An Ace On and Off the Court

Recent alumna wins national leadership award

Case Western Reserve University student Nithya Kanagasegar playing tennisPHOTO: CWRU Athletics

Nithya Kanagasegar

As an undergraduate at Case Western Reserve, Nithya Kanagasegar (CWR '18) was a standout tennis player and leader.

In June, the Crossville, Tennessee, native became the first recipient of the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association) Ann Lebedeff Leadership Award, endowed by Hall of Fame tennis player Billie Jean King.

The award honors a recent graduate who played collegiate tennis, demonstrated excellence and leadership on and off the court, showed "grit," was committed to social justice and equality, and encouraged others to lead.

Kanagasegar was selected over male and female candidates from all levels of NCAA tennis.

The win was "incredible and very special," said Kanagasegar, who graduated in May—just days before she and her doubles partner, first-year student Madeleine Paolucci, became the first All-Americans in the history of the university's women's tennis program.

"I don't think I've ever smiled so much during a tennis match," Kanagasegar said.

She qualified for the NCAA Division III championships all four years on campus—four times in singles, twice in doubles.

In announcing the Lebedeff Award, the ITA cited Kanagasegar's involvement with Sustained Dialogue, a national program that works to foster relationships and respect. Kanagasegar got involved with the program on campus after discussing her concerns about discrimination and injustices at other universities with Athletic Director Amy Backus. She later moderated the first Sustained Dialogue group in the country specifically for student-athletes.

"I really want to stay involved," said Kanagasegar, who plans to attend medical school next year. "I'd like to be a mentor or an adviser."

—Bob Roberts


Case Western Reserve University student Rocco Maue playing baseballPHOTO: Matt Shiffler

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Case Western Reserve University student Drew Hamilton in the pool during a swimming competitionPHOTO: D3Photography

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Case Western Reserve University student Suhan Mestha swimmingPHOTO: D3Photography

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