commit ourselves as journalists to the truth, transparency and a strong set of ethics.
Thom taught us how to be better journalists. But more importantly, Thom taught his students how to be better people.
There are too many memories to write them all down or single out just one. But the image I’ll forever have of Thom Storey is this: a man walking away from Gabhart with nothing but a giant smile on his face and an equipment bag in his hand ready for his daily game of racquetball.
Jessica King, Student
College can be an uncertain time, where it seems more changes than stays the same. For the past few years, stepping into Thom’s classroom or his office felt like taking a deep breath. His steadiness, calmness and wisdom had a grounding effect on me. Much will surely be said about his aptitude as a professor, and rightly so. I will always use what I’ve learned in Thom’s classes to determine what is right and wrong, legal and illegal. But I learned much more from Thom than media ethics. I learned the value of practicing consistency, kindness and fairness. I learned that sometimes, good teaching isn’t lecturing, but sitting on a desk, asking people to think about something in a new way. And, of course, I learned to never underestimate the power of passing a bag of candy around a room of stressed students. I will always be grateful for the way Thom somehow always managed to remind me, amidst problems I couldn’t solve and questions I couldn’t answer, that it was all going to be alright. Thank you, Thom.
Isabel Pesci, Student
I am so grateful I was able to experience Thom Storey’s light over the past year and a half. I will forever be grateful for the impact he has made on my life in that short amount of time. Thom is the reason I chose to go to Belmont and chose the journalism program. When I first toured Belmont, I had the dream to be the next Ryan Seacrest. I was introduced to Thom and timidly revealed my hopes and dreams, nervous he would think I was crazy or getting in over my head. People usually laughed or rolled their eyes when I shared this, but he listened with a smile on his face. My dreams for the future always seemed too big and unachievable, but immediately he printed out information for things I could do to get involved in order to achieve those dreams. Thom was such an encouraging, warm hearted and loving individual that brightened the room when he walked in. I was lucky enough to witness this in the classroom along with in the Media Studies office. No words I say will ever be able to do your greatness justice. I hope that I can make you proud. Thom, thank you for teaching me so much about how to chase your dreams and follow your passions. Thank you for showing me the power in storytelling.
Jacqueline Skokna, Student
Thom was the first professor I met at Belmont. I was shy and anxious visiting Belmont’s campus for the first time, wandering and trying to see if I would belong at this beautiful school. He was immediately kind and welcoming to me and encouraged me that I would find a place at Belmont, particularly in the journalism program. He was my adviser freshman year and helped guide me toward success with every meeting we had. Although I ended up switching to the English major, I’d see Dr. Storey on campus from time to time and he was always excited to see me. He was excited for my future studies and writing endeavors even though I hadn’t seen him in a while. A couple months ago, he and his family visited the restaurant I work at, and I was overjoyed to see a familiar face from the journalism department. I made sure I was the hostess who sat him and his family because I wanted to say hi and make sure they were comfortable. Dr. Storey was happy to see me too, and even though it was a brief moment we shared together, I am thankful to have seen him one last time, spending time with his family, enjoying life.
Celida Salcedo, Student
Part of me does not know where to begin or how to process this as reality. Thom was a simple man. He wanted his students to call him by his first name and did not care about a title. I changed my mind about my minor again, and this time he will not be there to sign it or crack a joke about me changing something. In fall of 2016, he cancelled class to go play golf in honor of his one year in remission. This is heartbreaking and I did not see it coming but if I could say anything right now to him it would be, thank you Thom. Thanks for all of the wonderful experiences and for teaching us skills we could use beyond just a classroom.
Courtney Bellush, Student
I am absolutely heartbroken by the news of Thom’s passing. It’s crazy to lose such an influential and great man but I’m beyond blessed to have had Thom as a professor almost every single semester of my college career.
Thom Storey made my college career by not only being an inspiring and encouraging man, but by being somebody who would do absolutely anything in his power to help his students. My heart goes out to his wife and children. If our afterlife really is based on how we’re remembered, God has prepared an eternal kingdom in heaven for Thom.
Christiana Green, Student
Thom Storey was the first journalism professor I ever had at Belmont. I had Media Writing I with him. When I struggled with writing story proposals or with AP style, he helped me and gave me tips. Even more than that, he made me feel comfortable when I was uncomfortable with writing in a new way. That sounds like what a normal professor is supposed to do, but Thom never made me feel like I was wrong — he made it feel like I was still learning and I had potential. I felt like he saw the potential and never let me forget that I was capable. Thom Storey gave me a sense of what it would be like to be a true journalist, and he gave me the encouragement I needed to come out of my shell and go get what I wanted out of writing. I hope one day I can be even half the great reporter and, even more than that, the human that he was.
This isn’t much, but Thom really helped me my first semester and taught me way more than what was in the syllabus. I am praying for his family and friends, and it is devastating to hear this news.
Jade Cooper, Class of 2017
I met Thom Storey the spring before my freshman year. I didn’t know anything about him, but I immediately knew that I liked him. He was one of the reasons I chose to attend Belmont. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to study or where I wanted to go to school, but I was sure I wanted to learn from someone like him.
