Recent alums of the Penn State men’s tennis program have more than just a nine-to-five, vacation days, and happy hours to look forward to after graduation. For Nittany Lions, graduation also means being added to the alum group chat.
The requirements for entry? An intense love for the Penn State program and maybe a funny story or two from their collegiate tennis days.
The alumni of the men’s tennis program started the informal group in the eighties and as years passed the fraternity of players evolved as well. Currently, the members keep in regular communication through a group chat that boasts over fifty Penn State tennis alumni.
Recent graduate, Benjamin Lieb, has been part of the alumni group for almost two years and the chat has become a community for him.
The chat really has no formal rules and the topics have a wide range from job announcements to birthdays to current events to Penn State tennis. It is a place for the alumni to support one another.
In normal times, the alum group takes things offline and organizes events for the members to get together.
One of the more recent events was the 2019 Alumni Football Weekend.
“We rented a tailgate spot over by the football field,” Lieb reminisced. “There were probably 50 of us, almost, just there at Penn State for the weekend. We literally spent the whole weekend together. We went and watched the guys practice, goofed around on the tennis courts after, went out to dinners, got drinks together, and tailgated at the football game on Saturday.”
While the group is alumni-driven and organized, the members jump at any opportunity they have to interact with and support the current men’s tennis student-athletes. Whether it is attending matches, barbequing with the team, or messages of support — the alumni are a solid support base for the program.
“The first thing that happens when you’re playing at Penn State is that you get texts from older alumni saying ‘Welcome to the family,’” Lieb explained. “You truly don’t understand what that’s like until you reach the end of your college career and you truly understand ‘Hey this isn’t four years in and out. This is a lifetime fraternity of people that I can count on for the rest of my life.’”
Members of the group span decades creating a community that helps the Penn State alumni through all stages of their life.
“Our alumni chat has created a great intergenerational family that allows everyone to stay connected across the globe,” Jon Brilliant, Class of 1986, said. “Whether it’s reliving profound losses or epic wins, stories about our time on road trips or on campus, or sharing current personal updates — our chat constant brings a smile to my face and furthers the indelible bonds amongst a group passionate about our sport and our alma mater.”
Lieb, among others, uses older members as his mentor. Their life experiences are invaluable to younger members — and the alums are always willing to help out.
The bonds created by the tennis program are invaluable to the alumni, to the program, to Penn State, and to college tennis as a whole. The shared experience ties the members together and keeps them connected to the past and the future.
“No matter where you are in the country. No matter where you are in this world. We’re all always connected,” Lieb concluded.