LMU Mourns the Loss of Dan Burns

Dan Burns with grandchildren

Coach Dan BurnsLincoln Memorial University (LMU) mourns the loss of longtime employee Dan Burns, 69, of Harrogate, who passed away Sunday, December 20, succumbing to COVID-19.

Burns came to LMU from Kettering, Ohio, in 1970. He was recruited by Coach Dean Bailey to play both basketball and baseball and lettered all four years in both sports. The dual threat athlete remained at LMU until his retirement in 2019, serving in several roles including admissions recruiter, coach, athletic director and development officer throughout his 45 years of service to his alma mater.

“Dan Burns loved LMU. He dedicated his life to developing young talent on the athletic field and equipping his student athletes for success, no matter what career they were pursuing,” LMU President Clayton Hess said. “Dan’s impact on LMU and her alumni is immeasurable. For so many who have passed through our halls, it is unimaginable to think of LMU without thinking of Dan and his family.”

Burns met and married his wife of 38-years, Regina Sawyers Burns, at LMU. Regina Burns, ’81, currently serves as director of special projects and foundations within the University Advancement division. The pair raised three children who have equally been a part of the fabric of LMU, Josh ‘09, ‘14, Victoria ‘11, ‘16, ‘17 and Gavin, who attended and played golf for LMU from 2014-18. The family is active in its church, Pump Springs Baptist Church.

Following his graduation in 1974, Burns went to work as an admissions counselor. In 1976, he joined Bailey in the coaching ranks as an assistant baseball coach and was hand-picked by his mentor to succeed him as head coach in 1981. Burns coached baseball at LMU for the next six years, finishing with a 131-125 record. He served as athletics director from 1987-1988 and as the director of campus and community recreation from 1989-1995.

In 1995, Burns returned to coaching, taking over the LMU softball program. For the next 16 years, he led the program to eight conference tournaments. He coached 25 all-conference players, one Louisville Slugger/NFCA All-American and two Daktronics All-Americans and finished with a 533-414 record. Throughout his coaching career, Burns also taught physical education classes for LMU and the J. Frank White Academy, where he also served as basketball coach for a year. He was inducted into the LMU Athletes Hall of Fame in 2001.

In 2012, Burns became the director of athletic development. In that role, he resurrected the “L Club” and developed the Railsplitter Legends Series, which recognizes and celebrates LMU athletic alumni. He led the campaign to raise funds for and install the video board in Tex Turner Arena and secured funding for numerous other athletic projects over his seven years in University Advancement.

“The development work came natural to Dan. He was connected to so many alumni and was the go-to source for entertaining Railsplitter athletic stories,” Hess said. “He has touched generations of LMU alumni. If there was ever a Mr. LMU, Dan was it and we will miss his ambassadorship almost as much as we miss his friendly smile, rambunctious laugh and lively stories.”

At the time of his death, Burns was enjoying retirement but very much still a part of the LMU community. Burns was preceded in death by his parents, Roy E. Burns and Naomi Ruth Messer Burns. He is survived by his wife, Regina; children Joshua (Lauren) Burns, Victoria (Derek) Voiles and Gavin Burns and girlfriend Shelby Campbell; grandchildren, Connor and Eleanor; and sister Carlena Burns Riley (Steve). Services are pending. Memorial may be made to the Coach Dan Burns Endowed Scholarship fund. Give online or contact Vice President for University Advancement Cynthia Whitt at 423.869.6394 for other giving options.

Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee. For more information about the undergraduate and graduate programs available at LMU, contact the Office of Admissions at 423-869-6280 or email at admissions@LMUnet.edu.

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