Nancy Corse Reed ’55, 1933-2009

Rollins Mourns a Champion

By Warren Miller ’90MBA

Nancy Corse Reed playing tennis.

“If you excel at what you do…you never have to tell people how good you are,” Nancy Corse Reed ’55 once advised her protégée, Felicia Hutnick ’79. “They will know, they will know.”

Everyone knew it about Nancy Reed.

Reed, who passed away on July 25, 2009, lived her own advice. Ranked as high as 16th in the world (in 1965) in women’s tennis and the top-ranked senior player in the U.S. in all age brackets from the age of 35 until her death at 76, Reed earned a spot in five sports halls of fame, including the Rollins College Sports Hall of Fame in 1978. But you never would have heard it from her.

“Nancy was very humble,” Hutnick recalled. “I asked her once, ‘If there’s one thing to tell me to help me in my life, what would it be?’ She answered, ‘You never have to talk about how good you are. Just live your life as who you are and don’t worry about accomplishments.’”

Reed’s accomplishments were numerous, varied, and lifelong. As a Rollin student, she was a key player in an era that saw the women’s tennis program dominate nationally. In 1954, for example, Reed and teammate Carmen Lampe Boland ’55 won the Women’s Eastern Intercollegiate Doubles title for a second consecutive year, and the East Collegiate tournament trophy was retired because the Rollins team had won it so many times.

Reed began her professional career straight out of Rollins as a teaching pro in her native Washington, DC. It was a time when the limited prize money available in professional women’s tennis made it impossible for a woman to support herself by playing tournament tennis. She persevered, however, and later, in response to this situation, co-founded the Winter Park-based Les Grand Dames, a senior women’s professional tour that helped increase the amount of prize money for female players. The volunteer group held tournaments in Florida at facilities that would offer them courts free of charge for one year and put almost all the money raised into the purses for its players.

Throughout her notorious career, the competitive Reed played in more than 60,000 tennis matches worldwide, making a name for herself doing what she loved most. “She knew exactly where to place the ball, so she didn’t try to overpower it,” said Bev Buckley ’75, a former Rollins player and the current women’s tennis coach at Rollins. “Nancy never wanted to lose. You’ve got to hate losing if you want to be a champion. At the same time, she was so humble. She let her racket do the talking.”

Reed loved the pro circuit, but she was equally happy playing on her local Azalea Lane team, a block from her home and not far from her beloved Rollins College. She didn’t like to talk about herself, but she loved to talk about Rollins. “The College was such a big part of who Nancy was,” Buckley explained. “She told me just weeks prior to her passing that she was going to establish an endowed scholarship in her name.” The Nancy Corse Reed/Patricia Beth Graham Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to a female tennis player for leadership, academic prowess, and sportsmanship, already has received several thousand dollars in donations.

Nancy Reed won enough trophies during her lifetime to fill a house, but the only one she displayed in her home, Hutnick said, was the glass pyramid she received upon her induction into the Rollins Sports Hall of Fame. Likewise, Reed will always be treasured by her alma mater as one of the golden girls of Rollins tennis and an ambassador of women’s tennis worldwide.

Make a contribution to the Nancy Corse Reed/Patricia Beth Graham Scholarship fund.