Posts in: August

Stefanie

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Stefanie,

Thank you for giving me your love so freely, so generously. I can’t find the words to describe you, but I will try to find the words to express how you make me feel. I feel empowered; with you I believe anything is possible. I feel valued; you care not only deeply, but in such detail, it’s breathtaking to be on the receiving end of your love. I feel protected; you always seem to be one step ahead of life, anticipating its next move and disarming it before it affects me. I don’t know how you do what you do, but I rely on it like the air I breathe.

I not only need to be with you, I want to be more like you. To have such honest values, and to live by them with such consistency and grace. To listen so carefully, to feel so purely for others, to put your family ahead of yourself and your own needs.

Thank you for our beautiful children, and for being the family’s anchor in our busy lives. Somehow, you make it look so easy.

I said something to you seven years ago at the Hall Of Fame, and it bears repeating again today. In my eyes, and the eyes of your children, you have no rival.

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Dad

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Dad,

It is not flesh and blood, but the heart, which makes us fathers and sons. Dad, how I treasure your heart, filled with desire and passion for your children to experience a better life. I knew it as a child, but it was too big a concept for me to fully grasp, that you loved me more than yourself. You did whatever it took to see us thrive. I look back and respect how you raised four kids and held two jobs and always made time for us. You single handedly engineered a mind set in us, that hard work creates rewards, high standards create fulfillment. Your high standards will change the lives of generations of our family that will follow us. One man with a dream and a fire in his gut can build a foundation that future generations will build their lives on.

I saw many sides of you growing up, but I know they all came from a place of just wanting the best for me and our whole family. I’ve often come away from a great moment in life, and my first thought was, did I make you proud; today I want you to know, you make me proud. Thank you for this life, it was your creation, and I get to live in it.

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Mom

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Mom,

If ever there was a warm, compassionate and selfless person, who makes the world a better place every day, it is you.

How much I loved to hear your voice on the phone when I was out on tour. How calming it was to sense your quiet strength after competing somewhere across the globe. There were days that only you could make my world feel right side up.

What an example you are to me and your grandchildren. You faced down life’s challenges with never-ending strength and somehow still seemed to love life every day. You are the most unshakable person I know, and one that needs to take the least amount of credit in life. How fortunate all of your children were to grow up in a home where you modeled humility before us.

In my Hall Of Fame speech, I celebrated those who always do the right thing quietly, with no applause; those who shine in secret. The unsung heroes. I don’t have to look very far to find my unsung hero, I love you Mom.

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Phil

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Phil,

How I have counted on you in my life, in ways that you’ve known and in a million ways that you didn’t know. Having you for a big brother has been the equivalent of going through life with a safety net. You were always there when I needed to grasp something just out of reach; you were my constant companion, my defender, my partner in crime, and I never once wondered whether you had my back. I sometimes sit back and relish in the memories from childhood when we shared our souls with each other, and you led the way for me with your words and your actions. To my first years on the road, as we approached this strange and wonderful new life together. And now, raising our families together, watching our children make new memories of their own. If I told people the things we’ve seen and shared together, they just wouldn’t believe it.

So many people have moved in and out of my life, but you are the constant; the one I count on and need, forever by my side, always in my corner. I don’t know how you put so many of your dreams aside to make sure mine became reality. But I do know that without you, none of the things I hold dear would be in my life today. There are many things to come in life that I may not know, but one thing I know for sure, we will be there for each other with a bond that only we know, for the rest of our lives. I love you, brother.

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Gil

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Gil,

When it came time for us to name our son, there was only one choice – Welcome to the world, Jaden Gil. If he grows up to be half the man you are, I will be eternally happy. From working out together at the gym at UNLV, to criss-crossing the globe together for two decades, I still watch you and listen to you in amazement. How can one man be so strong, and yet so tender? How can a man be of so few words, but overflowing with wisdom? What would my life be, if not for you? Unrecognizable.

Gil, my whole adult life played out under the umbrella of your love, inspiration and protection. People will never know the places you’ve been or the depth of what you’ve done for me. That’s ok – I know, and I’ll never forget. You never pushed from behind, you led by example. You never asked me to do one thing that you didn’t require of yourself. You never let your integrity be broken, or even bent, not one time. When I say, I love you, there are so many more words that want to be said. I need you, I owe you, I respect you. How much time do I have? How much space can I take?

You gave me your life, your prime, your very best, year after year after year. I will spend the rest of my years trying to express to you the place you hold in my heart.

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Nick

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Nick,

Thank you for being there for me at the most formative times of my life and career. As an adult looking back, I can’t imagine what a handful I must have been. You gave me the space to grow and experiment, you gave me counsel and wisdom. You gave me time to get to know my game and myself. I remember in Washington, DC as a teenager, after a painful loss, I gave away all my rackets and told you I quit. You simply looked at your wrist and said, “Am I wearing a watch”? You gave me permission to grow at my own pace, and your belief in me made me want to go on. Most of all, you provided an umbrella of protection as I fell under the glare of the international spotlight. There were days that I felt it was you and me against the world. I’ll never forget that.

I want you to know how much I appreciate the love and devotion you have for tennis. You were up at five in the morning, tirelessly creating the environment that we needed to thrive. You lived and breathed tennis, and created an unparalleled generation of champions. The International Tennis Hall Of Fame will not be complete until you are there alongside all of the champions that you gave to the world; a recognition that you have earned and that you so deserve. When that day comes, you can count on me to be there for you in any capacity, sharing that moment together. I love you, Nick.

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Brad

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Brad,

What an incredible ride we had together. Could anyone have seen me through? Could anyone have held me together and helped me focus like you? Not even close. From the beginning, you had a deep impact on my hopes and dreams, not just as a player, but also as a person. I was young and impressionable, still growing up and finding my way. Your life became a blueprint of what I wanted for myself and what I came to believe was possible. You have an incredible wife and beautiful children, a loving warm home, and you seemed to enjoy traveling but still enjoy coming home even more. All of that inspired me to find the life that I hoped for. For years I would come up to your house, stay for a week in your cabin, and spy on you and your family. More than once I uttered a quiet prayer to have something so special. That prayer has been answered beyond my dreams.

