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A lesson in charitable giving from a tennis coach

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013 1:42 pm | Updated: 8:15 pm, Thu Aug 29, 2013.

I have been privileged during my lifetime to encounter some very remarkable people. One of the most remarkable of those I have observed is Steve Wilkinson, the tennis coach at Gustavus Adolphus College for whom the term legendary might have been invented. Although he wasn’t recruited to Gustavus to be the tennis coach (he was recruited as a religion professor), he accepted their invitation to be the volunteer tennis coach. Little could the Gustavus athletic department have known that Steve Wilkinson would become the winningest coach in men’s tennis collegiate history. He has been inducted into the NCAA and International Tennis Halls of Fame. Although he would never use the term, he built a national tennis dynasty at a relatively unlikely venue — a small liberal arts in the Midwest.

In addition to his coaching, Steve, with his wife, Barb, founded the Tennis and Life Camps (TLC), which are held during the summer months at Gustavus. Notice the camp doesn’t just teach tennis, it offers lessons about living a good life as well. I recall a few years ago, Tennis Magazine named the top 10 tennis camps in the U.S. My recollection is that nine of the top 10 camps were in Florida and California, most in resort-type settings. The “outlier” was Tennis and Life Camps, housed on a college campus, with no air-conditioning in the dorm rooms, in St. Peter, Minn. You attend for the experience, not the luxury.

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