Kellmeyer Enters Tennis Hall Of Fame
Published July 09, 2011 07:49
NEWPORT, Rhode Island, USA - Fern Lee 'Peachy' Kellmeyer, who was the very first employee and director of the WTA in 1973 and still serves the organization, was today inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame, in the contributor category. Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the WTA - the ninth chief Kellmeyer has worked with at the governing body - gave Kellmeyer's presentation speech at the historic shrine of tennis.
Click here for video from Peachy's big day in Newport!
"This is a tremendous honor, and I'm so grateful for the recognition," said Kellmeyer on news of her election to the most exclusive club in tennis, in the same year as Andre Agassi. "From playing opportunities to prize money to interest in the game, we've all worked very hard to reach the positive position women's tennis is in today. I'm fortunate to have truly loved my work all my life. It's a real joy to see my efforts have positively impacted women."
Kellmeyer, 66, of Wheeling, West Virginia, became involved in the game as a talented junior player, went on to be a star collegiate athlete, and even competed at the US Open and Wimbledon before taking the administrative route. During her career with the WTA she has led operations, as well as the player and tournament relations functions, and has been at the center of all major policy decisions.
"Peachy is a survivor and she survived all the changes the WTA made from top to bottom," said Rosie Casals, multiple Grand Slam doubles champion and key Original Nine member, who was present at the Hall of Fame ceremony. "From CEOs to restructuring… Peachy still stood.
"She was the person behind the scenes that facilitated new policies or new ideas in women's tennis," Casals added. "She was patient and made things happen because she was well liked by players, promoters and staff. She wasn't flamboyant and didn't attract a lot of attention - but she had her style and she accomplished many things without making too much of a fuss."
Former world No.4 Wendy Turnbull, another former colleague who became a friend, added to the chorus of appreciation for Kellmeyer's quiet influence.
"Anyone in tennis who knows Peachy knows how much she loves the sport," said the Aussie great. "She can get her point across without raising her voice. Her word was good enough and she earned the respect from her peers over these past four decades. All the years I was on tour I found her to treat everyone fairly, no matter what ranking you were."
Watch video tributes from tennis greats spanning five decades!
During Kellmeyer's tenure, prize money on the WTA has increased from $309,000 in 1973 to over $86,000,000 in 2010, and the number of WTA events has risen from 23 domestic events to 53 events in 33 countries. Attendance at WTA events has also gone up dramatically, with nearly 5 million in-stadium fans annually, and TV exposure has increased with hundreds of millions of homes receiving over 6,000 hours of international coverage annually.
As well as the quest for equal prize money in tennis, Kellmeyer has been a tireless fighter for women's rights in all sports. As physical education director at Marymount College in Boca Raton, Florida in the early seventies, Kellmeyer spearheaded a lawsuit that ultimately led to the dismantling of a National Education Association rule that had prohibited athletic scholarships being awarded to female athletes at colleges across the nation. The landmark case paved the way for Title IX and contributed greatly to the increase of female athletes in intercollegiate athletics.
A member of the ITF's Fed Cup Committee, Kellmeyer currently serves as WTA Operations Executive Consultant, and oversees the WTA's alumnae program to ensure past players and tournament directors remain engaged with the WTA that they helped build.
As part of the weekend's celebrations in Newport, the ITHF's Billie Jean King WTA Gallery is hosting an exhibition, Peachy Kellmeyer: The Soul of Women's Tennis. The display pays tribute to the inspiring story of the woman who dedicated her life to growing women's professional tennis from its humble beginnings to the popular, global sport the world enjoys today.
View a photographic tribute to Peachy's life in tennis!