For all her accomplishments as a TV reporter — including breaking into a male-dominated local news scene in the 1970s and '80s — Karen Boros' most lasting impact may have been the energy and passion she awakened in hundreds of journalism students years later.
Laura Lee sure thinks so.
"She was amazing. Just amazing," said Lee, a news anchor in Duluth who was a Boros student at the University of St. Thomas in 2008. "She was fiery. She didn't sugarcoat anything. She was tough, and she wanted us to be prepared for the job because it is tough. But she also convinced me, you are exactly where you belong."
Boros, 82, died Sept. 10 at home in Minnetonka after a brief battle with cancer. According to an obituary posted by WCCO-TV, she'd spent years fighting the idea of becoming a teacher. It's part of what drove her towards reporting.
Her enthusiasm for journalism was infectious, Lee said.
"We'd be going over the sound bites for my story, and she'd say, 'Boom! Bam! That's the one. You got it!' " Lee said. "That enthusiasm is key. Especially when you're trying to reach students who are unsure about what they want to do. ... She just instilled in me the power to believe in my dreams."
Those feelings were mutual. In an article she wrote for MinnPost in 2011, Boros said: "The final irony is that the teaching career I worked hard to avoid was one I cherished. ... Those kids shaped me and challenged me more than they will ever know. For that career and those students I am forever grateful."
Why the irony? As a girl, Boros had been told she could only be a teacher or a nurse.
Boros grew up in the Chicago area and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in marketing. Starting as a catalog copywriter, she moved on to the Chicago Daily News and then to Minnesota with her husband Steve, doing a bit of everything for Twin Cities-based Sun Newspapers.
WCCO hired Boros as a researcher, said Marcia Fluer, a friend and colleague at the station. But after reporter Susan Spencer showed Boros her pay stub, she decided she would rather work in front of the camera.
"She was dogged," Fluer said. "She could see things in a feature story that nobody else could see. She was a very clever writer."
Dave Nimmer worked alongside Boros, and supervised her when he was associate news director. He said Boros was a pioneer at a time when local TV news was dominated by men. "She was a real reporter," he said.
Still, Nimmer said, Boros sometimes struggled with the limits of the medium. "She always had too much information," he said. "She had too little time and tried to say too much."
After leaving WCCO, Boros went to CBS and then to Minnesota Public Radio. She closed out her career by teaching at St. Thomas for 20 years.
According to Nimmer and Fluer, one of Boros' biggest accomplishments was helping set up the Page Foundation after former Minnesota Viking Alan Page, then an assistant attorney general, learned he had been named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The foundation awards college scholarships to outstanding students of color.
Boros, who was preceded in death by her husband, told Fluer in her final months that she wanted to be buried next to him so she "could hold his hand." She is survived by sisters Barbara Lierson of Colorado and Ruth Ann Hentschke of Missouri. Services have been held.