In Memory: Ginny Mack

May 29, 2024

By Terry O. Roen ’80

Ginny Mack
Photo by Rollins College Archives.

Rollins says goodbye to the beloved founder of the College’s women’s tennis program.

Ginny Mack will be remembered just as much for her kindness and humility as for the nationally ranked tennis teams she led to many victories. The beloved coach, who started the women’s tennis program at Rollins, died May 8, just two months shy of her 100th birthday. She began a legacy of winning that gave the College its reputation as a women’s tennis powerhouse.

The youngest of five children, Mack was born in St. Louis, Missouri. A self-described tomboy, Mack possessed a competitive drive that was nurtured in the backyard, where she played “kick the can” with her siblings. She excelled in basketball, softball, and tennis at the YWCA, which was a short walk from her elementary school.

During World War II, Mack enlisted at age 20 in the U.S. Coast Guard before going to earn a bachelor’s degree in education in 1949 from the University of Missouri in Columbia. After receiving her master’s degree in physical education (PE) from the University of Florida in 1956, she taught PE for seven years at Edgewater High School in Orlando. Mack was then hired by former President Hugh McKean in 1962 to come to Rollins, where she would launch the women’s tennis team two years later.

When Mack retired in 1986, the team had 305 wins and 125 losses. An exceptional student of the game, she developed the Tars as the only Division I team at Rollins, garnering 11 top-five finishes in the nationals. Mack was awarded the highest collegiate honor when she was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Hall of Fame in 1997. She was a two-time recipient of the Coach of the Year by the Florida Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and inducted into the Rollins Hall of Fame in 1983. In 1991, the Virginia “Ginny” Mack Endowed Scholarship Fund for Tennis at Rollins was established.

Mack’s easygoing nature and cheerleader personality were in sharp contrast with the win-at-all-costs mentality of today’s coaches. She drove the team van, hustled between courts with water, and encouraged players to “do your best.”

She never married or had children of her own, but Mack considered her team her family. She referred to the players as her “chickadees,” and they called her Ms. Mack. The team practiced twice a week for two hours. In comparison, the big universities had daily practices, conditioning drills, and team trainers. Mack said her coaching style probably wouldn’t work in today’s competitive environment.

Top right: Felicia Hutnick ’79, Bev Buckley ’75, and Ginny Mack.
Top right: Felicia Hutnick ’79, Bev Buckley ’75, and Ginny Mack.Photo by Rollins College Archives.

Bev Buckley ’75, Iowa’s top junior player, was accepted to the three best tennis schools in the country and said she chose Rollins because of its reputation. She was on Mack’s team from 1971 to 1975 before playing for five years on the women’s professional tour. Mack called her when she was ready to retire, and Buckley took over as head coach in 1986.

“Ms. Mack was more like a mother hen—always there for us,” says Buckley, who retires this year after 38 years as head coach of women’s tennis at Rollins. “She was one of my best friends in the world.”

“Ms. Mack was a confidant and friend to her students,” says Peg Jarnigan, who coached several women’s sports during her 42-year career at Rollins. “She was definitely a groundbreaking leader in women’s rights and in getting what women received in sports.”

Jarnigan said Mack lobbied fiercely for the 1972 passage of Title IX, which gave women athletes the right to equal opportunities in sports at federally funded schools. The legislation brought women’s tennis scholarships to Rollins for the first time.

Sandy Eskenazi ’80 credits Mack with impacting her career. Mack linked Eskenazi with the College’s only trainer, who allowed her to apprentice and become certified as a sports trainer while she played on the team for three years.

“Ms. Mack gave me the confidence to attain my goal and made the impression that there was nothing in life that I couldn’t accomplish,” says Eskenazi. “She always had time for you and made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”

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