Remembering Tom Costello, beloved teacher and colleague


The Department of Communication lost a beloved colleague and longtime teacher when Tom Costello passed away on April 15, 2020. Tom taught decades of University of Illinois students, and was especially influential in the lives of our undergraduate majors. While many across Champaign-Urbana will remember Tom for how he made life better for everyone in this community, we remember him best as the funny, engaging, supportive, and often wonderfully irreverent colleague who devoted himself to teaching students not only how to be good communicators, but also good people. We will miss him dearly. You may read his full obituary here.

One way we can remember and celebrate Tom is to do something he did so well: tell stories. We invite you to share below your reminiscences of Tom and stories about his impact on you as a teacher. We will collect and share your comments with Tom's family in time. (Illini, don't forget to sign your comment with your name and graduation year.)


Professor Costello always made sure to go as above and beyond as possible for his students. It always seemed like a class would not go by without him making sure that we were learning something valuable rather than just memorizing facts. He really cared about each student's success.

Mr. Costello was my instructor during my last semester at UIUC. He taught my CMN 211 Business and Professional Speaking. At first, I was uncomfortable with his way of teaching as he always pushed me to do things like making phone calls to schedule meeting with him and start the conversation with "Hi Mr.Costello, I am your favorite student Qianyu..."LOL. When every instructor was trying their best not to make us international students uncomfortable, he did the opposite way. However, I am very grateful for what he did. With his instruction, I learned so much about public speaking and those skills I got from his class. I still apply them to my presentation today. When my parents visited the campus for my graduation, he invited them to sit in the class and meet with them. I said that they did not know much English while he replied: “yes, but you could translate for them.” Eventually, he met with my parents and had a pretty good conversation despite the language gap. And he also provided very constructive advice for my graduation trip with my parents, especially for where to eat. I am still very grateful until today for what he did for me. It was very emotional and grief for me to hear about this heartbreaking news. I am very sorry for his family and our university's loss. This might be quite a broken message, but I am more than griefing to hear about his leave and will always remember his humor and kindness. I hope that he could rest in peace. Again, thank you for everything, Mr. Costello.

Professor Costello had a huge impact on my life and is one of the main reasons I was able to stay on track and graduate from UofI. His lessons were not just for the classroom, but were fundamental building blocks for life. I can tell you that over 10 years later, I still use his direction both professionally and personally on a daily basis. I am sending my condolences to his family - he was not only a wonderful professor but an all-around stand up guy.

I am very saddened to hear these news. During my time at UIUC I took a communication class with Professor Costello following an advice of a friend who had attended his class a year before. This advice was a golden one. Never a dull moment, funny, engaging, memorable, eye opening, educating- these are only a few words I can think of going back in time a decade ago. I learned a lot and I am grateful he taught at the time when I was a student there. Thank you for your lessons, Professor. My sincere condolences to your family.

I was lucky enough to have Mr. Costello as a Professor my last semester at Illinois for Business Communication. I always looked forward to this class because you never knew what was in store. Mr. Costello had such a spirit about him that always created surprises in class to keep the students on the edge of their seats. I can honestly say I laughed every class because of his wit and amazing sense of humor. I learned so much in my short time with Mr. Costello that I will carry in to my future. He was an amazing professor and an even more incredible person, his legacy is one to be remembered.

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of such a genuine person. Mr. Costello was my professor for Public Speaking when I was a scared undergrad. He pushed me to overcome my fears in an unconventional, but rewarding, teaching strategy. Since then, I have moved onto a graduate program where I teach public speaking, and I often try to incorporate his teaching methods. I owe a great deal to him and my time in his class. May his memory live on!

Professor Costello was larger than life. He was hilarious, smart as a whip, encouraging, and truly embodied the spirit of leadership. He made going to class so enjoyable. As someone who usually detested 8am classes, I found myself arriving 10-15 minutes early just to chat with him. He was truly the most impactful instructor I’ve ever had, I’m so thankful that I was a student of his for that short semester. It pains me to think that I will no longer be able to exchange ‘hello’ with him in the halls of Lincoln Hall. My heart goes out to his family, he was truly an amazing man and touched so many lives!

“I want each of you to know that my goal for you is success. That is defined in whatever way you choose to define it.”

