The Alumni Public Service Award honors a faculty or staff member whose work has made a significant impact on the Knoxville-area community.
Karen Armsey has been giving “by your side” a powerful heartwarming meaning for the past 15 years. The director of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s HABIT (Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee) outreach program is a champion for the most vulnerable populations through animal-assisted therapy. Through her work with HABIT and the College of Law’s Court Appointed Special Advocates, Armsey and her animal friends—dogs, cats, and rabbits—have helped and soothed troubled people in the Knoxville community, such as pre-K and special-needs children and hospice patients. Armsey was moved to become a HABIT volunteer 15 years ago after she saw a segment on a local television newscast and knew that her golden retriever, Casino, would be a perfect fit to work with senior citizens. Armsey fosters and trains service puppies to assist autistic children or to become diabetic alert dogs. She recently was trained in emotional first aid to assist in emergency situations like the Gatlinburg wildfires.