Southern Wesleyan dedicates new Rev. Leroy C. Cox Tennis Complex

CENTRAL — In 2012 Southern Wesleyan University added intercollegiate men’s and women’s tennis teams to its athletic program.

The university then faced the challenge of building a program without the facilities essential for intercollegiate competition. That’s all about to change as construction of their new tennis complex progresses.

Rainy weather has created delays during construction, and rain was forecast for Oct. 28, the dedication date, but the university proceeded with a ceremony inside the Nicholson-Mitchell Christian Ministry Center, overlooking the tennis complex.

The facility was named for Rev. Leroy C. Cox, a SWU alumnus who served numerous Wesleyan congregations and recently passed away. His family’s generous support is helping to make the new facility possible. Dr. Thomas Cox honored the memory of his father, Rev. Cox, by gifting to the university in this meaningful and lasting way.

Dr. Cox, a pediatric dentist and SWU alumnus, shared about how his father was known for his friendliness and optimism.

“He would pick out the positive things about others,” Thomas said, adding that there was a balance to his father’s optimism. He recalled telling his father that he pitched a shutout and hit two home runs at a baseball game, to which Leroy responded “that’s great son. I’m so proud of you,” and then quoted scripture to his son, “But let he that thinketh he stand take heed lest he fall.” Thomas reflected on how that verse helped him in the midst of dental school.

SWU President Todd Voss said the tennis complex will benefit not only the tennis teams but also students and tennis enthusiasts in the surrounding community. He added that building a tennis complex also follows through on a NCAA recommendation as the university continues in its membership process as a new conference member.

“These courts are not ours. These courts are meant for this community — this town, this county, this region — these courts are meant to be used,” Voss said. Dr. Charles Joiner, chairman of SWU’s board of trustees, expressed gratitude to the Cox family for leaving a legacy.

Chris Williams, director of athletics, said that the tennis complex “demonstrates forward momentum of our athletic program.”Hethanked the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) for their involvement in this project. He also praisedthe city of Clemson for allowing the teams to use Nettles Park for matches and practices. Dr. Lisa McWherter, SWU’s vice president for advancement, and Williams thanked Passpointe Engineering, J.W. White Consulting LLC, Fowler Corp., Competitive Athletic Surfaces, Baseline Sports, Metrocon and Southern Wesleyan’s physical plant — all instrumental in the $560,000 project.

“This tennis complex is just one example of how our Heavenly Father has called us to be a contagiously generous institution,” McWherter said. “This complex will be open to the public, accessible to our friends with disabilities and special needs, as well as to our youth; These courts have been specifically designed to welcome each and all.”

Two tennis courts within the complex were named — one in honor of Tim Newton, an avid tennis player who grew up at the Central campus and whose family has close ties to the university;the other court was named in honor of Dr. Joe Brockinton, SWU’s vice president for student life.

Newton grew up in Central and learned to play tennis on the campus as a child. His tennis playing roots are grounded at SWU.

Jay Moss praised Newton, his great uncle, who at 89 still plays tennis almost daily. He also recognized Newton’s World War II service and expressed thanks to all veterans present at the ceremony. Moss is also the great-grandson of John F. Childs, a former president of what is now SWU.

Newton expressed thanks to his sister, Faith Newton Hobson, for her contribution to name the court for him. He also recalled getting to know Leroy, who was about the same age.

“Leroy made you feel like you were the most important person he had met when he was talking to you,” Newton said.

Brockinton, himself a former member of Asbury University’s Tennis Team, was surprised by the honor given him by his the university and his family members. He commented that tennis helped him to learn what it meant to compete and to win.

SWU Tennis Coach Darrell Jernigan said he now has a platform for a Christian witness. He praised members of his team who come from several states as well as from South America and Africa and the ministry that’s taking place within the tennis program.

Pickens County Council Member Trey Whitehurst, who represents District 3,commented that, whenever he would drive from his work at Greenville, on the way home he would pass through the SWU campus “because I want to see what’s happening on your campus.”

“There’s energy in this room. There are changes to come,” said Mac Martin, mayor of Central, expressing gratitude for the town’s partnership with SWU.

“This isn’t a sacrifice, it’s an opportunity,” Central town administrator Phillip Mishoe said. “It starts with President Voss and the board and ends with the kids. It’s a tough sell to recruit students to a university without a tennis court.”

Clemson City Council member Tim Fowler sees the tennis complex as having “great economic impact.”

A future phase, dependent on donor funding, will add to the complex a championship court, complete with “court specific” spectator seating. This dedication event was hosted by SWU’s Advancement office. For details about the Rev. Leroy C. Cox Tennis Complex or about future expansion at SWU, contact McWherter at (864) 644-5006.