Thom taught me to be a better writer. He educated with both humor and passion, both expectation and understanding. He was a friend who insisted I give my best at all times, but who compassionately showed me the way to get there. I sought his advice often, listened to it always, and gained much from his perspective each time we met.
Thom taught me to have a zest for life and a readiness for adventure. He loved to talk about music and always had something to say about Bruce Springsteen or Van Morrison.
Thom taught me what it meant to sincerely display love. His eyes lit up at the mention of his wife, and he always wanted tips for planning the best vacation possible with her. He spoke proudly of his daughter. He fiercely loved her and it brought him immense joy to tell his students about how she was succeeding and navigating her college experience. Thom was calm, but his voice got a bit louder and a lot more joyful when he referenced his family.
Thom taught me how to encourage others by the way he encouraged me. He told me to take the new opportunities that came my way no matter how intimidating, meeting them with possibility rather than fear. He is responsible for many of the chances I’ve taken and for the paths his students have come to walk down after college. The faith he had in his students helped us to believe in ourselves and to take the next step, no matter how nervous we were of our footing.
The last time I saw Thom, I started to cry about the cancer, but he wouldn’t let me. Joking around to cheer me up, he told me everything would be fine. Thom never let his sickness defeat or define him. Instead, he was more vibrant and ready to meet each day than I’d ever seen him be before. That is why I will try my hardest to celebrate Thom’s life rather than to mourn his death or the cause behind it.
Instead, I will remember the smile he had on his face when I ran through the door late or spoke my mind bluntly in Media Ethics. I will honor Thom by continuing the kindness and passion he lived out each day. I will always celebrate Thom and the exceptional person he was with happiness because over the past four years, Thom Storey brought nothing but happiness to me. His joy was effortless, his heart was huge, and there will never be anyone quite like him.
Thank you, Thom, for everything.
Madison Blevins, Class of 2017
Out of all the “papers” I have written while being a student of Thom Storey, this is by far the most important one I have ever written. How do you put into words what kind of person Thom Storey was or the impact he made on you? I’m not sure I can put that into words, but I most certainly am going to try… because that’s what he deserves and — let’s be real — he liked everything in writing anyway.
When I was a freshman just starting at Belmont, I knew I wanted to work in sports media, but I didn’t really know what path I wanted to take. After sitting down with Rich Tiner, he mentioned I should talk to Thom, the chair of the media studies department at Belmont. I did, and I instantly became a big fan of him. He had this way of inspiring you to be better without even knowing it.
I ended up taking usually one class with him a semester. I keep picturing him walking around the corner and coming into class and instantly making some witty remark about something going on that day. He made all of his students feel inspired by his humor and dependability.
I cannot explain enough how every single classmate I had in class with Thom respected him to the utmost level. He challenged you and always maintained a level of positivity making you feel like you were about to write the best essay, story, case report, that you ever had written. Getting the “Thom stamp of approval” as a journalist was a big honor.
I was a member of the Belmont women’s basketball team, and Thom was one of our biggest fans. I’m not sure there were many games he didn’t watch and then come into class the next day and debrief the game with me. Thom was interested in seeing his students succeed outside of the classroom as well.
Last March (the March of my senior year) he asked me to be the student spokesperson at the NATPE Career Day at Belmont. I was honored that Thom considered me for this and I knew I had to do my very best because that’s what he deserved. Through this process I talked closely with over ten people from around the country in NATPE who spoke so highly about Thom as a journalist and Thom as an individual. He was so highly thought of all throughout the journalism world and I am the most thankful to have been one of his students. I will carry Thom’s insight and advice that he has given me the last 4.5 years with me throughout the entirety of my career and life. The mark Storey left on me extends well beyond the classroom, and I am so thankful to have had him as a mentor.
Ally Pace, Former student
My heart breaks for the Belmont community and for The Vision staff and writers at this time. Thom Storey was without a doubt one of the most inspirational and caring professors I have ever had and the heart and soul of the Media Studies Department. Walking into his office as terrified a transfer student, I was immediately put at ease with his kind words. I’ll never forget walking out of the first day of Media Ethics with Thom and calling my mom to tell her about the best class I had ever taken. Thom continued to be a source of comfort during stressful exam weeks and an advisor who truly wanted his students to succeed and pursue their passions without hesitation. I’ll never forget preparing to walk across the graduation stage in May and seeing a great big smile from Thom. My heart is with the Storey family, Dorren Robinson and the entire Media Studies department at Belmont.
Emily Proud, Former student
There are professors and mentors who give a memorable statement that carries you through your career, but I don’t have anything like that for Thom. I don’t have a moment I carry with me, but I have a feeling. He made me feel special and worthy. And, despite our vast age difference, he made me feel like a friend. That isn’t easy to do. We’re supposed to learn from our professors and take guidance from them, but I never felt like he was actively teaching or directing me (unless of course we were in a lecture). He made you feel ready without even telling you, you were. It’s something only a one-of-a-kind guy can pull off, and that was Thom. I can’t imagine how confusing the words I just wrote are to someone who has never met or been mentored by Thom, but to those who have, it should make perfect sense.
