By John Perney
There’s something about defending the home court that brings a team together.
In this case, the opposition wasn’t a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association school, but rather the elements. Only these elements didn’t fall from the sky. They crept up from below.
What had been a gradual cracking over many years of the tennis courts outside the Dow Recreation and Wellness Center unexpectedly reached the point last summer where several of the courts were deemed unsuitable for intercollegiate play. The unforeseen six-figure cost, however, presented an equally unforeseen, and particularly meaningful, opportunity for former Britons to reconnect with their alma mater.
Indeed, Albion tennis stars Suzanne Scrutton, ’86, and Dave Haak, ’84, saw the project as the perfect vehicle for a significant gift—a unique way to smash one more cross-court winner for the Brits, if you will.
“It seemed like a natural that I would do this,” says Scrutton, a member of the College’s Athletic Hall of Fame who was named to two All-MIAA first teams and won the 1985 league title at second-flight singles. After majoring in philosophy and anthropology and sociology at Albion, she went on to receive her J.D. from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, which she continues to call home today. She is a partner at the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, where she has built up the healthcare practice over the last 20 years. “As a scholar-athlete, tennis taught me a lot of life lessons in terms of prioritizing, multitasking, time management, and goal-setting,” she says.
Haak, an MIAA tournament runner-up in each of his four years, shares similar sentiments. “Albion tennis was great,” he says, “and tennis in my work life has paid huge dividends in many ways. It opened a lot of doors.” Currently a managing director for Slalom Consulting, the Lansing-based Haak recently retired as a partner with Accenture and before that led a range of information-management projects at IBM. He received his M.B.A. from the University of Michigan after graduating from Albion with a B.A. in economics and management and computational mathematics.
Along with the six outdoor hardcourts, completely rebuilt to last up to 25 years, the Ungrodt Tennis Center’s four indoor courts were also updated. All feature a Briton purple playing surface and were in full use this spring by the men’s and women’s tennis teams. Perhaps years from now, the 2018 Brits will recall being the first to play at the revamped complex as part of their close-knit camaraderie, something an NCAA Division III experience is all about.
“I actually never stepped foot on Albion’s campus until the first day of SOAR,” remembers Haak, who was recruited by former coach Ken Foust as a senior at the high school state tournament. A “late bloomer,” starting tennis at 13, “Division I would’ve been a grind,” Haak adds. “Albion looked to be the right fit, and we just had a bunch of really close guys on the team.”
“The best memories are the ones where we were on road trips with Char Duff,” says Scrutton, referring to the legendary Albion physical education professor and women’s athletics pioneer, who passed away in 2013. And Duff put Scrutton’s leadership to work off the court as well. “She thought I was a really good driver—the flip side of being captain,” Scrutton says with a laugh. “You play three or four tennis matches, and then you’re driving home from Jenison.”
Another donor to the project, Marilyn Spitler Misner, ’68, also remembers Duff well. “While I did not have the opportunity to play college tennis, our daughter (Kristin Misner Meier, ’96) enjoyed her years on Albion’s tennis team,” she says. “I am excited that Albion men and women have the opportunity to play on beautifully resurfaced courts.”
Fundraising continues for the Albion Tennis Project, which includes opportunities for individual court naming rights. To learn more, contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 517/629-0446 or .