Former women’s world top 10 player Kathleen Horvath and investor George Haywood were recently elected to the JTCC Board of Directors. Three staff members also assumed new leadership roles.
“As JTCC continues to grow, we are extremely excited to add two very qualified leaders to our Board,” JTCC Board of Directors Chairman Peter Ackerman said. “Their professional insights and experiences will be extremely valuable.”
JTCC CEO Ray Benton also announced that Senior Director of Tennis Vesa Ponkka has been named president and two new members were added to the organization’s leadership team. Vice President Joe Wilkerson and Director of Marketing Alex Sotiropoulos will oversee operations and marketing, respectively.
Kathleen Horvath brings a wealth of tennis and management experience to JTCC. She was a prominent WTA player from 1980-1989, achieving a top 10 world ranking and earning 10 professional titles. Horvath holds the record for being the youngest US Open participant, at 14 years and five days. One of Horvath’s greatest accomplishments was defeating Martina Navratilova in the fourth round of the 1983 French Open, which marked Navratilova’s only loss of the year.
Horvath has been heavily involved with the game off the court. She is currently a member of the Business Advisory Council for USTA Player Development, and she previously served on the WTA Board, the WTA Investment Committee, and the US Open Tournament Committee.
Horvath’s experience extends beyond tennis. She has worked in fixed income institutional sales at Merrill Lynch and as Vice President of Private Wealth Management at Goldman Sachs.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business with a BS in Economics and an MBA in Finance, Horvath resides in Short Hills, New Jersey. She has three children — Erika, Andy, and RJ. RJ is a freshman member of the University of Virginia tennis team and trained at JTCC.
George Haywood is a leader in the world of finance. As a private investor, he has owned SEC filing stakes in several public companies, including XM Satellite Radio, Martek Biosciences, Zix Corporation, Sarepta, and Denny’s.
Haywood is no stranger to both athletics and advising organizations. He has served on the Board of Directors of Denny’s, Fannie Mae, PingTones, XM Satellite Radio, and Advanced Bionutrition. A competitive runner, Haywood holds six world records in masters track and field events. He earned his BA in Biology from Harvard University and resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and three children.
Vesa Ponkka has been an integral figure in JTCC’s success since its founding in 1999. As President, Ponkka will increase his responsibilities to include the strategic planning, long-term vision, and expansion of JTCC to new markets. He will also focus on JTCC’s character and community development efforts, which include Neighborhood Outreach, Special Olympics, Tennis Corps, and Wheelchair Tennis.
Ponkka is widely considered to be one of the top junior developmental coaches in the world. He was selected as the 2011 USOC National Developmental Coach of the Year and was recognized as the 2013 Junior Developmental Coach of the Year by Tennis Industry Magazine. Ponkka’s players have competed in and won national, NCAA, ITF, and professional tournaments and have received top accolades, including the #1 ITF Junior world ranking, several #1 USTA national rankings, and NCAA All-American honors. He is a frequent speaker at national and international coaching conferences.
Ponkka is credited with developing the JTCC coaching methods and curriculum. Under his leadership, the USTA has selected JTCC as the top high performance training center in the United States two times in the past six years.
Ponkka received his BS in Business Administration and MBA from the University of Tennessee at Martin.
“Vesa has been the backbone of JTCC,” said JTCC CEO Ray Benton. “Without Vesa, JTCC would not be anywhere near the organization it is today. As President, he will continue to develop JTCC’s culture of excellence on and off the court.”
With more than 20 years of experience in the health and tennis club industry as a tennis professional, director, and general manager, Joe Wilkerson joins JTCC as Vice President responsible for club operations, including membership and adult programming.
From 2016-19, Wilkerson served as the General Manager at the Raleigh Racquet Club, overseeing 1,000 members at the 20-acre, 31-court facility, and implementing the largest adult learn-to-play tennis program in North Carolina.
Prior to his experience in Raleigh, Wilkerson was the General Manager for the Midtown Health & Athletic Club in Cincinnati, Ohio for two years, where he led a team of more than 200 staff members.
Wilkerson graduated from Methodist University with a degree in Business Administration and a concentration in Professional Tennis Management, while also playing on the men’s tennis team.
Following his graduation in 2014 from the University of Chicago, Alex Sotiropoulos began his career at his alma mater where he rose to Senior Assistant Director of Admissions and Director of Digital Strategy, leading the Office of College Admissions’ social media and website efforts. He also recruited and evaluated applicants and served as the admissions liaison for the men’s and women’s tennis programs. He now joins JTCC as Director of Marketing.
A tennis enthusiast, Sotiropoulos has been NCAA.com’s commentator for the NCAA Division III National Tennis Championships three of the last four years. He has also covered junior and collegiate tennis for print and web publications.
Sotiropoulos received his BA in Political Science with Honors and is currently pursuing his MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, with concentrations in Marketing Management, Business Analytics, and General Management. He has been named to the Dean’s Honor List every quarter of the MBA program.
“Alex and Joe are strategic thinkers and problem solvers, and they will be key contributors to JTCC.” Benton said.