Katie Greene, Former student
There is something morbid and ironic about actually having to write about Thom Storey in past tense. For some reason, I am led to talk about the tragedy of him being struck by a driverless golf cart careening in his path to the Beaman to play racquetball. I’m sure somewhere above, he knows he got the last laugh, because that was something he was incredibly gifted at achieving.
You see, Thom possessed this uncanny ability to play devil’s advocate. A naive student would be so entranced by his festive Hawaiian print shirt they would forget how to articulate an argument…nodding politely, Thom would hear the student out, partially for his own entertainment, partially because he was a decent human. Then, he’d pounce with not just one alternative argument, but several. The sign of victory was displayed with a twinkle in his eye and a hearty laugh that highlighted his Tonawandan accent. (Go Bills!)
I saw this display time after time in his law and ethics classes, and would even be the recipient of case studies with bleeding margins. I would be furious, but also grateful that he cared enough to rip my work to shreds.
There is joy in being able to share the gift of other perspectives. And even though I am not a journalist by trade these days, it is Thom’s passion for telling a good story with accuracy and heart — giving that voice to voiceless that I’m carrying with me with fists clenched as I march on to graduate school for public health. It is my full intention to carry that glimmer in my eye and avoid those careening golf carts along the way.
Sarah Snyder, Class of 2007
To be an educator is to create something that lasts.
Thom Storey used his life to serve. To teach. To inspire. To remind us that journalism is a calling, an opportunity to defend our first amendment, and a privilege we cannot take lightly. He showed us what it meant to practice – not just good writing – but ethical and responsible journalism.
More than teaching us how to write copy, Thom taught us how to find and tell stories that give a voice to the voiceless, how to think critically, and how to hold the powerful accountable.
None of us know for how long God has us on this Earth, but each of us has a unique purpose and lives to touch along the way. Thom’s time here may seem short to us this side of Heaven, but he lived his life with character, giving much, and inspiring many.
Thom’s legacy is in the lives of the young students he trained to become journalists. I am one of them. I work now as an anchor/reporter at WBMA in Birmingham. I can say without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I am today without Thom and his Media Studies department team. He pioneered an incredible journalism program over three decades at Belmont. What a privilege it was to know him, to learn from him, and to remember him. God has blessed my life through his service. I am so thankful to have been his student.
Nick Yacovazzi, Former student
I am incredibly grateful to have worked with Thom during my time at the Belmont Vision, and for his breakthrough impact on my writing. My fondest memory of him was the night before the entertainment writing competition at SEJC in 2014. I remember sitting together in his hotel room in Lafayette, Louisiana, asking for advice on my submission. He passionately coached me on my content, and provided input on ideas I would have never thought to include. Because of his guidance, I placed 2nd in my category, and it served as the main catalyst towards my writing career. Thom was an upstanding ambassador to the journalism community who approached everything with integrity & objectivity, and I will miss him very much.
Amanda Stravinsky, Class of 2012, B.A. Journalism
Thom Storey was one of the beloved professors in the Media Studies Department at Belmont University. Since the department was so small, he reminded me of the fun uncle – the one who cracks jokes but whom also, when given a listen, shares wisdom and a whole lot of great stories. And, with Storey’s vast professional knowledge, he had a ton to tell.
He was a seeker of truth, and he taught his students to be seekers as well: to look at all sides of a story, to be fair, knowledgeable and make sure your words didn’t come with legal troubles in the real world.
He was always cheerful and had an open-door policy for his students and a knack for putting you at ease with every assignment, project and test. No challenge was too great, no story too big to handle, and no communication law course too difficult to understand.
He believed in you. He believed in all of us. That’s what made him so special.
And those sentiments didn’t stop when you graduated. When you had Thom once, you had him for life.
A forever champion, no matter where your career took you, whether to the newsroom or someplace else.
Though he’s physically gone, Thom Storey’s teachings in the classroom that were applicable to real life occupational situations, and the life lessons he taught us through his actions – to be kind, respectful, a seeker of truth – live on.
Annalise Kraus, Class of 2013
Thom Storey was a fundamental part of the Belmont family and an absolutely vital part of why I knew Belmont was going to be my home for four years back at summer orientation in 2009. I will never forget sitting in the computer lab as an incoming freshman listening to Thom explain what our undergraduate experience would have in store. He was one of the most well-spoken individuals I had ever met; full of energy, knowledge and life experiences which he willingly shared. He had a way about him that just made you feel comfortable. Like you were worth something and he saw all the potential you had before you even knew it was there.
That also being said, it’s weird to think of him as Professor Storey. Since day one, he has always been Thom. Even my roommates and friends who never even knew what he looked like, knew him by name. They knew Thom because of how important he was to my academic success. Thom was not my assigned advisor when I enrolled at Belmont. I actually requested to be switched to his advisee list. That, in all honesty, was probably the best decision I made in those four years. Thom knew where both my strengths and weaknesses lied. He overrode and found loopholes every semester to get me into situations to let my talents shine. He was incredibly supportive of my work while as an editor at the Vision and was always willing to stay late, come in early, or lend an ear when I needed it. He even volunteered, no questions asked, to be a part of our “Week at Belmont” Christmas music video one year. I took every class I could which was instructed by Thom. His dedication to his students made you want to show up to every class, ace every test, participate in class discussions and do everything you could to prove you were worthy of his passion and knowledge.
