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In Memoriam: Jane Brown Grimes, Former USTA and ITHF President

Jane Brown Grimes, a transformative tennis industry leader who held roles as President and CEO of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, Managing Director of the Women’s Professional Tennis Council (precursor to today’s WTA), and Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of the United States Tennis Association, died at home in New York City on November 2. Brown Grimes, a lifelong New Yorker, was 80 years old.

In 2014, Brown Grimes was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the sport. In recent years, she was a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge University, where she had done substantial work on a doctorate focused on women’s tennis history.

Former International Tennis Hall of Fame CEO Mark Stenning, who worked closely with Brown Grimes for more than three decades, stated, “As the leader of three major tennis organizations, Jane had a tremendously positive and wide-ranging impact across the sport. She was an astute leader who approached everything with the highest level of grace, skill, and intelligence. I am grateful to have counted her as my friend and mentor.”

Brown Grimes’ lengthy service to the sport commenced in 1977 when she was recruited by tennis greats Bill Talbert and Sarah Palfrey Danzig, and Philip Morris executive Joseph F. Cullman 3rd to open a New York City development office for the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

With a goal to elevate the organization’s scope and profile, Brown Grimes fostered meaningful relationships to better connect the then very U.S.-centric organization within the global sport. She was the Hall of Fame’s Executive Director from 1981 through 1986, and served as Tournament Director for ATP and WTA Tour events at the Hall of Fame during that time. She returned to the organization in 1991 and served as President and CEO through 2000. During her tenure, the museum amassed a significant collection of tennis artifacts integral to preserving the sport’s history.

Additionally, she oversaw major restorations of the Hall of Fame’s historic buildings and grounds, which were the site of the first U.S. National Lawn Tennis Championships (today’s US Open) in 1881. The property was impeccably restored and ultimately named a National Historic Landmark.

On the occasion of Brown Grimes’ Hall of Fame induction in 2014, Hall of Famer Chris Evert stated, “Jane has served tennis on every level. No other person has ever run three major organizations in tennis. She broke down barriers that women faced in the workplace, pushed back gender roles, and did it all with grace. Over the decades I watched Jane work her magic with intelligence, savvy, and integrity. Her skilled diplomacy was key to the survival of the WTA.”

In 1986, Brown Grimes was appointed Managing Director of the Women’s Professional Tennis Council (precursor to today’s WTA), taking the helm at a pivotal time in the sport. With great diplomacy, Brown Grimes successfully negotiated the move away from the controversial Virginia Slims tobacco sponsorship to General Foods, the non-tobacco division of Philip Morris, a crucial move to ensure the future viability of the women’s professional tour.

As Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of the United States Tennis Association in 2007 - 2008, Brown Grimes oversaw unprecedented growth of the US Open with numerous innovations and establishing new records in both revenue and fan attendance. She was instrumental in launching new programming that resulted in a surge of tennis participation from kids ages 10 and under. She also led the completion of the state-of-the-art Indoor Training Center at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Additionally, Brown Grimes played a key role in the USTA’s purchase of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, one of the premier tournaments on the WTA and ATP Tours.

Reflecting on Brown Grimes’ legacy in tennis, Hall of Famer Pam Shriver commented, “It always struck me how much Jane cared for every level of the game. Whether it was the history of the game or the women’s game, the professional game, the grassroots game, the inner-city game, it was clear that she genuinely cared to help advance it all. She was one of the most upstanding and outstanding people I have met via tennis or via anywhere.”

In addition to her executive leadership roles, Brown Grimes was a dedicated volunteer for youth tennis and education programs including USTA Serves and the Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association. She was also highly active with the International Tennis Federation, having served on the Junior Competitions Committee, Fed Cup Committee, and the Rules of Tennis Committee, among others. Brown Grimes also served on the Grand Slam Committee.

In retirement, Brown Grimes parlayed her career experiences into academic pursuits at Cambridge University. In 2015, she earned a master’s degree in International Relations, focused on the global impact of tennis. In recent years, she had done substantial work toward her Ph.D., which was an examination of women’s tennis history from the dawn of the Open Era in 1968 through 2007, when equal prize money was awarded to men and women at all four Grand Slam tournaments.

Brown Grimes is survived by two sons, Jim Schwarz and Ames Brown, a daughter, Serena Larson; five grandchildren; and her brother, Sam Gillespie.

 

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