THOMAS FRANCIS XAVIER COLE died on February 17, 2016, in his home in Somerville, Massachusetts, of an apparent heart attack. A devoted Harvard alum, former Reunion Co-Chair, Tom was a man for all seasons with an insatiable hunger for knowledge, fine food, friendship, and music. The son of Frank J. and Irene T. (Pion) Cole, he was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, on February 5, 1958, and prepared at Auburn (MA) High School. At Harvard, he was a resident of Quincy House and a tuba player in the Harvard University Band, the Squeeze Play Band, and the Jazz Band. He received his AB, cum laude in history and literature, with our Class. He first worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Works and then later the consulting firm of Temple, Barker & Sloane, before finding his place in the newspaper industry in 1983 as a copyeditor with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. He later moved out of the newsroom and into digital ventures as the director of marketing and new media, before joining the Boston Globe, in 2005, where he focused on news media strategy, business development, and execution. As executive director of business development at the Globe, he played a role in the paper’s deciding to charge readers for some online content and assisted the producers of the movie Spotlight.
After his mother died of pancreatic cancer, Tom helped found and lead the Pancreatic Cancer Alliance, a grassroots organization supporting pancreatic cancer research and treatment at UMass Medical School. He was a talented photographer, an interest that began with photographing his wife, Elizabeth, as she raced with the Somerville Road Runners, and a creative chef who spent years collecting and perfecting his recipes. He remained involved in the Harvard community as a devoted alumnus, serving as president of the Harvard-Radcliffe Club of Worcester from 1998 to 2000, a member of the Thirtieth Reunion committee, and as co-chair of the Thirty-fifth Reunion committee. Tom was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Cooney; two sons, Benjamin and Daniel; two brothers, Michael and Frank; and two sisters, Judith Jones and Mary Beth Curnen.
Wayne Forester writes:
Tom and I met on the first day of Dorm Crew in September 1976 and remained friends ever since. We became roommates for the two years after Harvard, living in a flat in Porter Square (right next to the Star Market) above and during subway construction.
Tom passed away suddenly, months before the 2016 election. While he would have been mortified at the result, it really wouldn’t have surprised him and much like late-night talk show hosts, he would have relished all the conundrums these past four years have served up. Straddling the town/gown divide with aplomb, he would express this keen insight with wicked sarcasm and wit. Maybe that’s what I miss most about Tom; he would have made the past four years a little easier to deal with. Exhausted fuming at Facebook trolls, I really want to call Tom up and ask him, “can you believe what this chucklehead said….?”
Tom had recently retired from the Boston Globe and was embarking on his next chapter. His kids, Ben and Dan, were grown up and living in Brooklyn and he was embracing a new physical fitness that involved biking to work and supporting his wife Liz in her blossoming marathon running and racing. I am so saddened that none of us got to read that next chapter.
Charlie Baker writes:
Tom loved planning and helping lead our 35th and it is with sadness I think of him missing our 40th. I grew up with Tom in the smallish Central Massachusetts town of Auburn and we were close friends from the time we were in elementary school. As kids we would play in the neighbors’ cornfields ( yes I can now admit we and our friends built the corn maze in the Hillcrest fields) , dammed up the streams in the woods, and made a horror film in an abandoned rural cemetery on a farm road. It was a different time.
My parents and Tom’s were best friends and it was hard for my folks to see Tom’s dad Frank at his son’s funeral. Tom, like me spent some time in state government and politics but quickly decided he was destined for the newspaper business. First, at our local paper the Worcester Telegram & Gazette where he became an Editor and the at the Boston Globe when both papers were owned by the Times. At the Globe he was an early pioneer in the digital media and content space.
Ironically, Tom had taken a buy-out and retired shortly before our 35th. He had taken up serious biking and running ( with Liz -an avid marathoner) and was enjoying life. That life was too short.