Class of 2011
Contributions to Tennis
Player, coach, WTA Executive, and pioneer for women’s rights
First full-time WTA employee in 1973
Early advocate for Title IX and equal prize money
First woman to play on a Division I men’s tennis team at the University of Miami
Fern Lee “Peachy” Kellmeyer earned induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in recognition of her outstanding career as a player, coach, WTA executive, and pioneer for women’s rights.
An all-court player who excelled at net, Kellmeyer won the prestigious Orange Bowl title in 1957. That same year she was the Penn State Tournament Champion, winning all three junior division titles. She was the West Virginia State Women’s Singles Champion in 1956 and 1957. In 1959, at age 15, Kellmeyer became the youngest player invited to play at the U.S. National Championships at Forest Hills making her the youngest female to participate in the event at that time. Four years later she was named to the U.S. Junior Wightman Cup Team. As a collegiate player, Kellmeyer starred as the No. 1 player on the University of Miami women’s tennis team and became the first woman in history to play on the men’s Division I tennis team there.
Yet it was off the court that Kellmeyer had a uniquely historic impact. As the Director of Physical Education at Marymount College in Boca Raton, Florida, she fostered the lawsuit in 1973 that ultimately led to the dismantling of an Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women rule prohibiting athletic scholarships from being awarded to female college athletes. That landmark case paved the way for Title IX, enacted in 1972, stating in part that, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of gender, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
That same year, Kellmeyer was chosen to serve as the referee for the first Virginia Slims Championships and was selected to be the first full-time employee of the WTA starting in 1973. Over the ensuing four decades, Kellmeyer has dedicated her uninterrupted career to building the WTA into the premier professional sports platform for women globally, with the resulting prize money growth of 446 times from $307,000 in 1973 to $137 million in 2017. In addition, Kellmeyer spearheaded the WTA’s campaign to achieve equal prize money for women at all four majors, which came to full fruition in 2007.
Kellmeyer has received numerous recognitions and awards, including the David Gray Award, Distinguished West Virginian Award, the USTA Service Bowl Award, the WTA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the prestigious ITF/ITHF Golden Achievement Award. The WTA Player Service Award is named for her, as is the Stadium Court at the Charleston Tennis Club in her hometown of Charleston, West Virginia. Kellmeyer has been inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame and was the first-ever tennis player, male or female, to be inducted into the West Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.
Virginia Wade once said, "Peachy is the WTA," and WTA Founder Billie Jean King noted, “Peachy has been invaluable to the past, current, and future generations of players and to the WTA. Because of her, we have come a long way baby!”