Costellos words in the last email he sent to us, two weeks ago, Sunday. He was a man who deeply cared for his students, and the most personable professor I have ever had in my education career. I had the honor to be his student during my last semester of college. A professor and so much more, a beautiful person on the inside an out, an individual who only wanted everyone surrounding him to succeed. I will deeply miss him and the wise words he had to say in class about everything, whether that regarded public speaking advice or life advice for our futures. Costello's class was never dull, there was something new he had to share with us every day. I went to class each day excited to learn, participate, and share my thoughts, because he made us all feel so comfortable to share ideas in class. Costello will never be forgotten in this UIUC community.

Mr. Costello was an inspiring professor, person and mentor. I was lucky enough to both be a student in his Business Communication class, along with his teaching assistant the following year for one of his Communication 101 classes. Through his teaching style and attitude, it was obvious how much he enjoyed his job and cared for his students. He never failed to come into each class with a smile and tell funny stories that could put anyone in a good mood. I remember in one of my first Business Communication classes he taught us one of his key phrases for life- "don't be a jerk", which made us all laugh yet I still remember it to this day. Mr. Costello taught us more than just communication content, but also lessons and stories that would benefit us in the long run. It was an honor to know him and work with him these past 2 years and he will be greatly missed.

Mr Costello was an amazing professor. Although challenging at times, he really pushed me and his other students to do the best possible work we could. Because of him, I believe I am a better public speaker, which will help me not only in my future career but life in general. He always made sure the class had fun as well, such as dressing up as a shark on Halloween or bringing in treats or simply joking around. Mr Costello was a great figure in the U of I community and will be missed.

Very sorry to hear of the passing of Professor Costello. I can't say that I have thought of Professor Costello in a long time, and I am sad to be reminded of him in this way, but it brought back some very important memories. Although the memories are now a little hazy, I can really thank Professor Costello for having a large impact on my life. He wouldn't recall me from a hill of beans, but his CMN 101 class and specifically the Professor himself helped me become comfortable at the U of I, and without that I don't know what the future would have been like. I can recall him giving us a tour of the football stadium (that was a BIG deal) and inviting us to hus house for dinner (I was homesick at the time), along with improving our public speaking (big part of my career now), and general great advice on how to be a good student and to succeed at the U of I. He really was the type of person that we think about when we talk about people who make the world better, and he did it by just being a friend and kind person. Condolences to his family, and cheers to a life well lived.

I am truly heartbroken about this news. Professor Costello was the most genuine and knowledgeable professor that I have had the privilege to learn from. He cared so deeply for his students and had a lasting impact on us all. All he wanted was for us to learn from him and succeed in meeting our personal goals, and he always knew how to keep us engaged through jokes or personal anecdotes. He would never shy away from speaking his mind and was such a wise, thoughtful, kind and light-hearted man that saw the best in all of his students. Whether it was dressing up as a shark for halloween, providing donuts for the class, or going off on a random yet hilarious tangent, he always had us leaving the class in a better mood than before. My thoughts are with his family and friends and all of the lives he impacted both on and off campus. He really is going to be missed by so many. We love you Costello!!

Coming from such a small town of 10,000 to a college with more than double the amount, I didn’t think I would ever get the chance to really know one of my professors the way I did with Costello. He had a way of making every single student feel as if they truly mattered and showed us that we are all capable of anything we put our minds to. He pushed us to not only better ourselves as students but a people. I will never forget his rules in the classroom, my favorite was “Don’t be a jerk”. He & his wife were the sweetest, welcoming us into their home & making us dinner this winter. Just very amazing people all around. He truly had a heart of gold.

Professor Costello was one of the first people to make me feel at home at UIUC. His impact on my freshman year is best summarized in a letter I wrote on his behalf when he won the campus teaching award in 2014. A small excerpt from that letter:

"Professor Costello’s knowledge of and experience with public speaking make him exceptional. But it is his great passion coupled with the meaningful connection he establishes with each student makes him one of a kind. I am sure other professors have equally impressive accomplishments on paper, but I doubt any have been as influential in as many ways as Professor Costello. For this, he deserves the highest honors the University of Illinois has to offer."