Your leadership was always at work, teaching me to never settle. You were always so optimistic, so sure of what lies ahead, so confident in me. Regardless of my ebbs and flows on the court that day, you promised better days were coming, and I believed you. You taught me how to win from within and to think for myself. When those better days came, over and over again, I wondered more than once, where did you get that insight? How could you see so far into the future? I will always appreciate your ability to be so plugged in to my emotions, your ability to provide context, and your incredible attention to detail. More so, I appreciate how quickly you would jump to my side and stand shoulder to shoulder when I felt ready to tackle the next challenge.

For a while, I got to live a dream on the court. For a lifetime, I’m getting to live a dream off the court. Brad, none of it would have been possible without you.

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Darren

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Darren,

You have so many of the qualities in life that I value. I not only appreciate your friendship, but I respect how you carry yourself with such class and how you approach life with such good judgment. I’ve watched and learned so much from you, like how to balance being a new father and travel the world on the tour. Actually, I can say you taught me balance for all of life, a lesson that pays me dividends every single day. You managed my reduced schedule in the final years so delicately, and you taught me so many short cuts to keep an aging body competitive, long after it wanted to give out. I’m convinced that your combination of intelligence and care added years to my career.

You should know just how much I treasure the bond between you and I, and between our families. Our children are best friends, and you and Victoria have been a joy to be around. You live so consistently, practical and drama free; all the things that make me thankful that we got to spend so much time together. When I think of that quality that you possess, of having such impeccable standards on and off the court, it is not surprising that the game and its players have embraced you so deeply.

Thanks for being perceptive enough to know just when I needed to push, and just when it was time for me to go home. Thank you even more for your loyalty. Stefanie, myself, Jaden and Jazz love you and are so fortunate to have you and your family in our lives.

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Steve

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Steve,

My friend; my traveling companion; my business ally. My lifesaver. Although I’ve known you since I was a teenager, you came into my life full time right when I needed you most. I want the world to know how much you mean to me, my Foundation, and my future. You took the helm of my Foundation, and not only gave it new life and new direction; you donated your entire salary back to it, working for free. You never intended the world to know that, but I want them to know what kind of heart you have.

I feel so safe and so protected with you guiding my business. Integrity and honesty is your north star and you’ve done something I never thought possible, you make business fun for me. You have had to navigate some delicate waters since you came aboard, but you’ve proved your expertise at every turn. You mean the world to me. My family and I, down to my children’s children, owe you a debt we can never repay.

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Ron

August 25, 2014 letters Comments Off

Dear Ron,

You define what true friendship means to me. I think about who you are, what is embedded in your DNA, and it makes me feel selfish because every one should have someone like you in their life. Everyone should be so lucky to have a Ronnie.

You carry other people’s burdens; you only want to add to the lives of others. You live with such clarity, stability and extreme loyalty that I trust your judgment on every level. How thankful I am for you. There is such a bond between us that is unshakable, please know that I will be there for you as a friend, as a brother, for life.

What is unspoken between us every day I’ll say here proudly to the world, there will never be a closer friend than you.

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US Open Honor Speech, September 2012

August 25, 2014 speeches Comments Off

Hello New York!

You’re looking good. How is it that you never change—and I keep getting older?

Thank you for this great honor. It’s something I certainly did not expect the first time I played here. I was 16. I’d just gotten my driver’s permit. I was rocking a fluffy, spiky, two-toned mullet, wearing jeans shorts. Acid washed. And I was scared to death.

People always told me back then that I knew nothing, but they were wrong. I knew less than nothing. I didn’t even know how to get here to this stadium. Day One, I failed to leave myself enough time, took a bus from the hotel, got stuck in traffic, missed my practice court. Then I couldn’t convince the woman in charge that I actually belonged here.

Sadly I could not convince my first round opponent either. Jeremy Bates of Great Britain who sent me home in less time than it takes to say Jeremy Bates of Great Britain.

Not an auspicious start. And yet I came back, year after year, no matter what, dead or alive—this was the only Grand Slam I never missed—and the reason was you.

I wish I had words to describe the sound you make during critical matches. The roar, the applause, the love. It’s like a jet engine and a giant heartbeat. I’d start to hear it down in that tunnel. In Paris players enter center court from a stairway, in London through a club, in Melbourne a hallway—but here we enter through a long tunnel, which amplifies the noise. And amplifies the love.

That sound you make is almost as powerful, almost as inspiring, as your silence. In Paris, London, Melbourne, they fall silent many times during a match. But here in New York you don’t bestow your silence on just any moment. So when you do, it’s daunting. It’s a sound, a sign, of deep respect and high expectation. And it’s deafening. Trust me when I tell you: there’s nothing so loud as 23,000 stone cold silent New Yorkers.

People always ask if I miss the game and I think of my back, and my hips, and I remember Federer taking me apart like my kids used to take apart one of their Lego toys, and I say: Yes and no. But when they ask if I miss the US Open I don’t hesitate.

I miss your sound.

I miss your silence.

I miss giving you everything I’ve got. And then a little bit more.

Thank you for giving me everything you had, for twenty-one years—and then a little bit more and thank you for giving me this opportunity to walk through that long tunnel one more and be reminded.

Peace.

Hall of Fame Induction Speech, July 2011

August 25, 2014 speeches Comments Off

I’ve stood at this podium twice before.

Once to introduce my wife — Stefanie Graf. I was SO much more comfortable that day, because I felt the recipient to be far more worthy.

