In 1954, when women’s intercollegiate competition was still actively discouraged, Helen Lewis defied convention by staging a national invitational tennis tournament for college women at her alma mater, Washington University in St. Lewis. A trailblazing event, that first tournament was the foundation for the national championships played today.

Lewis, a former St. Louis city champion, believed that college competition was a vital ‘bridge over’ from junior to women’s tennis. By 1958, with the support of USTA president Victor Denny and treasurer Harold Lebair, she succeeded in transforming her invitational tournament into the USTA-sanctioned national championship. That same year Lewis founded the USTA’s Women’s Collegiate Committee which created standards for women’s competition.

Together with her husband, Monroe, longtime president of the Missouri Valley Tennis Association, Helen Lewis made a lifetime commitment to the development of young tennis players. For their many contributions to tennis, the Lewises were awarded thte USTA’s Samuel Hardy Award in 1967.

As a tribute to her founding role in women’s collegiate tennis, Lewis served as honnorary chiar of the 16th annual national championships in 1973. In 1975 she receivved the USTA’s Educational Merit Award. Active well into her 80’s, Lewis died in 1984 at the age of 88.

Career Highlights

  • Initiated national invitational tournaments for college women, held at Washington University 1954-1958
  • Secured USTA sanction for national women’s collegiate championship, held at Washington University 1958-1963
  • Founder and Chair of the USTA’s Women’s Collegiate Committee
  • Chair of the Junior Wightman Cup Committee
  • Chair of USTA’s Missouri Valley Tennis Association Women’s Advisory Committee
  • Winner, with husband Monroe E. Lewis, of USTA’s Samuel Hardy Award for outstanding service to tennis educational programs 1967
  • Honorary Chair of the 16th annual USTA National Women’s Collegiate Championship, held at Auburn University 1973
  • Winner of USTA Educational Merit Award 1975