TEMPE, Ariz. – The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced that Nithya Kanagasegar of Case Western Reserve University has been selected as the first recipient of the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award, endowed by Billie Jean King.
Kanagasegar will be honored by the ITA as part of the ITA Arthur Ashe Jr. Weekend in August in New York City. She will receive a specially-engraved gift in addition to a post-graduate scholarship. The ITA will also donate $1,000 to the Case Western Reserve University tennis program.
“I am grateful to the ITA, Coach Lebedeff, and Billie Jean King for creating this award to recognize a distinct group of student-athletes. To even be selected as a finalist for this award was quite an honor, so to have won the award is truly incredible,” said Kanagasegar. “I am excited to apply the scholarship to help me pursue my dreams of becoming a doctor, and I look forward to seeing the gift to my alma mater as a way to help future tennis players at CWRU.
“Throughout my career at CWRU, I have often thought to myself about the legacy that I wanted to leave behind as a student-athlete. I had big ambitions of awards to collect and titles to win. However, as I reflect on my four years, I realize that while I am proud of those awards, I am most appreciative of how tennis has shaped my character and given me the opportunity to impact our athletic community. I cannot thank my teammates, coaches, friends, and family enough for their support, without which none of this would have been possible.”
The ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award was created to honor a recent college graduate who played college tennis and demonstrated excellence on and off the court, leadership on his or her team as well as on his or her college campus and in his or her community. The annual recipient of the award will have demonstrated grit (i.e. passion and perseverance towards long-term goals), a commitment to social justice and equality, and will have pushed others to be leaders in addition to demonstrating his or her own leadership.
Kanagasegar communicated her concerns with discrimination and injustices to the Athletics Director at Case Western Reserve University and moderated the first Sustained Dialogue group in the country specifically for student-athletes to eliminate any future issues. She assisted with sponsoring on-court events to either raise money for or to directly interact with local youth to provide them with tennis, health, fitness, literacy, and creative expression programs (such as Inner-City Tennis Clinics (ICTC). Through her experiences in higher education, she learned the significance of striving for social justice and has been fortunate that tennis has provided her with a way to transform her community and encourage equality.
“I am so pleased that Nithya has been selected to be the inaugural recipient of the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award,” said Lebedeff. “Nithya epitomizes her commitment to leadership on her campus and her community by moderating the first Sustained Dialogue related to discrimination and injustices on campus. This was the first Dialogue on a college campus specifically for student-athletes in the United States. Additionally, Nithya has assisted in sponsoring events in her community which has aided in raising money and promoting interaction with local youths. I congratulate Nithya for her unselfish efforts in addressing problems on campus and promoting youth projects within the Cleveland area. I wish her the best of luck with graduate school and believe she has a bright future ahead.”
Kanagasegar was announced as one of four finalists for the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award in March. The finalist’s materials (i.e., personal statement, resume, letters from their coach, teammate, and institution’s President) were submitted to the ITA Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award Selection Panel. Each finalist submitted a personal statement as part of the application process, which described the role that tennis and higher education played in their life, the lessons learned, examples of community service, and a description of their plans upon graduation, describing hopes and dreams to be pursued.
About The ITA
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) is committed to serving college tennis and returning the leaders of tomorrow. As the governing body of college tennis, the ITA oversees men’s and women’s varsity tennis at NCAA Divisions I, II and III, NAIA and Junior/Community College divisions. The ITA administers a comprehensive awards and rankings program for men’s and women’s varsity players, coaches and teams in all divisions, providing recognition for their accomplishments on and off the court. For more information on the ITA, visit the ITA website at www.itatennis.com, like the ITA on Facebook, or follow @ITA_Tennis on Twitter and Instagram.