The second time . . . was in my father’s imagination. In his mind’s eye. From the day I was born my father Mike saw this day in my future. And described it to me. Many times. So my feeling of déjà vu right now almost rivals my feeling of gratitude. Almost.

Not long ago I was giving a talk in my hometown, Las Vegas. After I spoke there was a question and answer session. The first hand up, the first question out of the blocks, was a man in the front row. You could see in this man’s face that he was really struggling with something. He took the microphone and asked:

How do you know when to stop telling your kids what to do? The questioner was my father. I was caught off guard that night – I didn’t know what to say. I don’t remember what I did say. But afterwards the answer came to me so clearly.

Dad — when I was five you TOLD me to win Wimbledon.

When I was seven you TOLD me to win all four slams.

More times than I can remember you TOLD me to get into the hall of fame.

And when I was twenty-nine you TOLD me to marry Steffi Graf. The BEST order you ever gave me.

So Dad — please don’t ever stop telling me what to do.

If we’re lucky in life, we get a handful of moments when we don’t have to wonder if we’ve made a parent proud, and we don’t have to ask them. We just KNOW. I want to thank tennis for giving me one of those moments today.

It’s one of many things for which I need to thank this game.

I look at Simone, and the thousands of young people she represents at Agassi Prep, and I say under my breath, thank you tennis.

I look at my wife and my children, who I live for, and I say, thank you tennis.

I look to the future, my efforts to build high performing charter schools in inner cities across the U.S., schools that will impact tens of thousands of Simones. And I say, Thank you tennis, for making that possible.

I fell in love with tennis far too late in my life, but the reason I have everything that I hold dear, is because of how much tennis has loved me back.

I’m thrilled, humbled and a bit terrified to stand in front of you right now. I’ve felt vulnerable many times on a tennis court, but not like I do today.

I’ve grown up in front of you. You’ve seen my highs and you’ve seen my lows. We’ve laughed together and cried together. But what is so clear to me standing here today, is that you have given me compassion, understanding — love. More than I expected. And many times, more than I deserved.

Tennis has not only given me much. It has taught me much.

It’s no accident that tennis uses the language of life. Service, advantage, break, fault, love. The lessons of tennis are the lessons of maturity. In tennis you prepare, and prepare, and then one day your preparation seems futile. Nothing’s working.

The other guy has your number — cold. So you improvise.

In tennis — you learn — what I do instantly effects what you do, and vice versa.

Tennis makes you perceptive, proactive and reactive at the same time. Tennis teaches you the subtlety of human interaction, the curse and blessing of cause and effect. After you play tennis for a living you never forget that we’re all connected. And, there’s nothing like a
tiebreak in the finals of a tournament to teach you the concept of high risk, high reward.

Tennis teaches you that there’s no such thing as perfect. You want to be perfect. You hope to be perfect. Then you’re out there and you’re far less than perfect. And you realize:

I don’t have to be perfect today. I just have to be better than one person.

Tennis is a lonely sport, probably the most lonely. You’re out there with no team, no coach and no place to hide. That’s why tennis players not only talk to themselves, but answer.

And yet, all that loneliness eventually teaches you to stand alone.

The high standards that tennis imposes on us, the self-reliance it demands of us, that’s the reason tennis has produced so many of life’s great game-changers. One of the landmarks of our sport, our National Tennis Center in New York, is home to Arthur Ashe Stadium. What courage Arthur showed. How fair he was, while being treated so unfairly. Once Arthur grabbed hold of a truth, he was unwilling, not capable, of letting go.

Tennis gave us that man. He was and is a treasure, not just for America, but for everyone in the world. For people who have yet to be born.

The tennis center itself is the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Named after one of my personal heroes. Think of the seismic transformation Billie caused in society.

Our wives, daughters, mothers have more than a hope for equality. They have a mandated claim on it, because of Billie.

She did so much more than inspire women. She changed the way men and women think about men and women. The way we all think about equality. She woke us up. Tennis gave us Billie and tennis today is giving me the chance to say, thank you, Billie.

Tennis gave me all my personal teachers. I owe them a debt I can never repay. They lifted me up and carried me across many finish lines — sometimes literally.

My dad Mike and my mom Betty.

My big brother, Phil.

My friend, protector and trainer, Gil Reyes.

My coaches, Nick Bollettieri, Brad Gilbert and Darren Cahill.

And the person who means more to me than words can express, the woman who still takes my breath away, every day. Stefanie Graf.

Each of them deserves a separate Hall of Fame speech. But of course, there isn’t time. So, I’ve written a letter to each of them.

Intimate letters.

Love letters.

But, they’re not private. I want the world to know how I feel. So, I’m putting them on my Foundation’s website, where I hope they’ll serve as a permanent public tribute to those who made this day a reality.

They’re the ones who made possible the highlights. They’re the reason I’m blessed with magical memories that help me sleep — or sometimes keep me awake.

Because of my father I have the memory of the 1992 Wimbledon, and the 1996 Olympics, and thrilling Davis Cups.

Because of Gil I have the memory of the 1999 French Open, his ear-to-ear smile in the fifth set, when we both thought my tank was empty, but there were a few drops of fuel left.

Because of Stefanie and my children, Jaden and Jaz, there was the day of my retirement, in 2006, when I got to walk away from professional tennis on my own terms. They were there for me that day, ready to embrace the future, whatever that might be.

These are my people, and those memories are seared in my mind forever.

One of the most influential people in my life, I met only one time. It was the most vulnerable time of my life, a time that I needed direction and inspiration. And just then, there I was shaking hands with Nelson Mandela. He took my hand, complimented my game, and in the same breath told me the reason why we have been put here on Earth. I can still close my eyes and hear his words of wisdom from that evening. He said, “We must be careful in our decisions, careful in our words, and we must be careful in our relationships. Andre, we must live our life carefully”.

Once you hear those words from Nelson Mandela, you can never un-hear them.

