The Highest Honor in New England Tennis
There are thousands of talented players and coaches in the beloved game of tennis. Many will be life-long players and impactful coaches but only an elite few are recognized with the highest honor in New England tennis; an induction into the New England Tennis Hall of Fame.
On Saturday, June 9th, nearly 200 people gathered at the International Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, Rhode Island to celebrate and share the successes of the five 2012 Hall of Fame inductees. This year, the honor was extended to Henry Paige of Mattapan, MA; Paul C. Young of Durham, NH; Neil Chase of Beverly, MA; Dorothy Snow Bicknell of Marshfield, MA and Lynn Miller of Franklin, MA. Also honored at the event were the 2011 Gardner Ward Chase Memorial Award winner, Dick Ernst of Cranston, RI and the 2011 Edwin Goodman Family of the Year, the Hirschbergs of Westport, CT.
The formal affair drew in past inductees, USTA New England board members and both long time lovers and supporters of the game. USTA New England President, R. Gary Pina provided the opening remarks and Robert W. Greene Jr., a past USTA New England President, emceed the event for the evening.
The New England Tennis Hall of Fame exists to recognize USTA New England members whose achievements as players and as sportsmen or sportswomen are worthy of the highest recognition. The honor also encompasses members whose contributions to the sport have been so outstanding that they deserve this highest recognition.
The accomplishments of the 2012 inductees are a true testament of greatness in the sport of tennis. Henry Paige worked to desegregate the sport back in the 1950’s. Among his many achievements, he organized the first juniors program in New England and integrated African American players into the competition. He also worked closely with Arthur Ashe and Althea Gibson. He is considered a Boston tennis legend.
Paul C. Young has been one of New England’s best players since 1963. He has traveled the world playing tennis including the Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and Slovakia. To this day, he dominates the senior mixed doubles scene with his wife of more than 50 years, Jerry.
Neil Chase began playing tennis more than 70 years ago. His passion for the game is obvious in his many achievements. In fact, Chase was the first person to create a tennis camp in the United States. He built his camp on the campus of the Westown School in Pennsylvania in the 1950’s where he influenced about 7,000 campers with his knowledge of the game. He will forever be known as the founding father of tennis camps in America.
Dorothy Snow Bicknell, affectionately known as “Dolly”, has been one of the top women players in New England since 1964. Bicknell excelled as a singles player but was unstoppable in doubles. She and her partner, Pam Hobbs Atkinson, held the number one ranking in New England for four consecutive years. Bicknell now teaches and plays tennis in Kingsbury, MA.
The last inductee has coached college tennis for both men and women for 31 years at Wheaton College. Lynn Miller’s influence on her players is evident in the coaching awards she has won, including Coach of the Year from the United States Professional Tennis Association. As a player, Miller consistently ranked number one as a singles player from 1985 to 2010. She is still actively involved in tennis and will begin her 32nd year at Wheaton College in the fall.
Along with the inductees, Dick Ernst was recognized as the winner of the 2011 Gardner Ward Chase Memorial Award. This award is given to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to tennis in New England during his or her lifetime. This is the highest honor an individual can receive from USTA New England. Dick Ernst, a past Hall of Fame inductee himself, has given much of his life to the sport of tennis through coaching, playing and his philanthropic work. He received the National High School Coaching award for his work leading 56 Rhode Island high school and college teams. He continues to work in the field of tennis as the coach of the junior varsity girls team at North Kingston High School and a coach of the boys team at Barrington High School. He is also the editor of the New England Senior Tennis Bulletin Board.
Finally, the winner of the 2011 Edwin Goodman Family of the Year Award was the Hirschberg Family. Andy and Karen, along with sons Daniel and Jake, have been entrenched in tennis in New England for years. Daniel won the Connecticut High School Championship before going on to play tennis for Brown University. Jake holds the number one singles spot on his high school team. Both sons are nationally ranked. Andy and Karen are proud to say they have attended almost every tennis match in support of their sons and will continue to be advocates for the sport. While humble about their philanthropic work, the Hirschbergs have contributed to New England tennis in ways that have changed the lives of tennis players in Connecticut and beyond. Those who know them best say they have brought ‘family’ back into the game and that will become their legacy.
The 2012 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony was an event to remember and while the celebration of these inductees and award winners lasted for a night, the impact they have had on tennis in New England will be felt for years to come.
*All photos from the event are courtesy of Richard Bramante.