Jane Gillespie Brown Grimes ’58

originally published March 12, 2008

Evening had almost fallen at Flushing Meadows last September as 22,000 people in Arthur Ashe Stadium, and millions more worldwide via television, watched Jane Gillespie Brown Grimes ’58 award a silver trophy to Swiss tennis champion Roger Federer. For Federer, it was his fourth consecutive U.S. Open win. For Jane, it was the most exciting moment of her tenure as only the second woman to head the 127-year-old United States Tennis Association.

Jane’s devotion to tennis, her interest in its origins, and the ideals that have distinguished her career in the sport were evident during her time at Chapin. She spent her vacations on Long Island playing tennis, remaining on the court through summer evenings until the ball was no longer visible. She also credits her fascination with all aspects of history — including a special interest in the story of tennis — to Mrs. Berendsen’s inspired teaching of the subject.

Jane went on to study history at Wellesley and, after a post-college stint as a reporter and researcher for Life magazine, decided on a full-time career in tennis. She joined the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1977 and became its executive director four years later. While at the Hall of Fame, Jane not only was tournament director of tour events for the Association of Tennis Professionals and for the Women’s Tennis Association, but also supervised a major renovation of “the repository of the history of the sport” — the Newport Casino, the landmark Rhode Island building that the Hall of Fame calls home. “The biggest thing we had to do,” she said, “was to find artisans to replicate the 1880s workmanship.” This she accomplished. The original wallpaper has emerged from beneath scraped-off paint, and hand-carved spindles once more sustain the staircase. Windows are luminous with restored glasswork.

Jane, now president emeritus of the Hall of Fame, is also fervent in carrying out the USTA’s mission: “to promote and develop the growth of tennis.” She hopes to achieve this partly by helping the young and disadvantaged, which she did even during her Chapin days, as a volunteer with the Yorkville Youth Council. “Our goal is to introduce children to a sport that develops good health, self-confidence, discipline and, of course, fun,” she said. “The equally important element of the program is tutoring at every grade level in every subject. The combination of tennis and education is compelling.” Though she travels throughout the world, promoting her belief that tennis can change not only individual lives but also whole communities, Jane still finds time to play the game. “That early passion for the sport has stayed with me, and I love passing it on to future generations,” she said. “My grandmother played into her 80s, and I’d like to surpass that.”

originally published March 12, 2008

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