Saluting an All-time Great

“For every hour you spend on the athletic field, spend two in the library.”

— Arthur Ashe Jr.

This year’s annual tribute to student-athletes takes on special meaning as it is the 15th anniversary of the death of tennis great Arthur Ashe Jr. for whom the award is named.

Ashe died from AIDS-related pneumonia in 1993 after contracting the disease from a blood transfusion following double-bypass surgery. But before his untimely death at the age of 49, Ashe already had an impressive academic, athletic, social and civil rights résumé.

He graduated first in his class in high school and earned a full scholarship to UCLA. As a student-athlete, Ashe won the NCAA’s singles title in 1965 and contributed to UCLA’s winning the NCAA tennis team championship. He was truly a pioneer in tennis, becoming the first Black man to win the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon. He would receive numerous awards — inducted into the Tennis Hall of Fame, named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year; awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and having the stadium where the U.S. Open finals are played named in his honor.

In addition to tennis, he was very committed to education (see the quote above) and many social causes, not least of which was raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and inadequate health care for the poor.

He earned the respect and admiration of millions while he was alive as well as posthumously, which is why the publishers of Diverse established the award in his name. Over the last several years, the magazine has recognized thousands of student-athletes who excel academically and athletically. However, each year we choose two — a female and male athlete that best embody the spirit of Ashe through their academic excellence, athletic accomplishments and humanitarianism. Momei Qu, a tennis player from the University of Illinois, and Marcus Dixon, a football player from Hampton University, are the 2008 Arthur Ashe Sports Scholars of the Year.

You can read more about Momei and Marcus in their respective profiles, as well as brief profiles of the female and male finalists for the award. That is a new highlight as is our partnership with The New York Times in which our two award winners and four finalists will be featured in the Times’ Play magazine on June 1.

Every year we encourage all college and universities to nominate their eligible student-athletes. So if you missed this year’s deadline, there’s always next year.

In the meantime, we have several interesting articles in this edition related to collegiate sports. In addition to the profiles of the student-athletes, we report on the first HBCU — the University of Maryland Eastern Shore — to receive a PGA Professional Golf Management Program; staying with golf, Lydia Lum reports on the growing popularity of the sport in Korea, which is producing top players for U.S. college teams; and Ibram Rogers reports on a Texas A&M University/ NCAA partnership, which recognizes college athletic programs for their diversity and diversity practices.

To learn more about Ashe, visit www.arthurashe.org, the interactive Web site his widow Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe unveiled last year.

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