I didn’t always live carefully. I didn’t always pay tennis the respect it deserved. I thought it was my career that was creating my angst, that tennis was the cause of my
internal tension and disconnect. I didn’t know myself, and I didn’t recognize that my troubles were of my own making. And — that only I could solve them. Only after being broken (another tennis term) did I realize I wasn’t being careful.

But you know, rock bottom is an interesting place. I moved in and spent some time there. It’s actually not a bad place. It’s a place where you get to ask:

“Who do I want to be? Am I ready to take ownership of my life?”

For me, ownership meant growing up, focusing every day on being one day better. Ownership meant not only embracing tennis but celebrating it. Ownership meant going back to the challenger circuit, feeling honored to be my own ball boy, feeling privileged to flip my own scorecard. Ownership meant feeling grateful for being, and having the chance to start over.

Climbing out of that hole I had dug for myself, that’s when I started choosing to believe that each of us has a plan for our life. A purpose to fulfill. A body of work to create.

A reason to be.

I committed to taking care of myself and taking care of my tennis. Going from a ranking of 141 in the world, back to being ranked number 1 again was not an accomplishment, it
was the reflection of an accomplishment. It was the symptom of good choices. It was the result of ‘being careful’.

The highlights I experienced taught me what is possible. The hard times reinforced the consequences of not being true to my character — of not living up to my own expectations. These things have coalesced inside me into a kind of code. A personal mission statement. I believe we have a responsibility to each other. A responsibility to
create more than we consume. A responsibility to build things that will out live us. A responsibility to find our limits and to push through them.

Even when life’s challenges weigh us down, make us unrecognizable to ourselves, we can always begin again. There’s always time to thrive. It’s not too late to be inspired. It’s not too late to change. It’s not too late.

This honor today, leaves me deeply humbled. But, it also makes me think of others who don’t get their due. Teachers and nurses. Caregivers and struggling parents. All the people who do the right thing, who win their own private Grand Slams — they know already what took me decades to understand. That we are here to do good quietly. To shine in secret. To give when there’s no crowd applauding.

To give of ourselves to someone who can offer us nothing.

Tennis gave me the chance to meet so many of these people, to travel the world and visit places where the human spirit shines brightest because life is darkest. Tennis taught me that the needs of this world are great, but they’re no match and never will be a match for the human spirit. Thank you tennis for my life, thank you tennis for my wife, and thank you tennis for enabling me to find my life’s work.

In closing, to my son Jaden, my daughter Jaz, and to every young person listening to my voice, the world we’re leaving you is not the world we wish for you. You need to make
that world. To go places we’ve never been, to succeed in ways we’ve never dreamed.

Mandela said to me: “There is difficulty in all human journeys. But there is nobility in just being a journeyer”. From him I learned, every journey is epic. Every journey is
important. Every journey begins today.

At the beginning of my journey my friend Gil said to me:

“Andre, you have dreams. I have strong shoulders. So stand on my shoulders and reach.”

To my children, to all of our children, stand on our shoulders. Reach higher than we could. Reach for YOUR dreams. Today, as I stand here, I am living proof that no journey
is impossible.

Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service Speech, May 2009

August 25, 2014 speeches Comments Off

Thank you for the touching video and all the kind words. I also want to say thank you for visiting our school and shining a light on the work of our Foundation. Our work in Las Vegas is a tremendous team effort. It is the generosity, compassion and hard work of an entire community that has created these success stories, in some cases miracle stories. I share this award with all of you who have been with us on this journey.

Being honored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation is very special to me. Looking over the list of past honorees is very humbling. As a kid if you would have told me that my name would be on the same list as Jack Nicholas and John Glenn, I never could have imagined what kind of list it could possibly be. I would also like to congratulate Larry and Camille Ruvo, who truly live by the belief that anything is possible. They are giants of generosity and Stefanie and I are humbled to share the stage and this evening with them.

Woodrow Wilson was a legendary wordsmith known around the world for his many wise words, but here are the ones that I hold closest to my heart… “You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget that errand”.

Many years ago, at the lowest point in my career and one of the lowest points in my life, I figured out why I was here. Years later when I continued to compete and play tennis long after my body told me to stop; I was driven by that same reason. I was here to care for children in need, to try and give a voice to those whose voices are rarely heard.

I was fortunate enough to be born and raised here in Las Vegas, I know first hand that this is a great place to raise a family and a great community in which to thrive. But the blessings have rained down unevenly. As I became more aware of young people living in abusive homes, children having little contact with a prosperous world surrounding their own, and I saw the lack of a quality education that could lift them out, I had to act. It became personal. We were losing an entire generation, a talented and capable generation, by not giving them the tools to succeed. That’s why we created Agassi Prep, to frontload our children for success.

We realized that the earlier you interrupt the downward spiral and give the tools of hope, the more powerfully you can change the course of a life. Our children may not know how to define dignity, but they know when it’s been violated, we won’t let that happen on our watch.
We are continuing to challenge ourselves to work harder and work smarter. Woodrow Wilson’s genius was his ability to combine so many passions… industry, politics, and education, all to better the world. He was an innovator but also a deep and long term thinker. It is in his footsteps that we are trying to reinvent what it means to care. By improvising and innovating, we are focused on equipping young people in a new way. We consider our school a laboratory of ideas. Our latest mission has been to pass new laws in our state to better serve the people who need it the most. I have testified more than once before our state legislature and we have been successful in creating system wide reform and in rewriting the rules to encourage fresh ideas in education. As we learn more, we intend to expand our mission to include legislation on a national level. We want others who are starting schools like ours across the country to have an easier time navigating the waters and to benefit from what we’re learning. In this arena we sometimes feel like the first domino.

In closing I want to leave you with this. Some people may choose to weep for the world, others choose to change it. It may seem the needs of our young people are overwhelming, but so is our resolve. I believe we can outwork, outsmart, and outlast the hardships they face. The oppression of poverty is thick, but there is surely enough love within us to dissolve it. Thank you again for this great honor.