“The better good for all is also the better good for you” is just one of Tom Costello’s Reasonable Rules. I was truly blessed to have been taught by Professor Costello. He was the best teacher I have ever had. He truly cared for each and everyone one of students. Not only did he care for us, but he wanted the best for each and every person he taught. I looked up to him as a mentor and a leader. Even though my time with him was cut short I learned so much and will use the advice he gave me for the rest of my life. Also, I want to add that my mother was also a student of Tom’s and that was something we talked about often. He was a great guy and a true leader in today’s world. Tom did so much for everyone and I will never forget him. Sending my thoughts and prayers.

Mr. Castello was a really great teacher. I could tell through the way that he taught and cared about our class that he was one of the few teachers that actually cared about the students and wanted each and everyone of them to improve. Although I was only with him for a semester, it was probably one of the rougher parts of my life and through it all his class was one that I truly enjoyed and gave me hope for the future. I really think that going through a semester of classes with him not only made me a better speaker but also a better person. He definitely made an impact in my life, and I'm sure many others, I will never forget him and what I've learned from him. I'm truly sorry for your loss.

I had the pleasure of knowing Tom Costello as a faculty colleague. Just one story: So Rose appears in a newspaper ad for a local department store (Robeson’s). Tom’s take? “Hey, I’m married to a model!”

Costello was such an unbelievable person and professor. I was lucky to know him, learn from him, and look up to him. Every day when I came to class he made me smile. His spiffy outfits, stories, and dad jokes would brighten my day. It was evident that he genuinely cared about all of his students. When social distancing started, Zooming with Costello every Tuesday and Thursday morning became the highlight of my weeks. His emails to us sending a picture of his face saying "in case you forgot what I looked like while you were on break" or just reaching out to wish us all a Happy Passover/Easter and to extend his regards to our families, really helped me personally get through this rough time. I loved talking to him about my oatmeal I was eating for breakfast while on Zoom in front of the entire class. He would always say how much he hated oatmeal and then would ask how my family is doing. I think of him during every interview and know he is standing right there on my shoulder. I can hear his voice in my head telling me not to use filler words and to "stop, think, speak". He taught me not to ever be a jerk and to know myself! Thank you Costello for making such a lasting impact on me and everyone around you. You had a heart of gold and you were more than just a professor to me. I will never forget you! My deepest condolences to the entire Costello family... he will be greatly missed.

When I registered for my spring semester classes during my junior year, I was so excited that I was able to get into Professor Costello's Business Communication course. It was a course that always seemed to fill up quickly, and there was definitely a reason why. Professor Costello cared deeply for his students. He taught tactical public speaking skills really well, and he helped his students step out of their comfort zones. He also demonstrated to his students what it meant to live a meaningful life serving his family, students, and community. I took this course 8 years ago; I do not necessarily remember all the topics I did speeches on. However, I do remember that the lesson I took away from his class was to choose a profession that I will truly enjoy getting up and going to each day. Professor Costello also emphasized the importance of family, friends, co-workers, and that really people in general are at the center of everything in life. He would mention his family quite a bit during class, and everyone could just tell how much he loved and cared about them. My sincere condolences go out to the Costello Family. He will truly be missed by many people.

I had Costello my final semester as one of my last and most impactful college professors. I'll always remember when he told me I had a great laugh and smile, and that's because I throughly enjoyed his class and loved his presence. Not only was he able to help me land a job, but the way he remembered small details about his students really showed how much he cared about us and ultimately made me want to be better.

I want to celebrate Tom Costello! I took many classes at U of I, but none made me better equipped for the "real world" than Tom's speech class. I remember vividly presenting in front of the class, and if you said "um" or "ahh" - he would make you start the entire speech again. Wow! That was the most effective way to eradicate a bad habit and make you be intentional about how you speak. I have worked at Disney for the 25 years since I left Champaign and think of that teaching moment more than any other I had as an Illini.

Professor Costello was truly a one of a kind professor. He made my classmates and I all feel cared about, noticed, and safe. I had the pleasure of being Mr. Costello's student this semester in his business com class. As a graduating senior, from the moment I met Mr. Costello I was happy to be taking his class as one of my lasts. He made class fun by sharing personal stories and making fun jokes. I could tell he really LOVED teaching, LOVED his students, and LOVED his life. He had a zest for life that rubbed off on me and I am dedicated to live my life to its fullest just as Mr. Costello did. He is a role model to all who had the pleasure of knowing him. My condolences go out to the Costello family.

