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$10 million gift to university varsity men’s and women’s tennis programs from Joan Secchia
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$10 million gift to university varsity men’s and women’s tennis programs from Joan Secchia

A well-known Michigan State University alumna, who can be seen regularly at the MSU tennis courts cheering on the men’s and women’s tennis teams, decided to show her love and passion for the Michigan State tennis programs recently.

Joan Secchia, an MSU College of Education graduate in 1964, said that her love and devotion for the game and the Spartan tennis program has allowed her to make a $10 million commitment to the university’s varsity men’s and women’s tennis programs.

“As a tennis enthusiast and a longtime Spartan, I am thrilled to make this commitment in support of both the men’s and women’s tennis programs at MSU,” Secchia said. “I am excited about the future of Spartan tennis and the impact this commitment will have on current and future student-athletes.”

This is not the first large donation from the Secchia family, as Joan Secchia and her late husband Peter Secchia made multiple contributions to the university. Michigan State’s softball field, Secchia Stadium, is named after them from a $1 million donation made by Mr. Secchia to the program when building the stadium.

Mr. Secchia unfortunately died in 2020 while battling Covid, amongst other health issues, but Joan Secchia, who resides in Grand Rapids, is still a major fan of Spartan athletics.

The donations from the Secchia family have already had a major impact on the tennis programs, enabling the two teams to have new opportunities and applications they didn’t previously have.

Michigan State announced that the most immediate applications of Secchia’s gift will include “significant improvements to the Spartan tennis facilities, including new outdoor courts and enhanced spectator seating at the outdoor courts.” The University also announced that additional upgrades and enhancements using the funds will be determined later.

One of the upgrades includes an additional building, including offices for coaches and locker rooms for both the men’s and women’s tennis players.

Michigan State’s Vice President and Director of Athletics Alan Haller said the university was grateful for the donation and that it’s so great coming from a fan of Michigan State athletics.

“We are extremely grateful for Joan Secchia’s generous commitment to our men’s and women’s tennis programs,” Haller said. “Joan is a longtime supporter of Spartan Athletics with a history of transformational giving. An avid tennis player herself, Joan’s gift will positively impact the student-athletes in our tennis programs for years to come.”

Men’s tennis head coach Harry Jadun showed his gratitude to Secchia and what it means to have such a large donation for the tennis programs.

“Today is a momentous occasion for the Spartan tennis programs,” Jadun said. “(Joan Secchia) has been a leader for our program and the impact she has had on our student-athletes extends far beyond the tennis court. Joan’s gift reflects a strong belief in Michigan State University and our tennis program. We are so thankful for her support. Our goal is to compete for championships and Joan’s gift will allow us to do just that.”

Women’s tennis head coach Kim Bruno said that Joan Secchia’s touching impact will provide many valuable future resources for the programs.

“Spartan tennis is better today because of Joan Secchia and her gift,” Bruno said. “I’m so excited about the proposed facility improvements and the lasting impact it will have on our team.”

Joan Secchia was born Joan Margaret Peterson in Saginaw, Michigan. She grew up and went to school in Midland, Michigan, where her father worked for The Dow Chemical Company.

Mrs. Secchia attended Michigan State University, where she was a member of Chi Omega sorority, and graduated with a degree in elementary education. After graduation, she married Peter Secchia, who is also a graduate of MSU.

The following Fall, Mrs. Secchia taught 4th grade at an elementary school in Rockford, Michigan. She also taught fifth grade in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, a city that boasts one of the finest public school systems in the state.

Before going to Rome in 1989, when her husband served as US Ambassador to Italy until 1993, Mrs. Secchia was active in a variety of civic and community organizations. She was a member of the Junior League, a hospital guild, served as a board officer and on the executive committee of the Kent County Red Cross, and was president of the East Grand Rapids High School Parent, Teacher, Student Association. In addition, Mrs. Secchia has been involved in numerous political campaigns, serving as Kent County co-chair for former Governor Milliken and was twice elected as a precinct delegate.

While in Rome, Mrs. Secchia continued a wide range of activities. She was a member of the Fulbright Commission, a board member of the USO, was instrumental in the formation of a Rome chapter of the Navy League, and is active in promoting Girls’ Town and Boys’ Town of Italy. In addition, Mrs. Secchia planned and directed an extensive restoration project at the Villa Taverna, the residence of US Ambassadors to Italy. With the help of the Villa Taverna Society, a group of private donors in the United States, Mrs. Secchia supervised a complete refurbishing of the guest suites and public rooms of the historic residence.

Since her return, Mrs. Secchia has become a Board Member of Opera Grand Rapids, the Children’s Assessment Center, the Student Advancement Foundation, the Women’s Resource Center, and has become a Trustee of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.

Among her hobbies, Mrs. Secchia enjoys bridge and is an enthusiastic tennis player. The Secchias are residents of East Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have four children; two daughters and two sons.

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