I’m still not sure where my religious beliefs lie, but I have no doubt some higher power aligned the fates for me this past fall to be able to say my last goodbye to Thom…
After leaving Belmont in May 2013, Thom always stayed in my heart and I sent good vibes his way especially when I found out he was battling cancer. I have been living overseas for the past few years and had the opportunity to come back to the United States this fall. Something was telling me I needed to make time for Belmont. I will never forget how incredibly perfect the weather was on that Tuesday in October. When I made my way over to the brand new Johnson Center, I was amazed at how much our little journalism family had moved up in the campus world. Immediately, my mind went to those essential professors who deserved this upgrade more than anyone…especially Thom. I knocked on his new office door and was told he was in the middle of a class and probably would not be back for another hour or two. I waited. You make time for Thom Storey. When I returned to his office, I asked if he remembered me (because I know he has had a lot of students and I did not expect him to remember all of us). Without hesitation, he says, “Of course I remember you, Annalise.”
He gave me a personal tour of the new facilities, and we strolled the hallways like old friends. He asked about my life and said he was proud of me. We also talked about how he had beaten cancer. And we both believed it. He was full of that same energy and sassy spunk we all know and love…just with a little more gray hair. We stopped at what he said was his new favorite spot before saying our goodbyes: a quiet little corner with a window, perfectly framing the Nashville skyline. As the sun shone through onto his face, I could tell he was at peace. We laughed and joked about how after all this time, he was “still here.” But the truth is, he always will be.
Hannah Hyde, B.A. Journalism, Class of 2013
There were two classes at Belmont that changed my life: Dr. Syb’s Covering Diverse Populations and Thom’s Media Ethics.
In each, we were taught more than how to write a newspaper article. We were taught how to craft a story with purpose and dignity. We were taught that every question and every word matters. We learned that the process of learning is never complete, and we were challenged to be better because of it.
I have been asked several times if I regret choosing to major in Journalism, mostly because I haven’t set foot in a newsroom since I graduated almost five years ago, and my answer is always the same: never.
That is completely due to Thom Storey and the community he created in what I used to affectionately refer to as Belmont’s “armpit” – if you were ever stuck working late nights in the editing bay in Gabhart after it had been raining all day, you know what I mean. Because of my three and a half years in the Journalism program at Belmont, I became a better writer, a better storyteller, a better artist, and a better version of myself.
Thom was a leader who challenged us with integrity, kindness, and his trademark wit. Even though it has been several years since I have seen him, I can still clearly picture him standing at the front of the classroom, wearing some hideous yellow and brown Hawaiian shirt, and playing devil’s advocate against every single one of our arguments in Ethics class.
Because, as my friend Annalise wrote above, “since day one, he has always been Thom.”
Tara Patterson, Class of 2013
Preview Day, 6:15 a.m. In a few hours, Belmont’s beautiful campus will be lit up in an almost-Disney perfection, but for now, the buildings are dark and the students are still asleep — it is Saturday, after all.
Most of my fellow Bruin Recruiters are headed for the kickoff meeting in the Curb, but I break away from the sea of standard-issue red polos and disappear up the stairs of the original Gabhart building (I understand there’s a new state-of-the-art Media Studies building now, which is wonderful and sorely needed and also too bad. I always felt like I was part of a secret society going up that staircase).
Up here in our little journalism hideaway, the lights are already on. Thom Storey is using a few choice words to coax an ancient projector into functioning.
I smile at the sight and adopt my best extra-cheerful voice to wish him good morning — partly because I’m pumping myself up for the day, mostly because I know he hates it.
“Jeez, it’s too early for that much energy.”
“You’re here before me.”
“Yeah, but at least they pay me.”
“Do they pay extra if you get here at sunrise?”
He scoff-laughs in that raspy tone — even now I can hear it — and says with trademark sarcasm, “It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.”
I know better. I watched Thom at so many of these Preview Days during my time at Belmont. He was absolutely in his element as he recruited the next generation of Bruin journalists.
He’d reassure the worried parents that majoring in journalism didn’t necessarily mean their kid would have to live in the basement after graduation — that line always got some nervous laughs.
He’d convince every potential music business major in the room to keep our little club above the Caf in mind just in case their dreams of stardom didn’t work out — more nervous laughter.
He was cynical but charming, world-worn but witty — everything an old-school journalism professor should be, he delivered for prospective Bruins and their parents.
He didn’t have to do that, but he did. Those of us lucky enough to have him as a professor know that’s just who he was. I will miss him so much.
Jeannette Ceja, Class of 2008
There are not enough words that can express my appreciation and gratitude for Thom Storey. He was more than a professor. Thom was a friend and later became like family. His support and belief in my writing propelled my own belief in myself. And I was honored to have been one of his students. Recently, I had the chance to speak at one of his Journalism classes. I am so honored to have known Thom. He’s one of the greatest and inspirational people I have met. My deepest condolences and prayers to his family.
