Alumni couple gives $1.5M to Cornell men's tennis

Johnsons and Noel
Richard A. Johnson ’57, left, Dale Reis Johnson ’58 and Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education.

Andy Noel, the Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education, announced Feb. 2 that Richard A. Johnson ’57 and Dale Reis Johnson ’58 have made a $1.5 million gift to the Cornell men’s tennis program.

“We first got involved when the men’s tennis team won the Ivy League Championship [in 2011],” said Dick Johnson. “We called Andy Noel to see what we could do to most help the program since we had just become trustees of the L.S. Reis Fund. He said that the men’s and women’s teams did not have assistant coaches, so we agreed to fund them.”

In recognition of their gift, which will provide operating support and bolster the assistant coach’s position, Cornell will establish the Dick ’57 and Dale Reis Johnson ’58 Assistant Coach of Tennis, which will be held by Bruno Santarelli. In addition to supporting the men's tennis program, the Johnsons have committed to provide current-use gifts, on an annual basis, for the women’s program to help fund the assistant coach position.

“One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is the opportunity to build relationships with Cornell alumni,” said Noel. “Dick and Dale are two of my favorite people to spend time with – they are caring and thoughtful, and I simply cannot thank them enough for this extraordinary gift. Before my tenure concludes, I’d like to get a number of programs completely endowed. Piece-by-piece, through their loyal generosity and unstinting enthusiasm for the program, Dick and Dale have provided an invaluable foundation of support for tennis.”

Said Silviu Tanasoiu, the Savitt-Weiss Head Coach of Men’s Tennis: “This generous gift provides an opportunity of a lifetime for current student-athletes and many generations to come. Dick and Dale have championed our cause to provide a first-class opportunity to anybody representing this wonderful institution and tennis program, and we will be forever grateful for their generosity.”

The Reis family has long and deep ties to Cornell and its tennis program. Dale Johnson’s parents, the late L. Sanford Reis ’29 and Josephine Mills Reis ’29, made the lead gift to build the Reis Tennis Center. Her late brother, Curtis Reis ’56, and his wife, Pam, were also benefactors of Big Red tennis.

“The Cornell tennis facilities were bare bone,” said Dale Johnson. “They consisted of a bubble and a few outdoor courts. My family members were ardent tennis players. When the opportunity to fund a new tennis facility presented itself, [my father] was only too glad to oblige, with the enthusiastic support of his wife.”

In addition to their support of Cornell tennis, the Johnsons support undergraduate scholarships, including named scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering, the Reis Johnson Mental Health Services and the new Cornell Health facility.

The Johnsons have been active Cornell volunteers for many years and served in leadership roles with a variety of alumni, class and Cornell organizations. They were named foremost benefactors of Cornell in 2011.

The Big Red men's team is off to a 4-0 start in dual matches this season with its next home contests scheduled against Clemson University and University of Wisconsin on Feb. 24 and 26, respectively, at the Reis Tennis Center. The squad's quest for the Ivy League title begins at Columbia on April 1.

Julie Greco is associate director of Athletic Communications.

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