13th Annual Grand Slam for Children Opening Speech, 2008

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On behalf of over six hundred full time students and over one hundred and eighty thousand underserved children all across Las Vegas. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am humbled that you continue to give so willingly and freely, and that you have entrusted me and this foundation, to direct that giving in a way that reflects your values and priorities. I am more humbled to watch these children rise to the challenge, take pride in their accomplishments and forge a future of their choosing.

Tonight, I feel like I’m standing in front of a volunteer army, an army of compassion, who together are facing down poverty, hunger, disorder and brokenness, and saying “not in this city”, “not on my watch”. It’s my turn to applaud you, who in good years and tough years, never once wavered in your compassion and willingness to reach out to help rescue a child.

Tonight, the 13th Grand Slam for Children, may be our most pivotal and important night together. I wanted this evening to be a more intimate time, enjoying our new surroundings, and taking stock of the things that we have accomplished.

We’ve learned to create a culture of achievement in our young people. To overwhelm ‘where they are from’ with ‘where they are going’. We believe in them, we challenge them and we equip them to take on the world. We never lower our standards for them, we elevate their dreams. With longer school days, a longer school year, and investing in and training educators, we have become much like a second family, and these children are bringing that culture of success back to their own families every day.

We learned that demographics are not destiny. Every life is worth fighting for. A child in a broken home, a broken school, and a broken neighborhood wants to thrive, they’re looking for a way to success, and they can’t find the door. That’s why we have to find them. When we see a young person in need, we have to make a decision, that doesn’t just define us to others, it defines us to ourselves. I know that is why you step up year after year. It’s not just about what you give, it’s who you are.

With challenging news pounding our world day after day, it would be understandable for us to pull back and reign in our goals, but we know that poverty doesn’t sleep, hunger doesn’t sleep, and the battle for an impressionable young soul doesn’t sleep, and so our dreams will not sleep either. We all have many memorable pages written in our life story, but when we change the course of a child’s future, we add a historic chapter to our legacy. It may be the most important thing we leave behind.

Tonight we celebrate changing young lives forever. We celebrate the human spirit. And it’s time for the greatest entertainers in the world to take the stage to help make this night unforgettable. Ladies and gentlemen, our musical director, Mr. David Foster, and the 13th Annual Grand Slam for Children.

Governor’s Philanthropist of the Year Award Speech, March 2007

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Thank you Governor Gibbons.

Thanks to everyone for giving me this honor tonight. Although this kind of recognition is uncomfortable, and certainly humbling, it makes me so proud of the team effort, of those that have given to my foundation and made possible our charter school. I share this moment with you.

Most of you know that I was fortunate enough to be born and raised in Las Vegas. I know first hand that we live in a great city; we have the opportunity to flourish in a great community. Las Vegas has been the launch platform for every accomplishment in my family and career. The people of Las Vegas have embraced me in a way I never could have imagined, and because of that, from early on, I wanted to make a difference, not just generally in the world, but specifically here – in my home town. The more I became aware of the struggles and needs of so many people living so close to us, especially children, their struggle became personal to me. We began to adopt a saying. “It’s not business, it’s personal.” We went from interested to committed, from bystanders to participants.

This is truly one great place to raise a family, to build a business, to make a great life, to experience prosperity. However, the blessings have rained down unevenly. There are still too many with too few opportunities, we can’t let that happen on our watch.

I believe that our community is only as prosperous as the single parent trying to make ends meet. We are only as successful as that child that has the least. We are only as healthy as the weakest among us, and we are only as educated as the one with the least chance to learn.

So I feel fortunate to be speaking to the leaders and shapers of Las Vegas, you who have the power to make a difference. Many things have gone right for each of us in our lives, and we can use our ambitions, our creativity, our drive, our leadership to make every child in this city happier, more hopeful, with a clear path toward everything they were meant to become.

In every successful life, you can look back and find a turning point, a chance, a mentor, one special break. The grip of poverty and need on a young life may seem relentless to them, but just one act of kindness can stop it in its tracks. We have the choice to make it personal, to create that legacy, to be that role model. It may be the most important thing we do with our lives.

I feel privileged to share this passion and calling with you, and I feel privileged to be partners with you, in giving back to those that are vulnerable, but so filled with potential and destiny.

This work is my greatest priority, and I look forward to seeing you here next year. Thank you.

Retirement Speech, August 2006

August 25, 2014 speeches Comments Off

The scoreboard said I lost today, but what the scoreboard doesn’t say is what it is I have found.

And over the last 21 years, I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and also in life. I’ve found inspiration. You have willed me to succeed sometimes even in my lowest moments.

And I’ve found generosity. You have given me your shoulders to stand on to reach for my dreams, dreams I could have never reached without you.

Over the last 21 years, I have found you. And I will take you and the memory of you with me for the rest of my life. Thank you.

14th Grand Slam for Children presented by Genworth Financial

August 25, 2014 events Comments Off

The evening raised nearly $8 million and announced a $7.5 million pledge from the Engelstad Family Foundation to kick off the Engelstad Family Sponsor Our Students Campaign. Entertainers included Lionel Richie, Tim McGraw, Dane Cook, Daughtry, Brian McKnight, Macy Gray, and many others with the musical direction of David Foster.

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Sustainable Solar Energy

August 22, 2014 legislation Comments Off

With the assistance of the Nevada federal delegation, AAFE begins a renewable energy initiative with the installation of a new, solar energy system at Agassi Prep. Kids are inspired, spirits are up and energy bills are down.

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Legislative Victories

August 22, 2014 legislation Comments Off

AAFE’s state policy initiatives result in the passage of 3 bills: SB 391 allows Agassi Prep to further its mission of serving underserved youth; AB 393 allows employees to enroll their children at Agassi Prep and a seamless transition for children enrolled in an affiliated Pre-K program; and AB 488 gives it additional flexibility to hire “critical need” positions.

