Kathleen Wu announced as next USTA Foundation president
The USTA Foundation has announced Kathleen J. Wu of Dallas as the next president of its board of directors, confirmed in a vote on Thursday.
No stranger to the organization at large, Wu previously served on multiple USTA boards and committees, including the board of USTA Texas and the USTA national board of directors, and as the national chair of the diversity and inclusion committee.
A lawyer with 30-plus years of litigation experience, she first joined the USTA Foundation's board in 2015 and was elected vice president in 2018. Wu succeeds Thomas Chen of Short Hills, N.J., whose two-term tenure as president ended in 2020.
"I have had the privilege to serve on multiple USTA boards... I see serving as the Foundation president as the culmination of that work," Wu told usta.com earlier this week.
"I’ve had the chance to see this organization from so many different seats, and serving as Foundation president seems like my highest and best use because I believe so deeply in its mission."
Adopted out of the foster care system at age 5, Wu grew up near public tennis courts in Great Neck, N.Y., and it was in the New York City suburbs where her affinity for the sport began — albeit from afar.
“I’ll be honest: my playing career is not one for the record books,” she said. “I enjoy playing, but like so many sports fans, I do my best work off the court. My love of the game was fueled more by longing than anything else.”
“I used to take our racquet down to the courts and hit balls against the wall and pretend to play, until I had to leave the court because lessons for the neighborhood kids started,” Wu recalled. “I used to stand outside the fence watching those kids taking lessons and I was so jealous. As a former foster kid, it never occurred to me I could simply ask my mom to put me in lessons. She probably would have, but I never asked.”
While she did not have a lengthy competitive history as a young tennis player, Wu became a self-described "devoted tennis mom" in adulthood when her son showed promising talent, and it was his commitment to the sport that led to her becoming involved in various administrative positions of the USTA.
"I love that the Foundation brings the gift of tennis — and everything that comes with it — to kids who might not have the chance to play. I saw what tennis did for my son," she said. "It taught him self-discipline and time management and the ability to bounce back from a loss, as well as how to win gracefully. It taught him how to be a leader and, just as important, how to be a great teammate. It taught him grit and resilience, and a million other important lessons.
"Those are things that all kids — all people — can benefit from, and it’s what the USTA Foundation provides. Let’s not forget about the academic support and college scholarships. So, in a nutshell, those are the things that I love about the Foundation and that made me want to devote my energy to it."
A 1982 graduate of Columbia University who earned her J.D. from George Washington University in 1985, Wu is admitted to the bar in three states — California, New York and Texas — and says that her professional history has served her well in the nonprofit space, and prepared her to lead the USTA Foundation.
"My work has never fit neatly into the lawyer category. I try to see my clients’ problems and opportunities from all sides," she said. "Because I’ve been doing this so long, I can usually see problems before they even begin to look like a problem. That lets me figure out a solution before my client even knows there’s anything to solve. That kind of 'seeing around corners' has been valuable in multiple areas of my life, including my work with the USTA and the Foundation.
"The USTA Foundation is a large organization with a lot of moving parts and a lot of very different constituencies, so my legal experience is a plus, of course. But equally important is my overall strategic acumen. I plan to put it all to good use in this job."
In an unprecedented 2020, the USTA Foundation certainly needed to problem-solve. With National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) network programming and fundraising efforts both negatively affected by COVID-19 shutdowns, the USTA Foundation family mobilized to raise over $5 million for its 'Rally to Rebuild' campaign in financial support of these youth tennis and education organizations.
It is that responsiveness, generosity and team spirit that Wu believes will allow the USTA Foundation to continue its mission of service into 2021 and beyond.
"I am in the enviable position of being handed an organization that is already in solid financial shape, despite the difficulties of 2020. For that, I am exceedingly grateful to outgoing President Tom Chen. All incoming presidents should be this lucky. My goal is to leave the Foundation in an even better condition for my successor," Wu said.
"I think the USTA family can do well by doing good. By which I mean, it’s in the best interest of the tennis community for us to diversify our audience, to bring more people and more kinds of people to the game, as players, volunteers, and fans. The face of America is changing, so the face of tennis needs to change as well. Of course, the Foundation provides tennis and educational services to communities that might not otherwise have access to the game, so the goals of the Foundation align perfectly with the goals of the USTA as a whole.
"When the Foundation brings the game, and all the good that comes with it, to communities that need it, we also expand the tennis family, which is good for the USTA."
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