I had Costello this semester, and I am so sad my time knowing him was cut so short. He was truly one of a kind and always knew how to make everyone laugh. I’ll never forget his life lessons and advice, and I know the knowledge and kindness he has given to the people around him will change the world. My deepest sympathies to his family, especially his wife Rose, who he always talked about with the upmost admiration. He was so excited about his new grandson, and was updating us every class, he already loved that child so much. May he Rest In Peace and may his family find peace in knowing he changed so many lives!

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Mr. Costello. I had him in CMN 101 in my very first semester of college, and he has by far had the biggest impact on me. He was a phenomenal teacher and knew the material like the back of his hand, was more than willing to help and meet with students, and made me burst out laughing more times than I can count in the middle of class. I come from a really small town in central Illinois and coming to U of I was the most intimidating thing I had ever encountered. Mr. Costello was the first teacher that really made it feel like home. He will be deeply missed.

"Stop!" Professor Costello would yell across the room while I was public speaking to inform me that I was using too many filler words. Once, he threatened to take away my note card because I was looking at it too much during a speech. While some may find these teaching tactics to be spicy, we all knew Professor Costello's intentions were sincere. My public speaking ability drastically improved thanks to Professor Costello. His ability to public speak and lead was uncanny and inspirational. One of my biggest regrets is not recording him during lecture because his classes were like an amazing performance that I was lucky to be attending. Currently, I am finishing my Master's in HR and I feel confident and competent while speaking in front of others. Professor Costello pushed each and every one of his students to become the best public speaker, interviewer, and person they could be. With his life lessons of "don't be a jerk" and "stop and think before you speak," I hope to follow in his shoes when I am a professor one day. I hope he's drinking all the diet cherry 7-ups he can up in Heaven! Rest in Peace Professor Costello, you will be missed by all, especially me.

While I was a master's student in the School of Labor and Employee Relations as UIUC, I had a project I was working on that required me to go to MTD in Urbana and interview Tom Costello. What a great guy he was! I remember he took me throughout the entire facility and presented MTD as a stellar place of employment. A gesture he made that, to me, was a summation of what a great person he was happened when he walked me to the door to leave - he noticed it was raining outside. He said, "Do you have an umbrella?" I said, "No!" He handed me a red MTD umbrella and said, "Here! Keep it. It'll remind you that MTD is here to help people!"

So sad to hear the sad news of Tom Costello passing. And so amazing what a long career he had. I was an English major (class of 1988!!!) and took a speech comm class from Tom in my last semester on campus. It was something I added as an elective, as I thought it would help me with my presentations and professional demeanor as I went out into the world. He was truly a memorable teacher, provocative, interesting, challenging, funny, and kind despite a somewhat tough exterior. I loved that class yet haven't thought of it for many years. God bless Tom and many condolences to his wife, family and friends.

The last thing Professor Costello said to me, was that "you're going to be just fine." Just those simple words meant a lot. He knew I was a student who put a lot of pressure on myself, and he knew I was extremely anxious about my future. He told me that he had faith in me, and that will always stay with me. He had faith for all his students, and a true love for life and education. He will be missed.

I feel incredibly blessed to have had Professor Costello as not only a CMN 211 professor, but as a supporter and mentor too. If there was anyone in this world who valued his student's success in life over grades it was him- and he always made sure we knew he was on our side. In an email he sent out just 10 days ago wishing us all a happy Passover/Easter, he said, "I want each of you to know that my goal for you is success. That is defined in whatever way you choose to define it. Today as you spend time with your family think about something wonderful that you can share with them whether it’s a memory, an idea, or just a really bad joke." I think that line sums up how genuine Professor Costello was. He will be missed by so many and I know I will miss him telling me about his family member named Mary Katherine just because we happened to share the same name. His legacy will live on; we are all better people for knowing him.

