2015 ITA Achievement Award Highlight Booklet
NEW YORK, N.Y. – The ITA Achievement Award will now be officially recognized as the ITA David A Benjamin Achievement Award – as made possible by Margie and Stan Smith. The endowment of the ITA David A Benjamin Achievement Award took place Saturday at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Board Meeting at the Grand Hyatt New York.
“The extraordinary legacy gift from Margie and Stan Smith to the ITA, in honor of our good friend and colleague David Benjamin, symbolizes all that is great about college tennis – the rich history of the sport, the intersection between the best in higher education and on-court competition – and celebrates lives of service,” said ITA CEO Timothy Russell.
Now in its 22nd year, the ITA Achievement Award pays tribute each year to past participants in the world of varsity tennis who have achieved excellence in their cho¬sen careers. The spirit of the award honors both professional success and contributions to society, made either as a direct result of a career, or through humanitarian efforts.
Stan Smith, President of the ITHF, is one of the sport’s most well-known tennis players of all time. He was one of the last college graduates to win grand slam championships, the U.S. Open in 1971 and Wimbledon in 1972. As a professional doubles players, he won five grand slam titles with long-time partner Bob Lutz. The former world No. 1 singles player, Smith shares in his own words why he and wife Margie chose to endow the ITA Achievement Award in honor of David A Benjamin.
College tennis would not be where it is today if not for his 36 years of leadership,” Smith said. “The ITA created so many aspects of what college tennis is today, including: major tournaments, college rankings, the College Tennis Hall of Fame, year-end awards, a Coaches Board of Directors, and the Annual Convention.
Both Margie and I feel strongly about the importance of education and college tennis. The ITA Achievement Award celebrates that combination in the most profound way.
David Benjamin coached at Princeton University for 26 years, including coaching our son, Trevor, for two years. Margie was in the first class of women at Princeton and captained the tennis team. Trevor played on and captained the men’s team. All four of our children played college tennis; three have been captains of their teams and the college experience has made a tremendous impact on their lives.
I played college tennis at USC, won the NCAA Singles National Championship once, doubles twice and the Team National Championship three times. The college experience was an important part of my life.
I have been on the panel to select the ITA Achievement Award winner, and have personally presented the award for 22 years, along with David Benjamin. David played a critical role in establishing this prestigious honor and it’s only right that we pay homage to all that David has done for the sport of college tennis by having the ITA Achievement Award named after him.
Below is a look at Benjamin’s illustrious playing and coaching career in the sport of tennis, along with his involvement with the ITA.
David A Benjamin a former Harvard University tennis and squash star and nationally recognized teaching professional, became head coach of varsity tennis and squash at Princeton University in 1974, and led both programs to national prominence during his first four years.
His tenure at Princeton began with him as the youngest member of the Princeton University athletic department and concluded with his retirement as the most senior member in years of service in the athletic department. His coaching record stands at 339-150 (with an Ivy League record of 178-44) one of the most successful in NCAA Division I tennis. Never finishing with a losing record, Benjamin has guided seven teams to the Eastern College Tennis Association titles and seven to Eastern College Athletic Conference titles. His 1979 and 1980 teams were ranked in the Top 10 in the final ITA national collegiate ranking the only Ivy League teams ever to attain a final Top 10 ranking.
A number of Princeton players achieved outstanding tennis success, both in college and afterwards. Jay Lapidus, '81 a two-time All American was ranked No.1 in college tennis his junior year and went on to a world professional ranking of No.32. Lapidus' teammate and doubles partner Leif Shiras '81 also twice an All American, reached the semifinals of the NCCA singles championships, the round of 16 at Wimbledon and was ranked as high as No. 31 in the world as a pro. The late Ted Farnsworth '84 won the Rolex National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship in 1983- an accomplishment that went unequalled by an Ivy League player for 15 years.
Under Benjamin's direction, the Friends of Princeton Tennis has raised over a million dollars in funds to help support the teams programs, in addition to major donations for the quadrennial Marx European Tour for the men's and women's teams, the building of the Lenz Tennis Center and the Hodgman/Anawalt Lounge at Jadwin Gymnasium.
Benjamin began his career at Harvard as the captain and number-one singles player on the 1963 undefeated freshman team. The summer of his freshman year he won the USTA National Junior 18 & Under Consolation Singles Championships at Kalamazoo, Michigan, and also played in the 1963 U.S. National Championships at Forest Hills. As a sophomore and junior at Harvard, Benjamin played number two on the varsity and moved up to the number-one spot as a senior, when he captained the Crimson to an undefeated season and the Ivy League title.
In the summer of 1964 Benjamin was invited by the United States State Department to serve on a special mission to Togo, to establish a national tennis program and train Togo’s best young tennis players. While in West Africa, he won the Men’s Singles Championship in the West African Championships held in Lagos, Nigeria (ten years later, Benjamin returned to West Africa, again at the request of the States Department, and again worked with the national tennis programs in Togo and Nigeria, and coached the Nigerian Davis Team in January of 1974 in their match against Morocco).
Phi Beta Kappa and a finalist in the Rhodes Scholarship competition, he graduated magna cum laude in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in American History and Literature and received the Charles Henry Fiske Fellowship for study at Trinity College in Cambridge, England. That summer Benjamin played in the Prentice Cup Match at the All England Club at Wimbledon as a member of the Harvard/Yale team (vs. Oxford/Cambridge).
In addition to tennis coaching, Benjamin has received his undergraduate degree from Harvard College, a B.A. and Master's degree from Trinity College at Cambridge University, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University in the History of American civilization, taught an American literature class for the English Department at Princeton. He also coached the Tiger's men’s varsity squash team for four years (1974-78) compiling a 39-1 record and four national titles. Benjamin has authored two books: Competitive Tennis and the ITA Guide to Coaching Winning Tennis. He has also written articles for a variety of magazine including the New Republic, World Tennis and Tennis Magazine.
In 1975 Benjamin joined forces with Eve Kraft to set up a special project between the State Department and the USTA, and for two years he served as the first administrator of the United States Tennis Association International Joint Tennis Teaching Project. This program was the initial prototype of the international player development program that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) would create years later.
Benjamin has been involved with the ITA, the governing body of collegiate tennis since 1979, when he was first elected president. In 1981, he was re-elected President and at the same time appointed executive director a position he held until his retirement in 2015. He now serves as the ITA’s Chairman of the Board. In his years with the ITA, Benjamin has guided it from organization consisting of fewer than 50 coaches of men's Division I schools to its current status, representing 1,500 member coaches, 15,000 collegiate tennis players and more than 1,000 men's and women's college tennis programs at the NCAA Division I, II, III, NAIA and Junior/ Community College levels.