Alice Tym teaches geography at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and got the school’s outstanding professor award in 1989. She has covered a lot of geography through an athletic career that began with professional tennis matches around the world.
Tonight she is being inducted into the ITA Women’s Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame on the campus of William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Va.
“ITA” stands for Intercollegiate Tennis Association. In Tym’s case, the “I” could just as well stand for “International.” In fact, her hall of fame panel is titled “Alice Luthy Tym: Tennis Globetrotter.”
Being inducted with her are Janice Metcalf Cromer, who won eight national titles while at the University of Redlands, where she was on the men’s team; Gigi Fernandez, who won two Olympic gold medals in doubles with Mary Jo Fernandez (no relation) and won 17 major doubles titles; and Wendy White Prausa, a Georgia native who won a national college title in 1980 at Rollins College and then went on to a pro career that included two wins over Billie Jean King, a charter member of the ITA women’s hall.
Tym, 65, is the senior member of the 2008 class.
“I am so glad that the torch continues for women’s athletics,” Tym said before heading to Williamsburg. “For those of who started teams and pushed for opportunities, it is a time of great satisfaction to see the wonderful young women who have achieved so much.”
She said also that she was “delighted to join my friends who are already in the hall.”
One of those friends, Millie West, is a former William and Mary tennis coach who went into administration there. She’s the one who informed Tym of her selection.
Tym started the University of Florida women’s team in 1960 and was its No. 1 player for four years. She then began her globetrotting with five Wimbledon appearances, even more U.S. Opens and participation also in the French Open, the Italian Open and the Australian Open from 1964 to 1970. She reached a world ranking of No. 13 in 1969.
She won titles on the Asian, South American and Pacific Northwest circuits and won national titles in Canada, Kenya, Morocco, Israel, Egypt, Finland, Ireland, Greece, Wales, New Zealand and India.
“I started the team at Florida not in some altruistic sense or in some future-looking, altruistic vision,” she said. “I wanted to play tennis and that was the way I could play, plain and simple. I love the sport.”
That love began when the Peoria, Ill., native’s parents took her to a Wilson Sporting Goods clinic featuring Gene Buick and Maureen Connolly. Tym was about 15 at the time but soon began practicing off a neighbor’s brick garage and not long after that was one of five players advancing from Junior Wightman Cup tryouts in Toledo, Ohio.
While playing for Florida, she was invited to help in a clinic with Connolly — one of the top thrills of Tym’s remarkable life.
“She was so gracious. She died not long after that,” Tym said.
Tym herself started the UTC varsity women’s tennis program — with the much-appreciated support of then athletic director Harold Wilkes, she said — and she coached the Lady Mocs from 1974 to ’78. She was director of tennis and women’s coach at Yale the next four years.
Players from her teams at both schools are attending tonight’s induction ceremony. Those include Sue Bartlett, Susan Carson, Elizabeth Sharp Henderson, Billie Abney and Kathy Kolankiewicz, now the University of New Mexico coach, from UTC’s AIAW national championship teams.
Tym was looking forward also to a side trip to see Bartlett’s daughter, Claire, play for Virginia.
It was Bartlett’s father-in-law, Tommy — another former UTC coach, as well as Florida basketball coach — who nominated Tym.
“Alice is in the Greater Chattanooga Hall of Fame, but I think she should be in UTC’s, the Tennessee Tennis Hall of Fame and the Southern Tennis Hall of Fame,” Tommy Bartlett said. “She’s going in this one as a player, but she recruited and coached national championship teams. She came back from Yale to Chattanooga to raise her kids, and she did a great job of that. They’re all fine people.”
Tym’s children, now in their early 30s, will be present for her induction also. Daughter Alice recently resigned as senior associate athletic director and senior woman administrator at Colgate University to work in development at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where her fiance lives. Billy works at Unum and is married with two young sons, while Danny is a real estate appraiser in Nashville.
Their mother returned to teaching at UTC in 1982 and also runs a horse farm in McDonald while continuing to win national awards in a variety of sports. Most recently she won a USA Badminton national title in 65s singles and became a USA Track and Field All-American in shot put, discus, javelin and hammer, and she is going to Las Vegas next month for international competition in table tennis and badminton.
Asked for her top sports achievements, she said, “Gosh, it is one day at a time. I truly enjoy it all. I am much more about the next than about the last.
“But If I had to pick, I guess it would be winning a tournament in Casablanca with my mother there. She had come to Wimbledon to watch me play. In those days parents didn’t travel with players — you had no entourage. My father never saw me play tennis. But when I won in Casablanca, the tournament invited my mother and me to Agadir on the coast and treated her like a queen.”
Tonight her own children get to see her treated like a queen.