Greta Hollar, Former student
Thom Storey was so much more than a professor or advisor I had during my time at Belmont. He was a friend, mentor and someone I could always turn to when I needed advice or words of wisdom. One of my favorite memories of Thom was graduation day. It was a long road getting there, with many hours spent in Thom’s office trying to figure out what path I wanted to take in my journalism career. I remember walking across the stage and seeing Thom looking at me with the biggest smile and two thumbs up. He was the biggest cheerleader for his students. Your wins were his wins. He will be missed, and the halls of Belmont won’t feel the same without him.
This page will be updated as we receive more tributes.
Patten Fuqua, Class of 2003, Current Grad Student
Thom was supposed to go to London with us last summer but had to cancel for a “personal reason”.
Unfortunately, I now know what that reason was.
Oddly, the first assignment Thom gave in the first class I had with him consisted of writing his obituary. I don’t remember what I wrote or what he said or even what comical reason he gave for his demise. What I do remember is that I apparently did well enough that he turned my obituary into a transparency and showed the class. This moment was the first time I ever received any sort of encouragement for my writing. Any time I get discouraged about writing, I go back to this one moment when my professor that I barely knew thought I wrote well enough to show everyone.
Whenever a course was offered and Thom was the listed professor, I took it. He was my advisor and my favorite professor.
Most importantly, he never stopped encouraging me. In 2010, seven years since I had last seen him, I received a “Good work!” from Thom in response to a blog post I had written.
Professors like Thom who encourage my dreams are why I returned to Belmont to get my Masters. As I mentioned, he was one of the professors that was supposed to be a part of the study abroad trip to London I participated in last year. I still have texts to some of my friends about my master plan to traipse around England with him. When we went to a pre-departure meeting before Thom dropped out of the trip, he was there and I made sure to say hello to him. I’m not entirely sure he remembered me – he hadn’t seen me in over ten years and I imagine he’s had thousands of students in his time at Belmont. Nevertheless, when I told him I was getting my Masters in English, he told me, “You’ll do great.”
Dr. Andrei Richter, Professor, Vienna and Moscow
Thom was one of the kindest and most humble persons I ever met.
We met in 1992 when he and Dean Simmons, who also died early in his life, led a Belmont group of faculty and students to Russia, a trip which will start a once popular exchange program with Moscow State University. I was part of a two-member Russian team to meet them – physically – at the border stop in Brest and then proceed to Minsk and Moscow and St. Petersburg. The journey was memorable for all: hotels were cold, stations packed, tickets unavailable, services non-existent. But there was huge excitement for them of opening new terrains and for us of sharing our culture and history.
Next year I became the first and last visiting professor from the Moscow State University at Belmont. There we became friends, co-teaching a class, playing basketball early mornings, hanging around at the Belmont Vision and the Bongo Java coffee place, doing a kayaking trip in his van to Georgia, playing together with my 6-year old daughter, Anya.
His happiness of having his own daughter, sometime later, was immense. I hope Thom’s love would help Madison, whom I never met, overcome this loss.
Thom stayed a friend, he spoke in my media law class in Moscow and once he drove all way to see me and Anya in Missouri. We shared wine, cigarettes, jokes and many deep thoughts, often sad ones.
I always wanted to come back to Belmont. Now, almost 25 years after I left it, then hugged by Thom and Rob Simmons, there is no reason to return. In fact, there is no return, such a pity…
Sam Cowan, Former Vision Sports Editor, Class of 2016
Thom Storey was everything a professor should be and so much more, He was engaging, insightful, witty and always ready to listen to the students who he taught and mentored.
When I had him for Communication Law and Media Ethics, I would look forward to every class because I knew we would learn something vital to the journalistic process and have fun doing it.
I could also always count on Thom to have his door open for a brief chat about the curriculum or about a recent news story which peaked my interest.
Thom was a vital part of the foundation for many including myself at Belmont and he did an incredible job in running the department. He inspired me and helped to shape me into the writer I am today and I will be forever thankful for that.
He will not soon be forgotten in my mind or in the mind of the alumni who passed through the journalism department under his watch.
Kirk Bado, Former Vision Editor, Class of 2017
I received my first call about Thom Storey’s obituary when I was a sophomore working for the Vision.
It was one of his favorite and most important assignments for Media Writing. He would tell his students he had died, give them about 20 minutes to ask me some background questions but then they would have a week to write a suitable obituary for him. This scared the hell out of his younger students because they were forced to pick up the phone (gasp!) and talk to people.
Current Vision staffers would get calls, former students in the workforce would get a frantic 11th hour Facebook message asking for a quote and old Tennessean friends would find a polite email from a Belmont student seeking comment on Thom’s life and legacy. The assignment was a bit macabre, but it forced students to get out of their comfort zone and see what they could do.
That was Thom’s gift to his students; constantly challenging them to push their limits, finding that they can reach a little further than they once thought. But now that assignment isn’t an assignment anymore. Thom Storey has passed away and students have lost a mentor.
Thom was a consummate teacher, mentor, and friend to everyone he encountered. It didn’t matter if the student was taking his journalism class because they had a free hour or it was a student who wanted to make a career out of it, Thom would make sure they walked away having learned an important lesson.
When I was working for the Vision and screwed up (which was often), Thom would make sure to remind me that I was a student, still learning the trade and mistakes would happen. I just had to make sure I learned from them for next time, he would remind me. When I would have a success (which was less often) he would make sure I appreciated the work I put into the reporting. Thom always gave us the proper framing for any lesson. If I ever got too worked up over a story, he would make sure to calm me down and look at the big picture.
