More than 100 persons, including former tennis stars and championship coaches from the school’s past glories, gathered at the south end of the Evanston Township High School campus Tuesday afternoon to celebrate what was billed as a “grand re-opening” of the school’s tennis courts.
This time, however, the courts were surrounded by comfortable bleachers for spectators and new close-by restrooms to give the sport a major-league aura.
Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, calling the event “a great celebration,” told the crowd that the school intends to share the facility with the community.
Fran Caan, executive director of the ETHS Educational Foundation, said that about $112,000 of the total cost of about $1,000,000 to resurface the seven courts and provide the adjacent facilities that will be shared with the Geometry in Construction class that’s building a house on an adjoining plot, came from private contributions from friends and alumni of the school.
A significant ally in raising those contributions, she said, was former ETHS tennis star E. C. “Skip” Gage of the Class of 1959, who also spoke at the celebration.
Gage said he started out “by chasing tennis balls” at Northwestern University courts as a youngster before reaching high school age. His prowess on the courts earned him a tennis scholarship at Northwestern.
Tennis, said Gage, “is a microcosm of life” that teaches discipline, how to win and lose, and how to gain confidence in ones’ self. One of the new courts bears his name.
Among the dignitaries from the world of tennis that came to help break in the new courts was Katrina Adams, a Chicago native who helped Northwestern win a Big Ten championship. Adams became the first African-American and first former professional tennis player to serve as chairman, CEO, and president of the United States Tennis Association.
She said the newly refurbished courts “ought to inspire anyone who plays here to raise their game.”
Katrina Adams chats with ETHS girls varsity coach Joyce Anderson
She directed her remarks primarily to the ETHS tennis players in the audience and told them that “nothing is impossible if you’re willing to work for it.”
Among those in the audience were Evanston residents and ETHS alumni Alan Graham and Stuart Opdyke, Class of 1960, who won the 60-years-of-age-and-over National Platform Tennis Championship in both 2004 and 2005.