Mr. Costello was one of a kind. A loving husband father, grandfather, professor but most importantly a friend. He was always checking up on me to either tell me to “get off my ass and do what I was supposed to do” or to remind me that I still owed him a 6-pack of his favorite beer (all jokes). He taught me how to persevere and never give up on hopes and dreams. Costello was very influential, in fact, he helped me land my very first job right after college and took time (on various occasions) to meet to help with mock interviews and to talk about my plans. He boosted my confidence. As a professor, he made classes fun and I am grateful for everything that he has taught me. I will always remember Mr. Costello as my favorite University of Illinois professor and will miss seeing my mentor around campus, the campus that he loved so much. Rest In Peace, Costello - I owe ya ❤️

Prof Costello was one of the best professor at U of I. I took CMN 211 last fall and I remember I was late. So, he called out on me and continue to do so on couple occasions. As an international student, it made me feel uncomfortable, but little did I know I learn so much. His comment on, “stop, think, and speak” is going to be remembered until these days. I also remember I told him I’m from Indonesia - and he was very fascinated and even took a pic of the Indonesia embassy when he visited DC. He was very sweet and thoughtful. I learn so much from him. I was very shocked and saddened about his passing. Rest in Peace Professor Costello❤️ You’ll be missed.

I was lucky enough to have Professor Costello this semester for CMN 211. He was one of my favorite professors I have had. He truly cared about all of his student's success in his class and in life. When I had my shoulder surgery in February he worked with me to get caught up in class and would ask me every day how my shoulder is doing. While I was nervous about school work he told me there were more important things in life than my grades and I need to focus on my recovery. He knew I rode horses and would always ask about them and found pictures of his wife riding to show me. He truly cared about all of his students and tried to connect with all of us. Rest in Peace Professor Costello you will be missed by so many.

I first got Costello as a professor by luck. I wasn’t sure who he was or how he taught, but I knew business communication sounded important. Within the first class, I felt immediately that he was going to be one of my all time favorite professors. Though I only new him for a few short months, I felt like I knew him all my life. He was incredibly personal and infectiously candid. Up until his last day, he made it clear that he wanted us to be kind and considerate of one another. Though I know my experience with him was short, I will carry what he taught me for forever - and that just shows how powerful of an instructor he was.

P.S. Costello, I got a job. There’s an ice cold beer with your name on it, waiting for you up there.

Mr. Costello is a professor I will never forget. After 30 years, I still remember and use the skills he taught. He made each of his students feel like a part of his classroom community, which I truly needed and appreciated. Not all professors can nor want to get to know their students. I believe Mr. Costello could NOT want to get to know his students. It was in his blood. And even though I still remember what he taught me all these years later, of course, I remember how kind and caring he was even more. You will be missed but never forgotten, Mr. Costello.

Mr. Costello is a professor I will never forget. After 30 years, I still remember and use the skills he taught. He made each of his students feel like a part of his classroom community, which I truly needed and appreciated. Not all professors can nor want to get to know their students. I believe Mr. Costello could NOT want to get to know his students. It was in his blood. And even though I still remember what he taught me all these years later, of course, I remember how kind and caring he was even more. You will be missed but never forgotten, Mr. Costello.

In reply to by Tommy Figel (not verified)

Tommy, I am so glad you got to take class with Professor Costello--he was truly a mentor to you people like you. I wish he could have sen your film making skills! Be well.

In reply to by Adriana Sclafani (not verified)

Adriana, I am so glad you got to work with Professor Costello as his intern. He really knew how to engage with his students and taught them as interns to engage with their peers so well. Be well.

The last time I saw Tom reminded me of the very first time I met him. I had just been hired as a part-time advisor/program coordinator for the Department of Communication and I was to share an office space with him and another faculty member. Office real estate in Lincoln Hall was quite tight back then. As I set up my little corner, Tom greeted me with a bombastic, “And who are you?” I jumped as he laughed with his twinkling eyes. Over a month ago, before we knew we’d be sheltering-in-place and teaching online, I ran into Tom outside of his office. Once again, he greeted me with a bellowing, though cheerful, “And how are you?” This time I did not jump. I recognized the charm in his voice and replied that I was happy to see him. The news of his loss has left me with a hole in my heart. Tom was forever an engaging, funny, and supportive colleague and friend. So many memories fill the times between when we first met and our last engagement, each one memorable for how he filled the room but never overpowered it. I miss him terribly and am grateful for the years I had to know him.

I have been struggling to find words. Tom was my colleague, but more importantly, my friend. I’d go to him with frustrations and dilemmas and he would invariably help me find the humor and humanity in all of it. What will I do without him? I do not know. But I know I will think of him and laugh. I will think of him and be eternally grateful he was in my life for 8 years. And from here on out — whenever I face a teaching challenge — I will ask myself: what would Tom Costello do? I love you, my friend. Laugh forever. I will see you again.

