Jack will be fondly remembered as an artist, educator and museum founder. He was one of three people who founded the Museum of Nebraska Art. He was honored to serve as a board member at MONA for a number of years. Jack enjoyed reading, art, theater, musical performances, cultural activities and travel. He was indeed an avid supporter of Kearney’s arts – his participation, encouragement of events in Walker Gallery at UNK and at MONA. His artistic presence is sorely missed with his death in 2019.
Jack was born on April 3, 1935, to Don and Beulah (Ashford) Karraker in St. Louis. The family moved to Abilene shortly after Jack was born. He grew up in the Abilene area with his older brother Donnie and younger brother Henry. He attended Abilene High School and graduated in 1953. This background explains his Southern drawl, a lovely mellow voice.
Jack earned a bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State College and then a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. He began his teaching career at Great Bend, Kansas, where he taught for five years. He then moved to Kearney where at the age of 26 he became the head of the Art and Art History Department at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, a position he held for the next 32 years.
During his time at UNK, he increased the Art Department to 15 full-time and nine part-time faculty members and also added four new art degree programs. Jack retired in 2004 after a 43-year career at UNK. Through it all, Jack continued to create his own works of art.
For four years, after the death of his wife, Stephanie, Jack neither discovered much of anything new nor made any art. He said of the time, “I just didn’t feel the need to work with paint and brushes.” But the artistic realm was still calling to him. After 45 years teaching at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and with death of his wife, his attitude about painting was renewed. A burst of creative energy Jack was recognized as part of the four-year healing process after the death of his wife. The following gallery demonstrates his love of color and shape, and also gives us a vivid portrait of the world.