Soren Albert “Al” Toroian, director of the University’s news office for nearly two decades, died Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2004, from complications of pneumonia at the Life Care Center in St. Louis. He was 80.
After an inauspicious start to his career — dropping out of Beaumont High School in his freshman year — Toroian finished a bachelor’s degree in journalism in just three years at the University of Missouri 10 years later, in 1952.
He started out doing public relations for the National Society of Public Accountants, and then started his own public relations business, followed by working for such railroads as the Missouri Pacific and Wabash.
In 1961, Toroian began his 12 years as a vice president and account executive for Winius-Brandon advertising and public relations agency, and then did a stint in public relations with the Missouri Botanical Garden.
Toroian came to the University in 1977, where he stayed until his retirement in 1994.
“Al endeared himself to many here, always going the extra mile to advocate for faculty scholars and researchers on accomplishments that deserved attention in the local and national news media,” said M. Fredric Volkmann, vice chancellor for public affairs. “He cared deeply about the University, its students, faculty and staff, and he was especially proud that both his daughters earned their undergraduate degrees here.”
Toroian was a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Missouri Society of Newspaper Editors, the Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis and the Journalism Foundation of Metropolitan St. Louis.
A charter member of the Press Club and the Journalism Foundation, Toroian served as the Press Club’s secretary and as a board member for many years.
Toroian is survived by two daughters, Diane Toroian Keaggy and Rosanne Toroian; a brother, Haig Toroian; and former wife, Delores Schnietz Toroian.
Though divorced after 29 years of marriage, they remained devoted friends.
He is also survived by a grandson, Liam Ulysses Keaggy.
A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m. Jan. 2 in Graham Chapel.
The family has requested that memorial gifts be made to the Armenian Viper Conservation Fund at the Saint Louis Zoo Friends, One Government Drive, St. Louis, MO 63110.