The Best of the Best: Bill Rogers and Three Top Tennis Players Join Brenau University’s Athletics Hall of Fame
One of the most accomplished coaches in the history of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is among the latest inductees in Brenau University’s Athletics Hall of Fame.
Former Brenau head tennis coach Dr. Bill Rogers quite literally led the 2015-16 hall of fame class, as the other three other inductees – Leyla Ogan, Helene Macchi and Alexandra Rossi Rashed – all played under his tutelage.
The four were celebrated at a ceremony held Saturday, Oct. 3 at the Brenau University Downtown Center.
From 1990 to 2005, Rogers coached a tennis powerhouse that finished in the national top 10 rankings a dozen times. He chalked up more than 300 victories in his decade and a half tenure with Brenau, including NAIA national championship wins in 1999 and 2002.
In 15 seasons, his team never posted a losing record. By the time he left Brenau in 2005, he had coached 55 All American players.
He also led the Golden Tigers to two additional NAIA national doubles championships and five Intercollegiate Tennis Association singles championships. His personal honors include seven conference coach-of-the-year awards, two NAIA national coach-of-the-year recognitions and a coach-of-the-year nod from the ITA. Additionally, he received the United States Tennis Association’s Outstanding Community Service Award in 1998 and was enshrined in the NAIA Hall of Fame in 2006.
Rogers, who is now the dean of student services at Georgia Gwinnett College, attributed his success to a recruitment strategy that relied heavily on international talent. Demonstrating the efficacy of the philosophy, all three of the players inducted alongside him that afternoon hailed from outside the United States.
“I believed in the competition, and I believed in recruiting the best in the world,” he said. “Brenau afforded me the privilege to experience the world through the lens of a coach and to be in contact with who I consider to be among the greatest players and people in the world.”
Rogers was named Brenau’s athletics director in 1993. The university’s athletics program expanded greatly, with cross country, soccer, softball and volleyball teams all added during his tenure.
President Ed Schrader said Rogers’ impact on Brenau University is still being felt today.
“The name Brenau was just not associated with successful athletics,” he said, “and Bill was able to put Brenau on the national stage.”
Three of the best players in the storied history of Brenau’s tennis program were inducted alongside Rogers.
Leyla Ogan, a native of Solihull, England, graduated from Brenau in 2001. A four-time All American, she was the No. 1 ranked player in the NAIA. In 1999 – the same year Brenau won the team national championship – she made it all the way to the national singles finals.
Even after being diagnosed with cancer, her exceptional performances continued.
“Coach was always supportive,” she said. “We had great times on the road, a great team and so many memories.”
Today, she resides in Birmingham, England, and is the senior tennis coach at Edgbaston Priory Club.
Helene Macchi, a French-born athlete who graduated from Brenau in 2006, was named an NAIA All American in 2004, 2005 and 2006. She is the 2005 recipient of the Marvin P. Richmond Outstanding Player Award, a national honor given annually to one female and one male athlete. The same year, she was a member of the Golden Tigers team nationals runner-up squad.
As an international student, Macchi said she had to study twice as hard to overcome the language barrier. The support and encouragement from Rogers and his staff, she said, made her a success story athletically and professionally.
“They gave us a base and a solid foundation for the life ahead of us, not only on the court, but outside it as well,” she said.
Macchi has worked for Pirelli Tire North America for more than a decade. Today, she lives in Montreal, Canada, and serves as the company’s marketing manager.
Alexandra Rossi Rashed of Evian, France, earned a B.A. from Brenau in 1994 and an M.B.A. in 1996. She was named an All American every year she played at Brenau and served as an assistant tennis coach while she pursued her postgraduate degree.
The skills she learned under Rogers’ leadership, she said, have been a blessing long after she hung up her tennis racket.
“What you learn in sports can be applied in life everyday,” she said. “Thanks to the faculty and the students, I have grasped the meaning of hard work, teamwork, friendship and hospitality. I am forever grateful to Brenau for making me a better and stronger person.”
She is now a resident of Geneva, Switzerland, where she is the global marketing director for SITA, an international air transport communications and IT company.
While each inductee has experienced tremendous success in athletics and business alike, Rogers said those achievements and accomplishments could not have been possible without a truly inspired team effort.
“I owe such a debt of gratitude to these brave, intelligent, courageous young women, for they gave me far more than I ever gave them,” he concluded, “but Brenau gave us all opportunity, and in each of our unique and diverse ways, we carry with us a shared obligation to pay this forward.”