116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS – Doug Peters negotiated the double flight of steps located just inside Coe College’s Kohawk Arena late Wednesday afternoon just as he always does: Dougie style.
“Watch this,” Peters said.
Before you could tell him OK, he was off, climbing to the next floor of the arena in a jiffy, taking the steps two at a time and not huffing and puffing even a bit once he reached the top. It’s impossible to believe he’s a 62-year-old man.
You sat down to interview him at a table, and it wasn’t long before he was standing up to show you the ‘Dougie Wave Off.’ For the entirety of his 40 years as Coe’s athletics equipment manager, Peters would gather when one of the school’s teams was about to depart for a road trip and wish them good luck.
The ‘Dougie Wave Off’ saw him jumping up and down, his arms circling like an airplane propeller. That unmistakable open-mouthed Dougie smile was on his face the entire time.
“He’s just awesome,” said Coe women’s soccer player Sam Eyers. “It’s sad that he’s leaving … Everyone loves him.”
“He’s kind of like the face,” said Coe baseball player T.J. Deardorff. “I mean, his face is literally over there at the basketball arena right when you walk in, so he’s just kind of the face of our athletic department. Everyone around here knows him, and even if you’re not an athlete, you still know who he is.”
Coe announced Wednesday in a moving video tribute that Peters is retiring, the most popular man on campus deciding it was too difficult to continue to perform his daily duties.
He was more than just a guy who worked 12 hours a day, who hadn’t taken a day off in over 10 years, who washed and dried uniforms and practice clothes for Kohawk student-athletes, handing them out with a smile and his trademark “Have a nice day!”
He was their friend, their biggest supporter, the school’s biggest supporter, simply Coe’s most beloved person. He WAS Coe athletics.
“I could feel it in my legs. I could tell,” Dougie said. “I wanted to retire after 20 years, but they wanted me to stay on. Then it was 25, 30, 35. So I said, ‘OK, 40 years.’”
“I had the privilege of sending an email out to the campus community today, to faculty, staff and students, and I joked with one of my colleagues about how it was really hard to press the send button,” said Coe Athletics Director Steve Cook. “Obviously I’ve known for awhile and have walked Dougie through this process, but it became very real sending that out today … He’s an institution, has been there for us as coaches over the years to make our lives better. We can only hope the person that replaces Dougie is half the equipment manager that he was.”
Peters began as a team manager for multiple sports as an eighth-grader at Franklin Middle School in the 1970s. He said he was waiting for his father to pick him up from school, when teacher/coach Jim Meskimen saw him and asked if he wanted to be team manager for the school’s basketball team.
His team manager duties continued through high school at Cedar Rapids Washington and at Coe when he became a student there in 1977. Upon graduating with a business degree, Peters took a job in the school’s business office, then was asked to help out with athletics equipment.
He never left. Dougie has never driven, but his lifelong home borders campus, so it always was a short walk or ride on his three-wheel bicycle to work.
“Congratulations buddy,” Coe football coach Tyler Staker told him Wednesday, giving him a hug. “Oh, man, I was sad today. Brought a tear to my eye watching that video, man.”
Peters long has donated part of his paycheck back to the school, he figures between $80,000 and $100,000 total, though he said he honestly has no idea the exact amount. It was just his way of giving back to a place that always has been in his heart.
That’s a reciprocal deal. The first thing you see when you walk into Kohawk Arena is a big mural of a smiling Peters on the wall.
“This school means everything to me. It makes me cry,” he said. “Start small, think big. That’s always been my motto. Whatever you do in life, take that piece, like you’ve got a piece of pie. Instead of grabbing it and chewing it all, take a little bit and go from there.”
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