“At the ripe old age of 51” (her words), Sue Beute was approached by then-coach Wendy Ackerman to help with Lowell High School’s JV program. At that time, there were 34 very novice kids who wanted to learn the game. “She was looking for a warm body to help her out and I happened to know a few things about the sport,” says Sue. “Basically, I knew how to score,” indeed a facetious statement.
Growing up in Lowell, Sue took up the game using wooden tennis rackets and playing “hit and giggle tennis” (no score, no rules, just back n forth). At MSU, she took a tennis class where she learned the very basics of the game. At long last, she at least knew the rules but mostly, “I learned tennis skills out on the courts -- no lessons -- just trying to get better on my own. My real education of playing tennis actually started with my new experience of coaching tennis – and yes, I was 51 years old! Seriously, who waits until they are over 50 to start coaching a sport?
Answer: this exceptional lady. When Wendy quit to stay home with her new son, Bonnie Wall (Hall of Fame Class of 2000), took over and willingly kept her on her as assistant. “I did not care to take on the responsibilities of varsity coach, then or ever,” Sue says. “I loved my JV status of teaching and getting kids ready for varsity. Bonnie and husband Roger both worked diligently to bring Lowell tennis up to a respectable program and in doing so taught me much of my coaching skills during their tenure. I worked under them in the girls program and all the summer camps they ran for 16 years – give or take a year or so.”
“I can’t say enough good things about Sue,” says Bonnie (who with Roger has the distinction of having attended all four of the Grand Slam tennis tournaments). “She’s the only person I know that has 36 hour days. She must because of all that she does for education, family and church, yet she finds time to continue coaching boys and girls JV tennis at Lowell because no one else will do it. She doesn’t want the kids to be disappointed.
This means that after Bonnie retired, Sue has stayed on to help Chris Phillips with the JV program for the past ten years and even coached the boys for the past four. “Now in her 70s, Sue has taught countless players from how to hold a racket to how to keep score to how to implement doubles strategy,” says Chris. “She teaches children of players that she coached in the past. She began running JV tournaments years ago. She has always embraced the fact that her role is to get players ready for the varsity level and she has done an excellent job doing this.”
Sue taught math from 1966 to 2005 (doing the math, that’s 40 years) at grade levels ranging from elementary to adult education. She worked in special programs (Booster Math) and was a consultant teaching 4th grade teachers “the new math program.” She taught advanced math to 8th grades students and a semester of evening classes at Aquinas College
In 1999, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST), an honor which is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. For this award Sue received $10,000 to be spent on educational materials and equipment for her school.
Also, included in the honor was an all-expense paid week stay in Washington D.C. with her husband. This meant a tour of the White House and a group picture with the President. President Clinton joined the gathering for the photo op and a question-and-answer session as they assembled on the South Lawn of the White House. During their stay, she and Roger were treated to a seven-course meal at the State Department, a cruise down the Potomac River, an excursion to the National Zoo, a trip to the Viet Nam Memorial, and a visit to the House to meet with Congressman Vern Ehlers.
Given this treatment, a MHSTeCA Distinguished Service Award seems pretty paltry. But to bestow this honor gives our association the opportunity to highlight the service of this remarkable lady on several fronts.
“She has never taken a team to the state finals or to a regional or to a conference tournament,” says Chris. Indeed, Lowell did not have a JV program until Sue came along. Although Bonnie and her husband are largely credited with reviving the tennis program, Sue’s enthusiasm and continuity contributed mightily.
Athletic DirectorDee Crowley has said she can have the girls JV job for as long as she wants it.