2021 USTA Eastern Man of the Year Recipient: Harry Keely
Harry Keely has been named USTA Eastern’s 2021 Leslie J. Fitz Gibbon Man of the Year for his boundless support of the section as general counsel and tireless efforts over the last decade to reform the organization’s bylaws.
Some of the biggest moments in Keely’s life are inextricably linked to tennis. He first picked up a racquet at summer camp when he was just eight years old and since then has never stopped playing. While he was a night student in law school, he worked as a teaching pro to support himself. And years later, he met his future wife, Annekee, during a doubles match on Court 13 in Central Park.
"The game gave me a profession, great friends and a wonderful wife and family,” Keely says. "So, I owe a lot to tennis".
He came to volunteer for USTA Eastern through his good friend and playing partner Dick Scheer, a former president of the association. The section’s general counsel at the time needed another lawyer for a consultation, and Keely offered to help. From there, he joined various committees and has continued to serve as an invaluable legal resource for the organization ever since. In 2009, then-Eastern president—and the future 2019 Leslie J. Fitz Gibbon Man of the Year—Tim Heath appointed Keely to serve as the section’s general counsel, a role he holds to this day. In that time, he has also chaired the charter and bylaws committee and completed multiple terms on the Eastern Board of Directors.
“Whether working on contracts for the section, drafting revisions for the bylaws or helping to establish the section's Grievance and Appeals procedures, it is important to emphasize that I was just a part of groups of very talented people,” he says. “It was not a one-person show.”
In the last decade, Keely has also accomplished his biggest project for the organization: modernizing its bylaws.
“Over the years the bylaws, rules and regulations had been fixed piecemeal,” Keely says. “They had been patchworked, and the result wasn't really a good legal document. So when Mark McIntyre became president, we discussed some issues that needed work, and he took on the bylaw review as a project.”
Keely was asked to join a committee that included a “who’s who” of USTA Eastern stalwarts—2017 Leslie J. Fitz Gibbon Man of the Year Jeff Williams and 2018 Leslie J. Fitz Gibbon Man of the Year McIntyre among them. Together, they succeeded in rewriting the bylaws entirely. While Keely admits he was “probably one of the principal editors,” he stresses that the undertaking as a whole was truly a group effort. Still, he was instrumental to the whole process and oversaw it through several subsequent board administrations. He considers it one of his greatest achievements as a volunteer with the organization.
“What we were interested in when we started the bylaw project was to put the section and its rules of governance in line with the requirements of the New York State laws governing non-profit organizations,” he explains. “And it became one of the major accomplishments of the last five years. We worked on it through Mark’s tenure as president, and then [former Eastern president] John Klenner’s, [former Eastern president] Amber Marino’s, and even now through [current Eastern president] Perren Wong’s. We modernized them again last year.”
This wasn’t the only set of rules and regulations Keely would help reorganize: He’d next go on to work on the bylaws of the section’s charitable wing, the Junior Tennis Foundation (JTF). Founded in the late 1970s, the JTF provides grants and other financial assistance to tennis programs that work with underserved communities. Serving as the foundation's vice president, Keely worked in tandem with president Bob Ingersole—himself the 1999 Leslie J. Fitz Gibbon Man of the Year recipient—to revitalize the entire operation. Their biggest move? Hiring McIntyre to head up the organization as executive director.
The changes are working. This past August, the reinvigorated JTF hosted the annual Eastern Tennis Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, its tentpole fundraising event. Tennis legends Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss were among the inductees, and 150 guests attended the gathering, the largest number of attendees in recent memory.
Looking back on his long history of service, Keely is proud of what he and his colleagues have accomplished to ultimately “protect USTA Eastern”. But considering all that the sport has given him, he’s even prouder to have been given the opportunity to work for an organization whose mission is to grow the game.
“Our section is one of the best in the nation at bringing tennis to local communities and putting racquets in the hands of children,” he says. “That’s what I ultimately love about being a part of Eastern.”