KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Former Waterloo resident and 1969 DeKalb High School graduate Douglas Karnes will be honored by Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee, when it dedicates a new basketball arena Tuesday in his name.
Karnes graduated from Johnson Bible College, now known as Johnson University, in 1973. The college later would become his home where he would raise his family and spend 34 years in service to the college, said his daughter, Anyssa (Karnes) Blackburn.
“During his time as a student at JBC, he had the privilege of having Russell Morgan as his basketball coach. Coach Morgan was a mentor to dad and made a significant impact on him,” Blackburn wrote in a tribute to her father.
“Dad graduated in 1973, and then moved back home to Indiana with his new wife, Rita. Dad worked at Dana Corp. for nearly a year before he took an interim ministry position at Cedar Lake Church of Christ. My parents served in ministry at Cedar Lake, welcomed my brother, Nathan, into the world (1975), and later moved to Kansas, Oklahoma, to serve at Cookson Hills Christian Home.”
During that time, Karnes earned his master’s degree at Northeast Oklahoma State University, and he and his wife welcomed the birth of their daughter in 1977.
“After completing his degree and serving at Cookson, dad got a call from President David Eubanks and coach Morgan with an offer to take over a coaching position at JBC. He accepted and we all moved to Johnson in 1979,” Blackburn wrote.
“I’m sure the college knew that they were getting a pretty incredible person on their staff when they hired my dad, but I’m not sure they could have imagined the significant impact he would have.”
From 1979 to 2002, Karnes served the college as the athletic director, assistant professor of health and physical education and as the head men’s basketball coach.
“Dad spent countless hours pouring into his job and helping to build up the athletic programs at JBC. During those years, he began volleyball, women’s soccer and baseball. Dad didn’t just coach his players — he mentored them, he encouraged them in their faith, and he challenged them to become better men and women,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn said her father took some much-needed and deserved time off from 2002 to 2005 and returned to the college to coach the men’s basketball team from 2005-2007. He then served as the special projects manager for the college from 2007-2011. During that time, he led the restoration of the campus White House, home of the college president, that originally was built in 1890.
In 2011, Karnes returned to his assistant professor of health and physical education and coaching role, but this time, he coached the women’s basketball team, Blackburn said. He retired in 2016.
“In his time there, he poured himself out to serve those around him, I guess you could say he lived a lot like Jesus. He not only impacted the facilities, the programs and the athletic department for the university, but he also profoundly impacted the lives of his players, coaches, faculty and staff and his beloved family,” Blackburn wrote.
“That’s why, in the summer of 2017, when there was talk of a new building that would house the new athletics facility, I emailed the president and president-elect of the university suggesting that the building be named after my dad. There is no one in the history of the college who has dedicated more of their life in service to the athletic programs at Johnson. Of course, dad would never have thought to have his name on any part of it, and that’s why his daughter had to step in.”
Then-President Gary Weedman and President-elect Tommy Smith both were in agreement and announced that the new basketball arena would be named the Douglas E. Karnes Arena.
“I am so very proud to know that my dad’s hard work and dedication of service will forever be recognized. Every person who steps inside the arena will see its name,” Blackburn said.
“And while not all will know the man for whom it is named, those of us who do will be thankful and proud that we know him. Thank you Dad, coach Karnes, for your lifetime of service.”