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What’s in a Name?

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

With an ever greater focus on education, the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation changes its name to the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and launches a new mission, logo and website.

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Andre honored at the US Open

August 22, 2014 andre agassi Comments Off

The Opening Night Ceremony for the 2009 US Open celebrates athletes who give back, featuring Andre Agassi as well as Doug Flutie, Mia Hamm and David Robinson. The evening highlights the AAFE’s efforts in education, including Agassi Prep. The ceremony is broadcast live on ESPN2.

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Agassi Prep deemed “High Achieving”

August 22, 2014 agassi prep Comments Off

Agassi Prep’s elementary, middle and high schools all receive ”High Achieving” designations from the State of Nevada Dept. of Education. “High Achieving” means a school has exceeded expectations for performance and/or significantly reduced the percentage of non-proficient students.

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Agassi Prep Graduates First Senior Class

August 22, 2014 agassi prep Comments Off

Agassi Prep graduates its first class on June 12, 2009 with a 100% college acceptance rate. The festivities conclude with a ceremony symbolic of the graduates entering the future. The seniors cross a bridge specifically designed for this event and are pronounced the Class of 2009.

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Renewed Focus on Education

August 22, 2014 agassi prep Comments Off

AAFE hones its mission of transforming education in two ways. Agassi Prep strives to provide a first-class K-12 education. Through advocacy, the AAFE drives investment and develops policies that promote accountability in public education.

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Nevada Charter Law Ranked 22

August 22, 2014 legislation Comments Off

The Center for Education Reform improves its ranking of Nevada Charter Law from 27th in the nation to 22nd. After the 2007 legislative session, Nevada improves its overall ranking which encourages new charters to open and increases educational opportunities for children.

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Athletic Success

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

Former Team Agassi Member Asia Muhammad, who turned professional, reaches the finals of the Tennis Channel Open.

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Boney Continues to Excel

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

Just three weeks into her first collegiate spring season, former Team Agassi Member Candynce Boney is named “Atlantic 10 Player” and “Rookie of the Week” for the second week in a row and is also named “Player of the Week” by the Atlantic 10 Conference.

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Nevada adds a Qualified Charter Sponsor

August 22, 2014 legislation Comments Off

Nevada System of Higher Education is authorized as a charter sponsor. This increases the number of entities given authority to sponsor charter schools in the state, making the expansion of charter schools possible.

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Team Agassi Continues to Excel

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

Two graduates of Team Agassi, Candynce Boney and Tamilia Hicks, receive college scholarships to University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Virginia State University, respectively, based on their dedication to, and success in, tennis and academics.

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Andre Agassi Helps Establish Athletes for Hope

August 22, 2014 andre agassi Comments Off

Andre Agassi joins Muhammad Ali, Lance Armstrong, Warrick Dunn, Jeff Gordon, Mia Hamm, Tony Hawk, Andrea Jaeger, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mario Lemieux, Alonzo Mourning and Cal Ripken, Jr. as a founder of “Athletes for Hope,” which empowers the sports community to engage in philanthropy.

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“Boys Hope” Realized

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

With AAFE support, four Boys Hope alumni pursue undergraduate and advanced degrees. Boys Hope is a non-profit organization that provides a family-like home and education environment for young boys who may otherwise be homeless or living in a shelter.

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Nevada Charter Law Ranked 27

August 22, 2014 legislation Comments Off

The Center for Education Reform, a non-profit dedicated to improving education through policy reform ranks Nevada Charter Law 27th in the nation. By driving policy reform and strengthening charter law, AAFE is able to provide greater educational opportunities for all Nevada children.

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Asia Muhammad Goes Pro

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

Asia Muhammad, a member of Team Agassi, represents the United States in the World Junior Tennis finals and makes it to the qualifying round of her first professional tournament.

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“Two Mile Radius” Approved

August 22, 2014 legislation Comments Off

The Nevada Legislature passes and the Governor signs into law, AB 162, which enables Agassi Prep to give preference in enrollment to students who live within a two-mile radius of the school. This allows Agassi Prep to intensify its focus on the needs of the surrounding community.

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Agassi Prep Makes the Grade

August 22, 2014 agassi prep Comments Off

The Agassi Prep Middle School receives an “Exemplary” designation from the State of Nevada Department of Education. It is the only middle school in Clark County to receive this high honor.

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The 10th Annual Grand Slam for Children

August 22, 2014 events Comments Off

The event features performances by Barbra Streisand, Mary J. Blige, Celine Dion, Usher, Glenn Frey, Duran Duran, Earth, Wind & Fire, Robin Williams and George Lopez, and raises more than $10M. Proceeds directly support the academic and social development of children in Las Vegas.

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The Foundation Turns 10

August 22, 2014 events Comments Off

AAFE celebrates its 10-year anniversary with a reception for donors, volunteers and community partners at Agassi Prep. In honor of Ty Warner’s gift in 2003, the middle school is named in his honor and unveiled at this event.

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Scholarship Fund Renamed

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

AAFE’s scholarship fund established at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is renamed “The Cynthia Bunker and Joy McClenahan Memorial Scholarship Fund” to honor the memory of a friend and a longtime volunteer. The fund supports students in the College of Fine Arts.

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The 8th Annual Grand Slam for Children

August 22, 2014 events Comments Off

At the eighth Grand Slam for Children, the Foundation raises a record-breaking $12.6 million, which includes a $6.3 million matching donation by Ty Warner of the Ty Corporation. Proceeds directly support Agassi Prep and other programs to improve the lives of children in Las Vegas.

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Team Agassi Heads to London

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

Six members of Team Agassi travel to London to compete in the Two Nations Challenge, a cultural exchange program between the United States Tennis Association and the Lawn Tennis Association.