That was the hidden lesson in Thom’s obit assignment. It was not just his new students who got a crash course in how influential a man he was in so many lives but former students were given the gift of perspective. We were able to look back at how he impacted all of us. We showed appreciation by sharing a story, a lesson or even a video of Thom in a Santa hat and sunglasses jamming in the Gabhart office. It was our version of a “thank you” card.
Whenever I got the call from a student asking for a quote, I would tell them I am a better journalist, a better student, and a better person for having Thom Storey touch my life. I thought of all the ways he made me ask questions, do no harm and defend my work. I had the same reaction when the call wasn’t a pretend assignment anymore this week. I bet hundreds of others who knew him can say the same.
Olivia Baker, Class of 2017
As many other have already stated, Thom Storey had an amazing impact on my life.
When I first came to Belmont to tour the university, I was convinced I was going to end up elsewhere. But as the potential future Bruins were divided up for prospective majors, I found my way into the journalism department.
Before the beautiful new dining and academic center, the journalism department was tucked away in dark corners of Gabhart. Although it may not have been as beautiful to look at, I was inspired by the passion and heart of the man explaining the department. He was someone I felt genuinely wanted to see all of his students succeed.
Thom was the reason I ended up at Belmont in the first place. As a media studies student I had my fair share of classes with him. I did my best not to miss a single one. From Media Ethics to Communication Law, Thom shared his wisdom and engaged with his students. He inspired me and so many others to do our best work.
When my time at Belmont was coming to a close, I was so conflicted about where my future would lead me. Then one day, always trying to help a student out, Thom mentioned a former student of his was looking to hire a qualified graduate in media studies. After two interviews, granted due to Thom’s recommendation, I found an amazing position in a field I am passionate about right before graduation.
As we all lined up for our graduation procession, down the hall walked Thom. He stopped for all of his students, making jokes and congratulating us on our accomplishment. From the beginning to the end, he was there for me and for many—cheering us on and making us laugh.
Thank you Thom.
Skip Anderson, Class of 1994, Journalist, Former ‘Vision’ Business Manager/Assistant Editor
Thom deftly walked the fine line between being a mentor who held his students to high standards while also being a friend. I was a student when he came up short time and again before finally winning the Cheney Distinguished Professor Award, at long last shedding the moniker of the Susan Lucci of Belmont University. He took pride in my work as a student and toasted me at my graduation party — my family was rightly impressed! He kept in touch, too, after graduation, taking pride in my moderately successful — but continuing! — career in journalism, recommending students for internships at a weekly Nashville paper I served as managing editor of for a few years. We rafted the Ocoee River together, and drank a few beers over the years. He brought me back five pounds of his favorite link hot dogs in a cooler all the way from Buffalo, NY. We had lunch together on 9/11 and tried to gauge how much our world would fall in the wake of those iconic twin towers. He and his former spouse Diana brought their then-infant daughter Madison to a pool party that another former student of his and Vision design director, Alex Brown, and I threw at a residential pool off West End. They were so proud when their daughter, sun hat and all, took her first splash in a pool that day. And I was proud he was my friend. My condolences go out to all who love Thom. We lost a good man today.
Tyler Clemmons, Class of 2008, Mass Communication
I always felt like if I were a professor, I would be like Thom. In actuality, that’s more of a wish or hope than anything grounded in reality. Drier than a winter night in Arizona, with that smirk – that smirk I’ve already seen multiple people mention – that let you know just exactly who was the quickest wit in the room, Thom Storey comprised somewhere in the neighborhood of probably 30% of my major-specific classes. On more than one occasion, he’d see me roll in the first day of classes for a MWF, then back again the next day for a TR.While every student loves having the college professor with unwavering wit, Thom’s serious side outshined any gift of levity he may have had. He pushed me to be the best student and communicator I could be, while exhibiting a level of compassion that exemplified the teaching spirit of Belmont as a whole.There are endless examples that I and so many others can point to in an attempt to express the impact that this great man had on us, but this is my favorite: Thom taught me (literally) the difference between doing the right thing in a legal gray area versus doing the right thing in a moral gray area, and more importantly how to defend the stance whatever that may be. If I never work in the media another day in my life, those are skills I can take and apply to any facet of any field in life.I am heartbroken to hear of his passing and hope for comfort in the coming times for his family. Thom was an absolute classic.
Matt Matoh, Class of 2015, Journalism
The irony of writing a remembrance of Thom will not be lost on any student who was fortunate enough to take his Media Writing I class, in which all students were asked to prepare a eulogy of/for him. And for my fellow journalism majors, you’ll agree that there was no “burying the lede” when it came to Thom Storey the man. What you saw was what you got.
Simply put, I cannot think of a more sincere, kind, or joyful person in my time at Belmont. Thom was my advisor for four years as an undergrad, and my professor for countless journalism courses and I can honestly say I never saw him in a bad mood. If he had bad days, you sure wouldn’t be able to tell. I’ll always remember Thom for his oversized Hawaiian shirts, the stack of binders and papers at his hip walking into class, and most of all his willingness to go above and beyond for all of his students in any way that he could. Thom was a leader by example and encouragement to all students who were lucky enough to take one of his classes, none moreso than myself.
