When Johnnies of all eras come together for a common purpose, something magical inevitably happens because they discover a deeper meaning to those gatherings.
Such was the case April 22 at the dedication of Saint John’s University’s new Chang Tennis Complex when generations of Johnnies celebrated the opening of a fantastic new facility.
It began with an alumni tennis event where Johnnies of all eras played on the new courts. You could feel the excitement, witness the competitiveness and experience a timeless love of Saint John’s.
The courts were full as alumni from the mid-1960’s returned groundstrokes with others from the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s. All over the seven courts you could hear and see introductions and reintroductions followed by hearty handshakes and hugs.
Later, we recognized and honored those whose generosity made the new facility a reality. We invited our lead benefactors to say a few words about why they got behind this project and we recognized several of former coaches dating back to the 1960s.
Paul Winter ‘61 spoke of his love and admiration for his wife, Dr. Lian Chang, who came to this country with very little yet achieved her America dream through hard work and dedication.
Dave Wendt ’63 gave a moving tribute to his late wife, Karin, and how much she not only loved the game of tennis but also the Saint John’s family.
Mike LaDouceur ’79 honored his parents and praised the camaraderie he felt playing tennis at Saint John’s. Pat Lilly ’79 talked about his late brother, Mike ’78, and his love for Saint John’s. He also spoke reverently about his recently deceased father and lifelong uber-Johnnie, LeRoy ’55, and how Saint John’s has been a vital part of the Lilly family for decades.
Mike Murphy ’61 paid tribute to Fr. Alfred Deutsch, his former coach and an English scholar, and how the combination of athleticism and literary mastery represented a liberal arts education so well. And Jamie Volin ’70 passionately described his friendship with the late Raymond Rossini, his close friend, teammate and classmate.
These heartfelt tributes gave so much life and context to this new facility. What otherwise might be viewed simply as new asphalt with freshly painted lines on it now has a story, a history and much deeper meaning.
To top off this great day, SJU coach Jack Bowe’s young team defeated St. Mary’s 6-3.
We still have some distance to cover to complete funding for this excellent complex. If you are interested in helping, please let us know.
Many of you already have. Thank you again to all who contributed to the Chang Tennis Complex and to those who came back to experience the new courts and the warm sense of community felt by so many that day.