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Agassi Cottage opens at Child Haven

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

AAFE expands its work with Child Haven with the opening of the “Andre Agassi Medically Fragile Cottage” for children.The Cottage provides comprehensive care for children who arrive with injuries or contagious illnesses, or who require physical and developmental care.

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Agassi Prep Breaks Ground

August 22, 2014 agassi prep Comments Off

Construction begins on the Agassi Prep campus, which will eventually house kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school facilities and serve more than 600 students in West Las Vegas.

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Teen Center Opens

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

AAFE opens the Teen Center at Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club to give local youth a safe place to go after-school, as well as resources such as a computer lab and resume workshops.

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Education becomes our primary focus

August 22, 2014 agassi prep Comments Off

Driven by Andre Agassi’s belief that education is the key to opportunity for children, AAFE begins designs for the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a public charter school that strives to provide a first–class K-12 education to prepare them for excellence in college and beyond.

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AAFE Serves up Team Agassi

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

AAFE creates Team Agassi, an elite tennis program at the Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club, with an emphasis on education. Team Agassi provides youth with the skills and resources required to obtain scholarships for college. The team of seven- to 17-year-olds competes nationally.

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Foundation Expands Support of Community Programs

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

AAFE supports new programs to improve the lives of underserved children. Beneficiaries include Las Vegas Inner-City Games, Las Vegas Sun Summer Camp, I Have a Dream Foundation, Project Youth and Boys Hope/Girls Hope of Nevada.

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All-Star Performers Rock the 4th Grand Slam

August 22, 2014 events Comments Off

Mick Fleetwood, Amy Grant, Sir Elton John, Dennis Miller, Stevie Nicks, Lionel Richie, Seal and Robin Williams perform at the 4th Annual “Grand Slam for Children.” The event raises $3.2M for AAFE to expand its support of community programs that help underserved children.

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Education is Added to our Focus

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

The Foundation commits funding to build to Agassi Center for Education at Child Haven, Clark County’s Child Protective Services. This will give children in protective custody the ability to continue their studies while at Child Haven.

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Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club Opens

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

AAFE opens the Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club in West Las Vegas. The new 25,000 square-foot facility includes two tennis courts, a basketball court, a computer lab, and a library. Colin Powell congratulates the Andre Agassi Club for being the nation’s 2,000th Boys & Girls Club.

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AAFE Extends its Reach

August 22, 2014 other Comments Off

AAFE provides support to the Nevada Tennis Association’s “Project Serve” program, Assistance League of Las Vegas’ “Operation School Bell” program, Boys & Girls Clubs of Las Vegas and Class! Publications.

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Elaine Wynn

August 22, 2014 ways to give partner profiles Comments Off

Las Vegas, NV
Director, Wynn Resorts
Relationship to Foundation: “Godmother,” Donor, Partner, Sponsor and Former Advisory Board Member

1. How were you introduced to the Foundation?

Meeting with Perry Rogers and Andre.

2. How many years have you been involved with Foundation?

Prior to change of charter school laws in Nevada.

3. Why do you support the Foundation?

The mission is compelling. To provide equal opportunities to all children.

4. How do you see Foundation and Agassi Prep impacting the greater good? Setting a great example.

We know that all children, no matter what their circumstances, have needs that exist beyond school. When these needs are not met they can dramatically interfere with a child’s ability to learn. When a school recognizes this reality and works to improve the conditions of the whole child, without compromising the quality of their education, you have a successful result. That’s what this place strives to do.

“This school has become the beacon that Andre hoped it would be. It serves as a successful model certainly of a charter school but more important, as a model for what every school could be.”

Lindy Schumacher

Lindy Schumacher

August 22, 2014 ways to give partner profiles Comments Off

Las Vegas, NV
Director of Nevada Giving, The Lincy Foundation
Relationship to Foundation: Foundation Advisory Board Member.

Lindy Schumacher is Chief Executive Officer of Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas, a nonprofit organization dedicated to having a long-term, meaningful impact on college attendance and graduation rates for students growing up in economically and educationally under-resourced communities in greater Las Vegas.

Through in-depth and individualized support, the Fulfillment Fund helps students growing up in under-resourced communities defy the odds and achieve the dream of a college education. Originally founded in Los Angeles in 1977, the Fulfillment Fund has a 35-year track record of helping young people overcome obstacles to graduate high school, go to college, and reach their full potential. Whereas nationally, only 54% of high school graduates in low-income communities go on to college, 94% of Fulfillment Fund high school graduates in Los Angeles planned to go on to college in 2012.

Prior to taking the helm of Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas, Schumacher was Director of Nevada Giving for the Dream Fund at UCLA (previously the Lincy Foundation), an organization that has steeped itself in the community with a goal to create sustainable change by supporting efforts focused on education, health and social services initiatives.

Schumacher brings a wealth of knowledge through her background in finance and accounting, specifically through her role as a senior auditor for Arthur Andersen and as CFO for The Las Vegas Monorail Company. A graduate of the University of Southern California (USC), Schumacher earned a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and became a Certified Public Accountant in 1997.

An education activist, Schumacher has served on the advisory board of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education since 2009 as well as serving on United Way Board with a special emphasis on early education. Schumacher lives in Las Vegas with her husband and three young children who proudly attend the Clark County School District.

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Francisco Aguilar

August 21, 2014 staff Comments Off

General Counsel

Francisco serves as General Counsel for Agassi Graf Holdings, the management company for Andre Agassi and Stefanie Graf, and the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education. He is responsible for communications/media, government and legal affairs. Prior to joining Agassi Graf, he served as Senior Counsel at Southwest Gas Corporation, Special Counsel to the Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, and as a lawyer for the parent company of the Las Vegas NBC affiliate, KSN Channel 3 and 16 other NBC affiliates.

