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The Greatest Gift of All

The Greatest Gift of All

Note: The following appears in the March issue of Orange: The Experience. For full access to all of the publication’s content, join IPTAY today by calling 864-656-2115.

“For it is in giving that we receive.”

A timeless axiom that speaks volumes on the intrinsic value of altruism, the adage perfectly epitomizes the heartfelt commitment to the Clemson tennis program that husband and wife, Ed and Jane Duckworth, have so happily carried out for over a decade now. Furthermore, it underlies the ultimate impetus behind the Duckworths’ grand gift to Clemson tennis.

Avid supporters of Clemson’s tennis program, the Duckworths chose to champion a cause near and dear to their hearts in recent years by helping to fund welcomed changes to Clemson’s Hoke Sloan Tennis Center. Now, after steadfast fundraising and conscientious planning by all involved, the overhauling of the tennis center and implementation of a new and improved complex, which includes the Duckworth Family Tennis Facility administration building, is underway, marking a dream made into reality by way of the sheer graciousness of the couple.

“Other than our marriage, our children and our grandchildren, it’s probably our best accomplishment,” said Jane with a smile when speaking on her prized project.

A self-proclaimed “tennis family,” the Duckworths have a fond history with the sport. All three of their children were ranked as junior tennis players, including their son, Jim, who went on to play tennis at Mississippi. Longtime players themselves, they have been the biggest supporters of Clemson tennis for years, naturally becoming adopted members of the program as a result.

“Tennis has always been in our blood and a part of our lifestyle,” said Ed when speaking on the foundation for the Duckworths’ support for Tiger tennis. “After visiting Clemson’s tennis facilities around a decade ago, we decided to invest in the Clemson tennis program.”

Both retirees, they have followed Clemson tennis closely for years. As a result, they have grown more involved with the university and athletic department, as evinced by their $500,000 donation in 2009 that funded the construction of the Duckworth Family Pavilion at Hoke Sloan Tennis Center, which culminated in their spearheading of the present-day renovations to the new tennis facility.

From there, Jane led the fundraising cause for the new tennis facility, working closely with Aaron Dunham, director of IPTAY major gifts, in successfully garnering fiscal contributions from far and wide to help support the state-of-the-art venue’s construction.

“A lot of people have given money to help fund this facility, not just to support Clemson tennis,” said Dunham. “They know and respect the Duckworths. That’s how powerful their influence is.”

A team effort in every sense of the term, the long, detail-oriented process of setting the table for the tennis facility overhaul involved the combined efforts of Dunham, director of athletics Dan Radakovich, associate athletic director for facilities management Joe Simon and several other Clemson athletics devotees. But through it all, the unwavering leaders of the proverbial charge have been Jane and Ed Duckworth, whose contributions will leave a lasting legacy on the Tiger tennis program.

“The Duckworths are definitely part of our family,” stated women’s tennis head coach Nancy Harris. “They love and care for our players and travel all around to see them play. To me, Jane and Ed Duckworth are exemplary at presenting what Clemson University is all about, and I’m very honored and privileged to know them.”

The major renovations began this past November and are on track for completion in August. The tennis center is set to include a state-of-the-art indoor facility with ample seating and six courts, as opposed to the smaller four-court facility that it is replacing. The facility, which will remain in the same ideal location as that of Hoke Sloan Tennis Center, will be among the best college tennis centers in the nation, which is certainly not lost on the incredibly appreciative Clemson tennis family.

“Jane and Ed have contributed so much of their time and resources to their dream of this new tennis facility,” said men’s tennis head coach John Boetsch. “We are lucky to have people like them supporting our tennis program and Clemson athletics.”

In addition to the six indoor courts, the facility will feature 12 outdoor courts, including the varsity courts that are currently in place. From a logistical standpoint, the fan experience will be improved thanks to seating throughout the indoor facility, bleachers surrounding the outdoor courts, the presence of nearby restrooms and concession stands and additional seating encircling the outside of the indoor facility that will overlook the outdoor courts.

The experience for the Clemson tennis coaches and players will be conspicuously improved by way of the renovations, with the facility in position to become the hub for Clemson tennis. Pristine locker rooms, a sports medicine rehab area, coaches offices, a lounge area for the players and a patio area to assist with in-match operations will form the crux of the new tennis facility. Additionally, a lot sporting approximately 80 parking spaces will adjoin the facility, assuredly helping to further improve the overall fan experience, a sentiment echoed by Simon, who has overseen the design and construction aspects of the project.

“It’s going to be up there with the best tennis facilities,” said Simon. “You couldn’t ask for a better location. I believe it’s going to set the bar as a first-class tennis facility.”

Most importantly, the new and improved tennis facility should help to bolster the tennis program from a competitive standpoint. Having such a marvelous facility will assuredly aid in recruiting, and the addition of a top-of-the-line indoor venue with six courts will improve the match-day experience for all involved, which has generated plenty of excitement within the programs.

“We are so thankful and grateful to have a brand-new facility,” added Harris. “It’s going to be great for us in terms of playing and recruiting, and it’s also going to be great for the fans. The whole concept of it enhances the entire tennis program. It’s a dream come true.”

Having moved to the Clemson area in recent years, the Duckworths have fully invested themselves into Tiger tennis. Making an effort to attend as many matches, both home and away, as possible, they have wholly embraced the idea of the Clemson tennis family, something that is very near and dear to their hearts.

“We go to all of the matches,” explained Jane. “We’ve gotten to know the coaches and players so well that they’re like an extended family. For us, Clemson tennis has become a way of life.”

With two of their children having graduated from Clemson and multiple grandchildren carrying on that tradition, Ed, who is a Clemson alumnus himself, and Jane, a Meredith College alumna who was recently indoctrinated as an honorary Clemson graduate for her selfless donations, are champions for the orange and regalia in every way.

“I consider it a privilege to be a part of a university as diverse and worldly as Clemson,” stated Jane “To think that Ed and I have had a role in contributing to that gives us great pleasure.”

Despite the rigorous level of commitment, with regard to both time and money, the work towards the implementation of the new tennis center has been the primary source of fun for the Duckworths throughout the process of making the facility a reality.

“Giving back gives us such joy,” added Jane with tears in her eyes when explaining the significance of the tennis center. “The more that Ed and I did throughout this process, the more we wanted to do. And we’re so thrilled about the new facility.”

To Ed and Jane, providing their undivided commitment was the least they could do for a university and program that has meant so much to them for so long. And for a couple so understanding of the importance of family, lending a helping hand to the extended family of Clemson tennis has made it all the more worthwhile.

Giddy and excited over the pleasure that the new tennis facility is guaranteed to bring to so many for years to come, the faithful Tiger tennis fans feel like lucky recipients of the state-of-the-art tennis center, despite being the primary benefactors of it.

After all, giving is the most fulfilling form of receiving, and for the Duckworths, the joy that Clemson tennis continues to bring them year after year is the most fulfilling gift of all.