Remembering Alan Schwartz: A passionate proponent of tennis
Former USTA president Alan Schwartz passed away on Dec. 2 at the age of 91. Schwartz, who served as USTA president from 2003-04, was the man who coined the USTA’s mission statement: “To promote and develop the growth of tennis.”
A graduate of Yale University where he captained the tennis team, Schwartz was an outstanding player. Post-college, he won eight national championships and seven Illinois state championships. But it was the business side of the sport where Schwartz was most impactful. In 1969, Schwartz and his father built Chicago’s Mid-Town Tennis Club (now the Mid-Town Athletic Club), which became the crown jewel in Schwartz’s hugely successful Tennis Corporation of America. At Mid-Town, Schwartz had a hand in developing innovations in teaching, such as the “Tennis in No Time” program.
What’s more, the introduction of the 4-inch baseline, indirect lighting, and a cushioned playing surface were all Mid-Town innovations.
Many USTA presidents have lived for tennis, but Schwartz was the first who made his living from tennis. In the process, he touched and enhanced countless other lives by helping to make the sport more accessible and more enjoyable for more people.
Schwartz’s incredible list of accomplishments and accolades is far too lengthy to detail. During his USTA presidency, he played a key role in making the US Open Series a reality, hired the first master planner for the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, enhanced the financial stability of the USTA and strengthened its relationships with organizations industry-wide.
Schwartz is enshrined in 10 different tennis Halls of Fame, including the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall, Chicago Tennis Hall of Fame, Tennis Industry Association Hall of Fame and the Midwest Tennis Hall of Fame, among others. He served as vice president of the International Tennis Federation (ITF), on various ITF committees, and with the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
“Tennis has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember,” said Schwartz at the end of his term as USTA president in 2004. “I love this game. I happen to think that tennis is the greatest sport there is. I’ve often said that it has added years to my life, and life to my years. I’d like to think that I’ve given something back in these last two years; that I’ve been a convincing missionary for this great game. That is, after all, the greatest thing that those of us who love this sport can do—spread the word, introduce a friend to the game. Help tennis grow.
“I know going out what I knew coming in: This association does not operate from the top down. The real leaders, the real heroes of tennis are at its grassroots. They are the people in the schools, in the parks, in the CTAs with enough drive and desire and passion to get others involved. This sport, this association, evolves from the ground up. It has been my great privilege to lead the people who, every day, make the pursuit of our mission possible.”