Tennis & Life Camps Gifted to Gustavus

Posted on January 27th, 2011 by

Barbara and Steve Wilkinson

Gustavus Adolphus College President Jack R. Ohle announced on Jan. 27 that the Gustavus-based Tennis & Life Camps program has been gifted to the College.  Neal Hagberg ’81, who has taught tennis, led music and entertainment, directed counseling, and generally headed the “life” programming of Tennis & Life Camps since 1981, has accepted the position of Director. The College will be referring to the program as Tennis & Life Camps at Gustavus.

The Tennis & Life Camps program has been operating on the Gustavus campus since 1977 under the leadership of its founders, longtime Gustavus head men’s tennis coach Steve Wilkinson and his wife, Barbara Wilkinson. Coach Wilkinson retired in 2009. The Wilkinsons and the other five shareholders of Tennis & Life Camps made the decision to gift Tennis & Life Camps to Gustavus. The transfer became official this month.   

In its 34 years of existence, Tennis & Life Camps have taught thousands of students of all ages both how to play better tennis and how to be better people. Programs include Junior Camps, Tournament Player Camps, Adult Camps, and Family Camps. The mission of Tennis & Life Camps throughout its history, and continuing into its future, is “to develop in tennis players, of all ages and abilities, improved tennis skills and an enriched approach to life.”

Speaking on behalf of the seven shareholders making the donation, Coach Wilkinson said, “We have always seen Tennis & Life Camps as being in many ways an extension and amplification of Gustavus’s mission. We have always sought to nurture and challenge our campers to stretch themselves athletically and to reach their fullest potential in service to the greater wellbeing of all people. We have been truly blessed to be able to reach so many people, young and old. Much of what we teach reflects Gustavus’s values of excellence, service, justice, community, and faith.”

Sportsmanship, effort, and positive attitude are the pillars of a distinctive philosophy that has made Tennis & Life Camps the extraordinary program that it is. These values are at the foundation of Coach Wilkinson’s legendary success over the decades. While leading Gustavus men’s tennis program from 1970 to 2009, he guided his players to more wins than any head coach in men’s tennis collegiate history with 929 victories. Wilkinson guided the program to two NCAA Division III titles, four Division III National Indoor tiles, and a Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record of 334-1.

“We are very fortunate that Neal Hagberg has agreed to serve as leader of Tennis & Life Camps at Gustavus,” President Ohle said.  “Neal is an extraordinary individual who is beloved and admired throughout the Gustavus community. Neal embodies Gustavus values in his life, his art, and his work with tennis education. He and his wife, Leandra Peak ’83, are nationally acclaimed singers and songwriters who have been awarded two McKnight Foundation fellowships. Together they live out Gustavus’s mission in all that they do.”

“It is truly an honor to follow in the footsteps of my mentor and hero, Steve Wilkinson,” said Hagberg. “Taking on this new role is exciting, and my colleagues at Gustavus have been remarkable in helping me to make it a smooth and successful transition. They embody what Tennis and Life Camps is all about.”


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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