In May 2004, he graduated from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law with a Juris Doctor as well as from the University of Arizona Eller Graduate College of Management with an MBA. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and accounting from the University of Arizona where he was elected to serve as Student Body President representing 35,000 students.

Francisco is a member of the Nevada, California, and Arizona Bars. He also serves as a member of the board of directors for the Nevada Community Foundation, the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, Chicanos Por La Causa – Nevada, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers Law College Board of Visitors, San Miguel High School and the Marshall Foundation in Tucson, Arizona.

Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval recently reappointed Francisco to the Nevada Athletic Commission which regulates boxing and mixed martial arts. He currently serves as Chairman of the Commission.

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Shawn Cable

August 21, 2014 staff Comments Off

Chief Financial Officer

Shawn Cable is the Chief Financial Officer for both the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education and Agassi Graf and has been with both organizations since 2008.

Prior to joining the Agassi Graf, Shawn worked for Syncon Homes, a regional real estate developer focused on residential homebuilding, commercial & golf course properties, where he was the Corporate Controller for all divisions. His primary responsibilities were financial reporting, project analysis and working with government agencies. Before Syncon Homes, Shawn worked for a number of both publicly-held and private real estate development companies focused on residential and commercial development throughout the United States.

After earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration (Finance) from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 1995, Shawn joined Enterprise Leasing Company as an Area Coordinator and was responsible for financial reporting, corporate audits and new retail setup for locations in Arizona and Nevada. In May of 2000, Shawn earned his Masters in Business Administration, from UNLV.

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Julie Pippenger

August 19, 2014 staff Comments Off

Chief Operating Officer

Julie Pippenger is the Chief Operating Officer of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, she joined the Foundation in 1997. For two years, she also served as Chief Operating Officer for the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, a Clark County independent public charter school. In these capacities, she was involved on a daily basis with myriad activities pertaining to both the Foundation and Agassi Prep, including overseeing design and construction of the school and subsequent expansions (a $40 million project), managing fiscal affairs, strategic planning, coordinating fund-raising efforts such as the annual Grand Slam For Children (which over the past 14 years has raised more than $70 million), and submitting grant applications to various funding sources.

Prior to her current position, Julie served as a special events supervisor for the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino’s Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and worked on the Grand Slam for Children event, which eventually led her to join the Foundation in 1997.

Julie received her BS in Travel and Tourism from Niagara University in New York, and has served on numerous boards in the Las Vegas area, such as, the Boys & Girls Club of Las Vegas for which the Foundation funded and built the Andre Agassi Boys & Girls Club that opened in 1998. Her contributions to the community have garnered several awards including the “Woman & Youth” award in 2000 as well as a “Hometown Heroes” award in 2006.

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Evy Nickell

August 18, 2014 staff Comments Off

Executive Assistant

Evy is the executive assistant to the CEO, Steve Miller.  She joined the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education in 2008.

Evy works closely with Steve to manage his various obligations inside and outside the Foundation and Agassi Graf Holdings.  Among her responsibilities are the coordination and scheduling of meetings, travel and logistics for both entities.  Evy and Steve have worked together since 1992.

Prior to joining the Foundation and Agassi Graf Holdings, she was office manager for the Professional Bowlers Association for 8 years.  Other experience includes 8 years of banking and 12 years in the athletic footwear and apparel industry, for Nike, Inc. and Avia Athletic Footwear.  While at Nike, she worked with the Agassi Foundation coordinating Steve Miller’s involvement as a founding Board member and Nike’s support of the Foundation.  Additionally, she worked in Nike’s Tennis Sports Marketing.

Evy attended Brigham Young University and Portland State University, with an emphasis on finance and accounting.

Photos By Denise Truscello

Steve Miller

August 18, 2014 staff Comments Off

Chief Executive Officer

Steve Miller is the Chief Executive Officer of Agassi Graf Holdings. He is responsible for the leadership and operation of three for-profit entities (Agassi Graf Holdings, Agassi Ventures LLC, and Stefanie Graf Ventures LLC) plus one non-profit foundation (Andre Agassi Foundation for Education). Miller oversees the staff and manages the financial portfolios of all four properties. He is responsible for the coordination of business ventures, strategies, and personnel evaluations, as well as managing and representing the Agassi Graf Lifestyle brand.

As CEO of the Andre Agassi Foundation for Education, Miller is responsible for the leadership and operation of the Foundation enterprise, and managing the financial portfolio.

He is a visionary, a passionate and progressive leader with the broad institutional experience and the intellect necessary to motivate and lead a diverse team of professionals. He participates personally and sets the example for dynamic, aggressive fundraising, managing foundation assets and effectively partnering with the board of directors.

Miller brings a wealth of experience to these positions. Most recently, he was the CEO of Power Plate International, and the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors. He has served as a senior analyst and adjunct professor at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. Acting as a key industry specialist, he worked with the Warsaw Center on a variety of initiatives, including industry outreach and research.

From 2000-2005, Miller was President & CEO of the Professional Bowlers Association in Seattle. In his five years at the PBA, he was responsible for revamping the organization, bringing membership to an all-time high, negotiating two exclusive television deals with ESPN, and increasing sponsorship from
2 sponsors in 2000 to 17 for the 2004-05 PBA Tour season.

Miller is also well known in the world of sports marketing, having served as Director of Global Sports Marketing during his 10 years at Nike. While at Nike, Miller served in numerous positions, including Director of Athletics, Director of U.S. Sports Marketing, Director of Sports Marketing for the Asia Pacific Region and Director of NCAA Sports Marketing. He also oversaw Nike’s $100 million investment in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

Miller has been named NCAA ‘Coach of the Year’ five times and is a member of four Halls of Fame. He is a member of the Board of Directors of USA Track & Field, and the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation. Miller is a highly sought-after lecturer on topics ranging from motivation to executive leadership. He has a B.S. in English literature and physical education from Bradley University, and an M.S. in physical education and biomechanical analysis from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.