American Jane Brown Grimes, a former USTA President, member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHOF) and Managing Director of the Women’s International Professional Tennis Council (WIPTC) died of cancer at home in New York on Tuesday 2 November at the age of 80.
Jane has served tennis on every level. No other person has ever run three major organisations in tennis. She broke down barriers that women faced in the workplace, pushed back gender roles, and did it all with grace. Over the decades I watched Jane work her magic with intelligence, savvy, and integrity. Her skilled diplomacy was key to the survival of the WTA. Chris Evert
The ITHOF, with whom Brown Grimes was associated for 5 decades, announced the news based on information from her daughter, Serena Larson.
“Jane devoted her life to the sport of tennis, and the sport benefited greatly from her intelligence, grace and dedication,” USTA Chairman of the Board and President Mike McNulty said. “With her unparalleled dignity, Jane grew our sport from the most local grassroots to the highest levels of the professional game. She will be missed.”
Born on 20 January, 1941 in Freeport, New York, Brown Grimes graduated from Wellesley College in 1962, before going to the Zicklin School of Business to earn a Master of Business Administration degree.
She started her career working at Life magazine as a reporter ahead of her lengthy service to the sport, which began in 1977 when she was recruited by tennis greats Bill Talbert and Sarah Palfrey Danzig, and Philip Morris executive Joseph F. Cullman 3rd, to open a New York City development office for the ITHOF to elevate the organisation’s scope and profile.
She was the Hall of Fame’s Executive Director from 1981 through 1986, and served as Tournament Director for ATP and WTA Tour events in Newport, Rhode Island, during that time.
She returned to the ITHOF in 1991 as President and CEO, serving until 2000, during which time the museum amassed a significant collection of tennis artefacts integral to preserving the sport’s history.
Additionally, she oversaw major restorations of the Hall of Fame’s historic buildings and grounds, which were the site of the first US National Lawn Tennis Championships, today’s US Open, in 1881, which are now a National Historic Landmark.
Former ITHOF CEO Mark Stenning, who worked closely with Brown Grimes for more than three decades, stated: “As the leader of three major tennis organisations, Jane had a tremendously positive and wide-ranging impact across the sport.
“She was an astute leader who approached everything with the highest level of grace, skill, and intelligence. I am grateful to have counted her as my friend and mentor.”
In 1986, she became the Managing Director of the WIPTC, the body formed and operated under a joint secretariat shared between the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) with representatives from the tournaments and sponsors, the purpose of which was to promote, control and govern the organisation and development of the women’s pro circuit throughout the world.
With great diplomacy, Brown Grimes successfully negotiated the move away from the controversial Virginia Slims tobacco sponsorship to General Foods, the non-tobacco division of Philip Morris, a crucial move to ensure the future viability of the women’s professional tour.
Brown Grimes became the First Vice President of the United States Tennis Association in 2005 before being promoted to President in 2007, becoming only the second woman in USTA history to hold the position.
As Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of the USTA from 2007-2008, Brown Grimes oversaw unprecedented growth of the US Open with numerous innovations and establishing new records in both revenue and fan attendance.
She was instrumental in launching new programming that resulted in a surge of tennis participation from kids ages 10 and under.
She also led the completion of the state-of-the-art Indoor Training Center at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Additionally, Brown Grimes played a key role in the USTA’s purchase of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, one of the premier tournaments on the WTA and ATP Tours.
In 2014, Brown Grimes was herself inducted into the ITHOF in recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the sport, when on the occasion of her induction, fellow Hall of Famer Chris Evert stated: “Jane has served tennis on every level. No other person has ever run three major organizations in tennis.
“She broke down barriers that women faced in the workplace, pushed back gender roles, and did it all with grace.
“Over the decades I watched Jane work her magic with intelligence, savvy, and integrity. Her skilled diplomacy was key to the survival of the WTA.”
In addition to her executive leadership roles, Brown Grimes was a dedicated volunteer for youth tennis and education programs, including USTA Serves and the Rodney Street Tennis & Tutoring Association.
Pam Shriver, also a Hall of Famer, reflected: “It always struck me how much Jane cared for every level of the game. Whether it was the history of the game or the women’s game, the professional game, the grassroots game, the inner-city game, it was clear that she genuinely cared to help advance it all.
“She was one of the most upstanding and outstanding people I have met via tennis or via anywhere.”
Brown Grimes was also highly active with the ITF, having served on the Junior Competitions Committee, Fed Cup Committee, and the Rules of Tennis Committee, among others, as well on the Grand Slam Committee.
In retirement, Brown Grimes turned her career experiences into academic pursuits at Cambridge University, earning a master’s degree in International Relations in 2015, focused on the global impact of tennis.
In recent years, she had done substantial work toward her Ph.D., which was an examination of women’s tennis history from the dawn of the Open Era in 1968 through 2007, when equal prize money was awarded to men and women at all four Grand Slam tournaments.
Brown Grimes was the widow of Olympic medallist Charles Grimes, who won gold at the 1956 Summer Olympics in rowing and died in 2007.
In addition to her daughter Larson, Brown Grimes is survived by two sons, Jim Schwarz and Ames Brown, five grandchildren, and her brother, Sam Gillespie.
Jane Brown Grimes: 20 January, 1941 – 2 November, 2021