Death of Coach Cissie Leary

The University of Pennsylvania Department of Recreation and intercollegiate Athletics mourns the loss of longtime women's tennis coach Catherine (Cissie) Collins Leary who succumbed to scleroderma on November 23, after a lengthy battle with the disease. Cissie Leary died at her home in Haverford. She was the daughter of the late Robert Collins and of Catherine Melsner Collins of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Cissie is survived by her husband, H. Michael Leary, and their beloved daughter Katie; her two brothers, Dr. Tucker Collins and Duff Collins, and her good friend and motherinlaw, Mrs. FairfaxLeary. Ms. Leary was 42.

"Cissie was an outstanding individual who made so many contributions to not only Penn tennis, but to all who knew her," said Steve Bilsky, Penn's Director of Athletics. "Cissie always had a smile on her face and spread good will and cheer to all of her colleagues and friends. She was truly one of the 'good people' in the world of collegiate athletics and we will greatly miss her."

Ms. Leary, who came to Penn in 1977, has spent every one of her coaching years in Philadelphia. She made a name for herself as one of the most respected tennis coaches in the nation with her energy and youthfulness, which has propelled Penn to become supportive of many new facets of women's tennis and to expand the program to heights never thought attainable. She worked to expand Penn's women's tennis program to the national level and was vital in the fight for the Ivy League to become more involved in women's tennis as a whole.

Ms. Leary has coached 16 winning teams en route to her cumulative record of 229119 (.658) during her tenure at the Ivy League school. This past fall, Ms. Leary's team went 62 in dual matches and had its best finish ever at the ITA Team Regional Championships, finishing tied for third in the East. Penn was also 58th nationally in the midseason ITA fall rankings. Last spring marked one of the best seasons in her coaching career. The team finished 167 overall. The Quakers placed second in the Ivy League with a 61 record and were invited to the NCAA East Regional Championships for the first time. The team ended the season ranked sixth in the East Region and had a player on the Top 20 list in the East.

Ms. Leary's illustrious 20-year coaching career has been marked by many highlights. Penn captured the 1982 EITA team title and finished second in the 1985 competition. From 19811985, Ms. Leary's teams recorded five straight undefeated fall seasons. She spent nine years on the National Tournament and ITA Regional Committees. She coached the U.S. tennis teams in the 1981, 1985 and 1989 Maccabiah Games and the Middle States' top junior players in ten National Intersectional Championships. Ms. Leary was voted Coach of the Year by the United States Professional Tennis Association's Middle States Division and by the USTA's Philadelphia Association in the past.

The consummate coach was also a contributor to the West Philadelphia community, participating with her team in the Fight Against Drugs Campaign for underprivileged children. Ms. Leary was also an active volunteer with the Greater Philadelphia Kidney Transplant Association. She won two gold medals and silver in the International Transplant Olympic Games held in Los Angeles.

The family requests no flowers be sent, but a contribution may be made in Cissie Leary's memory to the "Cissie Collins Leary Women's Tennis Fund", University of Pennsylvania, Weightman Hall, 235 South 33rd Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104 or to the United Scleroderma Foundation, 734 E. Lake Ave. Suite 5, Watsonville, CA 95076.

-- From Colleagues and Friends in Recreation and Athletics


Volume 43 Number 14
December 3, 1996

Return to Almanac's homepage.

Return to index for this issue.