Andie Rice, Class of 2015, Journalism
It feels just like yesterday when I was assigned to write Thom’s “obituary” as a freshman in his Media Writing I class. Six years later, and I can’t believe I’m writing about his actual passing.
I think Thom was actually the first professor I met at Belmont. He was my advisor and I remember sitting with him and my parents in the media lab discussing what classes I should take. I was so excited he would be one of my professors; I liked him the first time I met him.
Thom continued to be my teacher, nearly every semester, and when I look back on my undergraduate career his classes were my favorites. I joke that my biggest claim to fame is getting published in Houseboat Magazine, which I owe to Thom. He continually supported and pushed me to be a better writer. He never made you feel like your writing or work was inadequate, he made you feel empowered. Even on days I doubted myself as a writer, he made me feel that I was in exactly the right place.
When I emailed Thom about a year after I graduated, to hear about the new building, I couldn’t believe he had been battling cancer. I was relieved when he told me, however, that he was doing fine. When I received the email yesterday about his passing, I was shocked to say the least. It’s hard to imagine a world knowing he’s not in the journalism department, teaching and writing away (and making use of his red pen!).
Thom will be truly missed, but never forgotten. I am so thankful and consider myself lucky to have been one of his students for four years. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and the Belmont community.
Emily Swan, Class of 2016
Thom Storey walked me through my four years as a journalism major, guiding me every step of the way. I met him on my first tour of Belmont. He helped me register for my first semester of classes, taught me in many of my classes and served as my advisor all the way through to the end.
For a shy, young girl moving to a new city, I had no idea if I had the courage to pursue a degree in journalism. I had no idea what to expect. But from the very beginning, Thom supported me, encouraged me and respected me, ensuring I had all the tools I needed to be successful in college and beyond. He and the other journalism professors helped me step out of my comfort zone to pursue a passion I didn’t even know I had. I will forever be grateful to him, not only for his role in my education, but also for his belief in me.
I recall the classes I took with him, from my first year seminar to media ethics and communication law. His insights and his sense of humor kept all of his students engaged, and it was clear how invested he was in his students. He never slowed down. Even after his diagnosis, he maintained strong personal relationships with his students and advisees, offering advice and assistance in any way he could.
In my memory, the Belmont journalism department is Thom Storey. Thom Storey was an incredibly intelligent, insightful and dedicated professor, who had a knack for bringing out the best in all of his students. His vision has made Belmont a better place, and his spirit lives on in the journalism department and the students he mentored.
He will be dearly missed.
Thom was one of the first people I met when our family moved to the area in the summer of 2001. He joined the board of a small nonprofit that I was forming at the time and served as President of that board a couple of times. His leadership was paramount to that organization taking off and being able to make the impact that it has made for people with disabilities through the arts across the State of TN. In the summer of 2016, Thom and his wife attended the 15th anniversary of the organization he helped to start and he made mention that he would like to return to the Board. However, by the fall he declined due to a return of cancer. The organization was VSA TN, but it now known as Borderless Arts Tennessee. Thom was such a blessing to our group in so many ways. He was personally a great sounding board as I was trying to form this organization, teach full time, and raise a family in a new state. I will be eternally grateful to him and am saddened at his passing.
Richard Sowienski, Associate Professor and Publishing Program Director
Like so many others, Thom hired me into the Media Studies Department. As the newest hire, I’ve only known Thom for four years, and yet his relaxed and friendly personality made me feel as if I had known him for many, many years. His door was always open, and he was always open to any question I might have or any out-of-the-box (crazy?) idea for our new Publishing program. His advice was gentle, pragmatic, and supportive. As all my colleagues have indicated, he was the glue in the department, making this disparate group feel like family. And as a family we mourn this great loss.
Anna Lanning, Student
My time with Thom was brief. I first met him in the summer of 2016. It was July 7 to be exact. I remember thinking how lucky I was to get the chair of the Media Studies Department as my advisor for the next few years at Belmont – the man who enhanced Journalism and turned it into the academic environment it is now – but I never knew the impact one semester could have.
Our first encounter was in his office. I saw him sitting at his desk when I walked in for our course schedule meeting. I knocked on the frame of the open door, smiling I might add, to make a good first impression. He peeped up, grinned at me and waved me in saying hello.
There I was, all 5 feet 9 inches of me, standing next to a man who was at least 4 inches or more-shorter than me. I felt quite awkward due to the fact that it came as a surprise to me, but I soon gained relief seeing how his contagious personality made up for the inches. At first, I assumed he, like my other advisors in the past, only wanted to get my schedule finished and assign me classes so they could go on with their life. Surprisingly, he actually cared about my input on what I wanted. He learned my interests and dislikes concerning my major and what surrounded it. It was the first time a professor had really gotten to know me for who I was as a person and writer, not as another name in the gradebook.
