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All for the Love of the Game

Tennis Team“Tennis has been a defining part of my life,” said Ken Hunter ’81. “It led to shared friendships and life lessons, and it all started when my mother gave me her old Jack Kramer tennis racket. I didn’t take lessons—just started swinging the racket. I was successful in getting the ball over the net and maintaining a rally.” In 1965, the Hunters lived in Long Beach, Calif., across town from a very good tennis player named Billie Jean King. With people following her national rise, he found it an exciting time to live there. Ken played the local public courts with standout player Jimmy Hardy, whose older brother Greg went on to a professional career. All in all, Ken was surrounded by tennis.

The family moved to Arlington, Va., in 1966 when Ken’s father was assigned to the Pentagon. Ken joined the Greater Washington Tennis Association, playing in the 12-and-under category and winning lots of trophies. “We belonged to the Army-Navy Country Club, and I played often with my father. In the summer he’d drop me off on the way to the Pentagon, and I’d play all day with a friend. Dad would stop on the way home and join my friend and his father for a foursome. It was a fun time for Dad and me. Additionally, I worked at the Washington Star Tennis Tournament and was a ball boy for tennis royalty Arthur Ashe, John Newcombe and Charlie Pasarell. It was there that I also met tennis legend Don Budge. Tennis had a profound effect on me at that time of my life, and these men were my heroes.”

Taking a break from tennis when the family moved to Virginia Beach in 1969, Ken took up surfing. That changed, however, when he went to Princess Anne High School and joined Coach Harold Wheeler’s tennis team for his junior and senior years. After high school, Ken joined the Navy and, from Guam, qualified for the All-Navy Tennis Tournament in 1975. After being away from home only four months, he showed up on his parents’ doorstep in Virginia Beach, where the tournament was to be held. Although it was an exciting and memorable competition, Ken lost in the first round to Kevin Miller, who played the number one slot for the Naval Academy.

Following the Navy, Ken came to ODU as a walk-on for tennis coach Ken Rand. He had a great time playing with Bill Clark, Colin Davis, Todd Furniss, John Harrison and Tim Knerr, whom Ken described as a “cohesive and supportive group.”

For one year, Ken managed to do well academically while holding double majors in pre-med and English. Eventually, though, “I had to choose,” he said. Because he wanted to pursue medical school, the time demands of tennis and academics proved impossible. “But,” Ken said, “tennis is a lifetime sport”—and he looked forward to that.

Ken went on to become an accomplished dermatologist and surgeon and practiced until he lost his eyesight in 2013. As a result, he also had to give up tennis and other sports. But watching tennis is still something Ken enjoys. Ken’s love for tennis has taken him to the U.S. Open in New York, and to the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I.

“ODU was the secret to my continued success,” Ken said. “I received a wonderful education. I was challenged by my professors, well prepared for the MCATS and primed for a medical career. I got into EVMS the first year I applied.” For these reasons, and for the love of the game, Ken named the Old Dominion Athletic Foundation as the owner and beneficiary of an insurance policy that will endow a men’s tennis scholarship in his name following his death. The scholarship will fund an academic scholar and stellar tennis player. “Tennis has been an important part of my life,” Ken said, “and I want to cultivate an Academic-All-American at ODU. It’s my greatest dream to achieve that kind of recognition for the university.”

Have you made a provision to leave a future gift to Old Dominion University? If so, please let us know so we may thank you. Please contact Barbara M. Henley, CFRE at 757-683-6563 or bhenley@odu.edu or Brett A. Smiley, CFRE at 757-683-4735 or bsmiley@odu.edu.

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