I am so glad that I was fortunate enough to have Costello for my final semester of college. I'll never forget him walking into the classroom on the first day of Business Com class, sitting down, and saying, "Okay, ask me anything." That entire first day consisted of us students getting to know our Professor, who right away we could all tell was always ready to respond with a funny quip. Costello was such an outgoing and personable guy, always trying to connect to each and every one of us students. I had my afternoon snack most days before class started and Costello would come to sit by me and jokingly ask if I had any to share with him, while also sharing his local recommendations for dinner and lunch spots. I was extremely saddened when I heard he had passed, but even more, saddened for his family. Costello loved his family more than anything and he often told anecdotes about his sons and wife to our class that made him and the whole class smile. I will never forget the advice and sincerity that Costello shared with me. Rest in Peace Professor Costello, you will be dearly missed by so many people.

Professor Costello will always be one of my favorite people. I am grateful to have been his student and teach assistant during my time in undergrad. He was stern with his feedback, but you knew that he just wanted to pull the best out of you. His passion for teaching was contagious and he genuinely cared about all of his students. One of the best things about Professor Costello is that he continued to care about you after you graduated. When I received a full time offer with my current employer, he was one of the first people I told. His response,"I didn't expect anything less". Thank you professor Costello for always believing in me and for never giving up on me. You impacted my life as a student athlete and now as a young professional. You will be greatly missed, but never forgotten.

Mr. Costello was an incredible role model and mentor who was always willing to lend a helping hand. I was fortunate enough to spend two semesters with him inside of the Costello Family Classroom, once as his student and the other as his intern. One of my favorite things was the vibrancy he would walk in with while boasting about how he correctly answered the final jeopardy question. It seemed like a great tradition he and his wife had prior to our 6 PM class. However, there was nothing he was more proud of than his wife. He spoke about her with such love and appreciation while occasionally joking about his cluelessness on how he was ever able to win her over in the first place. He certainly touched countless lives in the Champaign-Urbana community. There was never a time while walking with him that he wasn't getting stopped by faculty, staff, and students just to say hi and briefly catch up. He truly was an instructor that wanted to know about his students' lives beyond the classroom. He took a copious amount of time to unite each classroom into a family and make sure each lecture was as interactive and enjoyable as possible...which was sometimes extra demanding for a 6-9 PM class. After each class, we would walk out to our cars together talking about current events in our lives and especially the delicious meals each of us had throughout the week(he knew all the best restaurants in the area). Those 5-minute walks left me with more wisdom than I could have ever dreamed of. He truly put the happiness and growth of those around him as his number one priority. Mr. Costello, thank you for all of your support and encouragement in the last year and a half of knowing you. While I might forget some of the details of our conversations, I will never forget your ability to bring a smile to my face even in the most stressful of times. Rest in peace, Mr. Costello. Sending my deepest condolences to his wife and family. We lost a phenomenal soul.

Professor Costello was kind, intelligent, and he always made me laugh with his jokes and stories. I was lucky to have had him for Business Communications for my last semester at Illinois. He made such a large impact on my life and I will remember him forever. He always told our class that once we got a job offer, he would bring us a beer. When I accepted my full-time position, I thought of Professor Costello and all of the life lessons he taught me throughout this semester. I will always remember to not be a jerk and to always know myself. Professor Costello made a huge mark on my college career, and I am so thankful to have learned from him in these past few months.

Professor Costello was an outstanding man. He made such a large impact on my short time at UIUC. He always made sure to look out for the well being of all of his students. He wanted to provide us with knowledge that we can use for the rest of our lives, not just for the sake of the class. He always knew how to make you feel important. Costello and I had a lot of time together to bond and get to know one another. My favorite memory was probably any time we sat in his office and talked. We are both diabetics and we would share our favorite snacks with each other in his office and catch up on life. He will always hold a special place in our hearts.

I was speechless when I received the news. So much had been going in the world and then this? It broke me. But I knew Mr. Costello wouldn't want that. He'd expect me to pick my head up and persevere. My biggest regret is that I won't be able to celebrate with him when I start my career after college. His tradition of students buying him a beer after getting their first job would end before his final class had the opportunity. I promise to pour one out for him when I do.