Behind the building: the Coliseum

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The Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum plays an integral role in campus life at Sam Houston State University. It is a multi-purpose facility, and it falls under the direct management of the Department of Recreational Sports. The Coliseum was built to host SHSU athletic events, mainly basketball and volleyball, and university events including registration and commencement exercises, and other special events such as concerts. It hosts 250-300 event days and over 50 events each year. The staff at the Coliseum assures that days are set aside particularly for university and community functions. Some of these functions include commencement exercises, registration, recreational sports programming, Parent’s Day, career fairs, award ceremonies, homecoming activities, student recruitment days, organizational fairs, banquets, Greek Life functions and many other functions. The Coliseum administrators have made it easy for campus or community organizations to use the facility at a relatively low cost. The Coliseum was completed in 1976, and was originally called the University Coliseum. Its name was later changed to the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum after it was dedicated to former Board of Regents Chairman Bernard G. Johnson of Houston. Johnson served as a member of the Board of Regents of the Texas State University System for 18 years, and he held the position of chairman from 1974 to 1976. He served as vice-chairman for two years before that time and again from 1982 through 1987.Johnson was an expert in the area of engineering, and he was an adviser to SHSU President Elliott T. Bowers for many campus construction projects. He was awarded an honorary doctorate of philosophy from SHSU in Dec.1987, and the Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum was named in his honor.Johnson was born in Dallas and graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston and Texas A&M, which recognized him as a distinguished alumnus. Johnson was a commander in a battalion of the U. S. Army’s Signal Corps in World War II, was awarded the Bronze Star and became a colonel. In 1947, he founded Bernard Johnson Inc., an architectural and engineering firm, and was its president for 40 years. He also served on the executive committee of the Houston Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the American Consulting Engineers Council, the National Society of Professional Engineers and the American Institute of Consulting Engineers.Johnson was a devout Catholic, and Pope Paul VI named him Knight Commander of the Holy Sepulcher. The National Conference of Christians and Jews also honored him.Johnson died in May 1999 at age 83. Funeral services were held at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Houston.