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It Is With Great Sadness And Deep Appreciation That We Share The Passing Of JTCC Founder Ken Brody

Apr 11, 2023

Junior Tennis Champions Center (JTCC) founder Ken Brody passed away peacefully on March 26 in Manhattan, NY at the age of 79, following a long illness with multiple-system atrophy, a rare neurodegenerative disease.

Ken will be remembered for his larger than life presence and boundless enthusiasm for everything he did. Aside from his beloved family, his proudest achievement was JTCC, which was built in 1999 in the backyard of his alma mater, the University of Maryland.

“Ken was a true visionary and a passionate believer in how the benefits of tennis can extend far beyond the court. We are extremely grateful for his commitment to tennis which has made an enormous impact in the Mid-Atlantic region and throughout the nation,” said JTCC CEO Ray Benton.

Ken had a long, successful and diverse career, spanning business, politics, and philanthropy. Brody graduated from the University of Maryland in 1964 with a degree in Electrical Engineering and was hired by Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company as a foreman and staff assistant before he joined the US Army where he served from 1966-69 and rose to the rank of Captain. After the Army, he attended Harvard Business School and graduated in 1971 as a Baker’s Scholar. Following business school, Brody enjoyed a successful 20-year career at Goldman Sachs where he was a Partner and member of the Management Committee. After retiring from Goldman, Ken was an early supporter of the Clinton campaign and upon Clinton’s successful nomination, Ken was named President and Chairman of the Export-Import Bank and moved with his family to Washington, DC in 1993. Following government service, Brody co-founded Taconic Capital in 1999 which grew to an $8 billion hedge fund at the time of his retirement in 2013. Philanthropically, aside from the tennis center, Brody was involved with Alvin Ailey and Active Minds among other institutions.

Brody was a self-described “tennis nut” who picked up the sport as a way to stay in shape as his children were growing up. His son Charlie played at JTCC, which became a big part of his life, and Ken often took him across the country for tournaments and could never resist providing coaching between the second and third sets. Ken and his family enjoyed tennis together until the end of Ken’s life.

Having grown up in a lower-income household, Ken was adamant about creating a world-class tennis program that was designed for kids of all economic backgrounds. He wanted a program where any kid could attain a college scholarship. He felt strongly about using tennis to change people’s lives. He opened the doors of JTCC, a 32-court state-of-the-art tennis facility, to be the home of a junior tennis training program that provided financial aid and offered personalized mentoring and educational services to its students. At the time of JTCC’s founding, there were plenty of skeptics in the tennis community about the prospect of creating a successful not-for-profit tennis center in the frigid Northeast conditions, especially one that didn’t cater to boarders. Ken, not surprisingly, was undeterred and “hands on” with the founding and building of JTCC. He hired Constant Tiafoe to run the building management services after seeing him work on the construction site. Constant’s children, Frances and Franklin, grew up with Constant at the facility and the rest, as they say, is history.

Frances Tiafoe, now the most famous alumni of JTCC, is ranked #14 in the world on the ATP Tour and is one of the most prominent players in professional tennis. When Frances heard of Ken’s passing he was immediately overcome and full of gratitude, saying “Ken Brody gave me and my family the opportunity of a lifetime and I can’t adequately express my love and appreciation for this great man. I will continue to give everything I have on and off the court to honor his contributions to JTCC and this wonderful sport. Rest in power.”

In 2013, 2017, and 2022, JTCC was named the USTA Outstanding Facility of the Year. Most significantly, more than 300 JTCC students have received $23 million in college scholarships, and financial aid, and several have pursued successful professional careers.

“I had the opportunity of a lifetime to come to work for Ken to make his dreams a reality,” said JTCC President Vesa Ponkka who was one of the first employees hired 24 years ago. “Ken saw the possibilities of offering high performance tennis training in a non-profit structure which had never been successfully executed before. It has been a fantastic journey with results beyond even Ken’s wildest expectations. Over two decades, from Junior Grand Slam and Orange Bowl champions to more than 75 national and a dozen NCAA championships to Frances Tiafoe’s, Denis Kudla’s and Robin Montgomery’s journey to the pros, Ken was able to see his original vision for JTCC fulfilled,” said Ponkka proudly.

Brody’s son Charlie is a member of JTCC’s Board of Directors and was part of the inaugural class of players. “My dad took incredible pride and joy from the tennis center and its role in shaping the lives of so many young people, many of whom were underprivileged growing up. My dad relished the opportunity to mentor younger people and took great pleasure in seeing the quality and integrity of JTCC alumni when they became adults. He was also gratified to see the progression of the tennis center into a self-sustaining organization that will last for generations to come. He and our family are incredibly grateful to all of the people who helped to make his dreams a reality. On a lighter note, I will always remember fondly watching him play tennis with Oliver and Vesa, where he would dropshot and run them side-to-side, with the tacit understanding that they had to hit back up the middle.”

Brody remained actively involved in the center both financially and with his advice/counsel to players, staff and coaches throughout his life. Who can forget Ken coaching everyone from the sidelines, even Oliver and Ali while he was taking lessons from them! Ken and his wife Nina frequently visited and played at the Center on their weekend visits to Washington and it was a real highlight of their life together. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

JTCC Senior Director of Coach Development, Oliver Akli, was one of the first coaches to join the organization in 2000. “I will miss Ken’s coaching tips. He had a great heart and was a kind and caring person.”

Brody is survived by his wife, Nina, and two children, Carrie and Charlie (Julia). He is also survived by his brother, Jeffrey (Donna), his stepdaughter, Chloe Greisman and his two granddaughters, Elizabeth and Beatrice. And of course, Brody is also survived by the thousands of children and adults who have improved their lives through tennis and education programs at JTCC.

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