In the March/April 2022 issue of Net News, we were commemorating the storied career of John Callen on the occasion of his retirement. Now, we have unfortunate duty of reporting on his passing. Net News and ALTA share in the grief of Callen’s family, friends, and the USTA, which sent us the following remarks (edited for space):
The Southern Tennis Association mourns the passing of John Callen, 69, beloved USTA Southern Executive Director & COO for 33 years. After he battled cancer for more than a year, Callen passed away peacefully on April 3 with his wife, Frances, and their daughters by his side at his home in Johns Creek, Georgia.
Over the span of more than a half century, Callen’s contributions to Southern tennis ran the gamut of the tennis world. He was a player, coach, volunteer and, ultimately, a leading tennis executive.
USTA Southern President & CEO, Randy Jackson said, “John Callen was a driving force behind the success of the Southern Tennis Association for the past 33 years, yet he typically credited volunteers and staff for accomplishments. Not only was John a great leader, but he was also a teacher, role model, friend and mentor to tennis leaders and supporters everywhere. His influence extends much further than the Southern Section. His advice was sought by volunteers, staff and leaders throughout the country — from community tennis associations in small towns to USTA leadership at the highest level.
“John was an example of a servant leader,” Jackson continued. “He was engaging in a quiet, unassuming way which quickly gained one’s confidence and trust. His passion for tennis and growing the sport was contagious. He loved his tennis family, which was large, diverse and inclusive — if you loved the game, you were part of the family! We will sorely miss John, but his legacy will live on through all who work toward growing this great game of tennis.”
USTA Chairman of the Board and President Mike McNulty added his comments. “John led the Southern Section for 33 years and was the face of tennis in the South. I had the incredible opportunity to serve with John as one of his many ‘Callen presidents.’ It was an honor and a privilege to serve with my friend, a soft-spoken leader who was loved by all. He was a special person with an inimitable personality, contagious enthusiasm, disarming humility and smiling wit. All of us in the sport of tennis who have been associated with John have lost a true friend and tennis has lost one of its most passionate proponents.”
Our deepest sympathies and prayers go to Frances, his three daughters — Ashley, Melanie and Courtney — and his entire family.
In 2021, the Southern Tennis Foundation established the John Callen Scholarship to fund annual scholarships for Southern college students. Anyone wishing to contribute to the scholarship fund, please visit southerntennisfoundation.com/johncallen.