Teresa Lupinek, former executive administrative assistant to the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who was also a talented artist, died Aug. 2 from ovarian cancer at her Catonsville home. She was 63.
“Teresa was known for her smile, which reflected her magnanimous spirit. When you saw it, you had to melt,” said Freeman A. Hrabowski III, who has been president of UMBC since 1992. “When people came to my office who were angry, sad or troubled, once they saw her smile, they were better off than when they had arrived. I’ve never known a more positive and caring person than Teresa.”
The former Mary Teresa Kovalsky — who never used her first name — was the daughter of George Kovalsky, an electrician, and his wife, Jean Swegle Kovalsky, a homemaker and bank manager.
She was born in Baltimore and raised in Brooklyn Park and from an early age, enjoyed sketching and painting.
Ms. Lupinek was a 1974 graduate of Brooklyn Park High School and studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Before joining the staff at UMBC, she worked as a secretary for the state Motor Vehicle Administration in Glen Burnie, the state Department of Education, and finally for a department head at the Springfield Hospital Center in Sykesville.
Ms. Lupinek began her UMBC career in 1984 in its biology department and then moved to the university’s Career Center, where she was responsible for all business services and office manager duties for the growing department, including management and training of all student workers and support staff.
Her strong background in art and design led to an expansion of her Career Center role that included handling the design and print production of invitations and marketing materials for high-profile center events and job fairs.
In 2012, Ms. Lupinek was named interim executive administrative assistant in the provost’s office and then was given the position of executive administrative assistant to Dr. Hrabowski, a position she has held for the last seven years.
Because of her long experience in office management and her business acumen, Ms. Lupinek was in charge of scheduling and the preparation of briefing materials and agendas. She also, with the aid of colleagues, introduced new technologies that helped streamline the office’s work, making it a more efficient operation.
She also worked with campus leaders to recognize non-exempt staff as part of the UMBC Plan of Organization, which resulted in the establishment of the Non-Exempt Staff Senate shared-governance group.
Ms. Lupinek was a member of the University Staff Development Committee, on which she assisted in helping formulate professional development programs for community members, and was also a member of the Financial Advisory Board.
“She knew how to elevate us, and that was because of her strong faith. She had the ability to bring out the best in each of us and to think about the whole person. She showed us how to live each day,” Dr. Hrabowski said. “And when colleagues were faced with ethical issues, they’d ask themselves, ‘What would Teresa do?’ ”
In addition to her professional career, Ms. Lupinek taught calligraphy and as a member of the Howard County Calligraphers’ Guild hand-lettered invitations for President Ronald W. Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985.
She also exhibited mixed-media art in juried art shows through the Baltimore Women’s Art Committee. Some of her artwork was part of the “Her Hands” exhibit at UMBC’s Library Gallery.
Sandy Cummings, a Columbia artist, was a longtime close friend.
“Our friendship came through art. We were both in our 20s and she saw me on a Howard County farm with a sketchbook. I always carried a sketchbook and colored pencils everywhere I went,” Ms. Cummings said.
“She came over and we got together on a regular basis with our sketchbooks. We traveled together, and art museums were always on our itinerary. We documented our travels and lives with our sketchbooks,” she said. “She did collages, paintings, sketches and illustrations. We were very supportive of one another and Teresa was so much fun.”
She described Ms. Lupinek as having a “great spirit”
“She was just an incredible person, a great friend, and a great listener. She was not judgmental and was such a genuinely kind person,” Ms. Cummings said. “She never said a bad word about anyone or anything. She was the real deal.”
When Ms. Lupinek was diagnosed a year ago with the disease that claimed her life, Ms. Cummings became her advocate.
“When she first got the diagnosis, I told her I’d be by her side, and would be her patient advocate. I went to appointments with her and took notes on what the doctor had said and about the drugs she was taking and their side effects,” Ms. Cummings said. “She never cried and always put a smile on her face. She just wanted to make people happy.”
Several days before her death, Dr. Hrabowski visited Ms. Lupinek at her home.
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“Teresa said this to me, ‘I want people to know it’ll be O.K.,' and then she smiled. She showed us how to live and how to die. It was her deep faith that helped her transcend all the problems she was having, and she still believed in the joy of life. ”
Ms. Lupinek enjoyed spending time at a second home in Ocean City that she and her husband of 42 years, James “Jim” Lupinek, an Ellicott City attorney, owned and where she had also been a been a member of the Dune Patrol.
She also liked to garden and play the piano, family members said.
She enjoyed music, especially that of James Taylor, whose “You’ve Got a Friend,” was her favorite song.
Ms. Lupinek was a communicant of St. Mark Roman Catholic Church, 30 Melvin Ave., Catonsville where a memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Friday.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by two sons, David Lupinek of Baltimore and Timothy Lupinek of San Francisco; two brothers, Daniel Kovalsky of Pasadena and Matthew Kovalsky of Finksburg; and several nieces and nephews.