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Cornell men’s tennis team receives $1.5 million donation

Assistant Coach Bruno Santarelli talks to Rohan Sikka and Colin Sinclair in between sets in their match against St. John’s University on Feb. 11 at the Reis Tennis Center at Cornell University. Photo by Max Denning
By Celisa Calacal & Max Denning

A $1.5 million donation to the Cornell University men’s tennis program has put the team closer to being fully financially funded by alumni.

The university announced Feb. 3 that Richard A. Johnson and Dale Reis Johnson, two prominent Cornell alumni, would be donating the money to the men’s tennis team. Their donation will fund the establishment of the Dick ’57 and Dale Reis Johnson ’58 Assistant Coach of Tennis.

The Johnson family has a history of supporting Cornell athletics. In 1994, the parents of Dale Johnson founded the Reis Tennis Center, where the Cornell men’s and women’s tennis teams play. Dick Johnson, an alum of the university, said the purpose of the large grant is to ensure the continuance of the team.

“We wanted to make sure that that Reis Tennis Center had an excellent team in perpetuity to play there to take advantage of that facility,” Johnson said.

At Cornell, athletic programs are not fully funded by the university. Collecting donations from alumni have thus become one of the primary ways to keep sports teams afloat.

Silviu Tanasoiu, director of intercollegiate tennis and the Savitt-Weiss head coach of men’s tennis, said the men’s tennis program has been aiming to become self-funded through alumni donations. He said alumni donations help secure the team’s future.

“It provides security for the life of this program,” Tanasoiu said. “It creates a very stable environment for many years to come for our guys to compete and train.”

One of the primary uses of the donation will be to fund a permanent position for an assistant coach on the team. The assistant coach position is currently held by Bruno Santarelli, who is in his second year with the team.

Tanasoiu said Santarelli is involved with every aspect of the program, from scouting high school players, training individual team members, mentoring players off the court and more administrative duties such as budgeting.

Colin Sinclair, captain of the men’s tennis team, said having an assistant coach is especially helpful due to the size of the team.

“We have quite a big team, we have 16 guys,” Sinclair said. “So having an extra pair of eyes on the court at all times is really helpful and allows Silviu to kind of specialize with players and Bruno to do the same.”

Sinclair, who is a senior at Cornell University, has also benefitted from the Johnson’s hospitality in the past. In November 2016, Sinclair stayed at their home in Southern California, while playing in the Jack Kramer Collegiate Invitational in Rolling Hills Estates, Calif.

“They were extremely hospitable,” he said. “They came out and watched all of the matches that we played. They’re just really great people.”

The Johnson family has previously supported the university outside its sports programs. The family supported the building of the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts and the renovation of the Fall Creek hydroelectric plant.

The current success of the men’s tennis team in recent years makes Johnson hopeful for the program’s continued success with this new donation. The men’s tennis team is off to a 6–0 start this season, most recently beating St. John’s University 6–1, the defending Big East conference champions. It is Cornell’s best start to a season since 2004.

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