We sat in his office, the one with the beautiful corner view in Johnson that overlooked the lawn and campus. I remember stating how pretty it was outside and he responded with a sly joke as to how he had the best view on campus because he could see who cuts across the lawn, but he’d never tell. I laughed and immediately knew the two of us would get along just fine. He asked if I would like to see the media department and all the different classrooms that I’d be working in at the start of the year. Of course, I said yes, with pure excitement. I saw the green screen room, the audio/video workshop, the Vision newspaper – where I hoped to work – and the multitude of others. I then started thinking to myself about how many other professors would take time out of their busy day to do this, which is slim none. Right from the jump it was different.
From then on out, Thom was someone I saw every week. I not only had him for my first class of the day on MWF classes, but he was also my last class of those days, too. I was in his Media Writing 1 and Media Ethics class this past fall semester, but little did I know I would have the greatest opportunity to be the final one he taught. On the first day, I remember him mentioning how he battled cancer in the past, but he gave us students a glimpse of relief saying there wasn’t any need to worry because he only required a few more treatments, then he could be on his road to healing as a survivor. I felt such a joy at that time for Thom because I could see him radiate with positivity. He then began to speak about his life and his journey. Where he came from. Where he was going. His family and loved ones. How he ended up in Nashville and at Belmont. He let us learn about who Thom was as a person, not just as the professor.
Now I used to think I could write decently. I knew I wasn’t a next in-line Shakespeare, but I had knack for words. How they formed on paper, in my mind and how they arose together to create something worth reading. At the time, I didn’t have much confidence in the material I would muster up. I frequently doubted myself and got discouraged. For a long while, I never had a craving to pursue what I wanted, not until this past year. He helped me turn my journalism world upside-down.
I gained a type of knowledge from Thom that no one else ever taught me or knew how to unlock for me. He knew how to realistically put my surroundings and ideas to good use. He pushed me to form skills I never thought I could. He challenged me to enhance my writing through the many good and bad stories I turned in to his desk. He gave me feedback, notes, examples and vivid outlooks on how to format my stories from plain Jane to material that could actually be impactful to the people around me, but the one I’m most thankful for is the grace he presented. He never looked down on me. He never made me feel inadequate to my peers if I seemed to misunderstand. He always made sure to let me know he was there to help me see the bigger picture, even when it wasn’t clear to me. In my opinion, he truly did pave the way at Belmont for students and faculty to learn from his media expertise.
At the end of the semester, Thom promptly told my class that he recently became ill over Thanksgiving break and stayed at Vanderbilt Hospital for a majority of the time where they discovered the cancer he once defeated, came back. He tried to retain modest about his situation and be cheerful for the sake of his students. My heart dropped to my toes and I could feel my eyes beginning to well-up with tears. I knew from then on out that the few weeks we had left with Professor Storey were precious. On the last day of class, I walked out saying goodbye and Merry Christmas to his joyful smile. I will never forget the impression Professor Storey left on me.
This born and raised New Yorker loved the south. He loved cracking wise jokes from his dry sense of humor and he especially loved Hawaiian button up shirts. He reminded me of my dad in a way. I think that’s one part of why we got along so well. He was always kind-eyed and carried himself as if he had no cares in the world except to be happy. Not to forget, he always ended his major points in class with the one worded statement, “okay”.
Thank you Thom Storey. You were a tenacious man. You were humbly passionate. You wanted others to find a love for the art of writing and reporting. You worked tremendously for what you wanted and knew how to get things finished. Your capacity of knowledge led you to unlimited opportunities throughout your career, and only at just 62 years old. You accomplished a vast majority of goals many wouldn’t dream of in their lifetime. You were placed purposefully on the path in my life to unlock the writer I know I can be. I only wish I would’ve gotten the opportunity – that many other previous students did – to be able to gain advice from you years after Belmont, to be able to call and ask for guidance on an ethical issue in a newspaper, or just to share a memorable laugh with. I will forever be grateful for knowing the one and only Thom Storey. May his legacy live on forever.
Katie Pratt, Class of 2006, Journalism
Ever since I first heard about Thom I’ve been trying to think of something to say that would be a worthy tribute to him. I don’t know if I have it, but here it goes.
First off, Thom put his hometown of North Tonawanda, New York, on the map for me. I assume that everyone there looks like him, is related to him and has his personality – sarcastic and blunt with a twisted sense of humor.
All of my Belmont journalism classes and professors challenged me in one way or another, but I remember Thom’s classes were some of the hardest. I remember questioning more than once if I really wanted to be a journalist as I limped through his Basic Newswriting class as a freshman. When I passed, figured I could do it because if I could make it through that, I could make it through anything. A few years later, my then-law school-bound friend April offered me future legal representation for when I “got my ass sued” as professional journalist after I got a less-than-stellar grade in his Communications Law class.
Thom was also fair, and Thom cared. He was a great encourager and cheerleader for his students. Thom got me my first paying gig as a journalist, working as a writer for Golfer’s Tee Times magazine when I was a sophomore. He saw something in me that at the time I don’t know if I saw in myself.
You didn’t want to disappoint him, and I still do not want to now—hence why it took me most of the week to write this.
It’s an absolute shame future journalism students won’t get to know and learn from Thom. Belmont lost a gem his passing. RIP Thom!
Photos courtesy of Caroline Storey, Satine Ogandzhanyan and Belmont’s Office of Communications