Tennis Canada announced on Thursday that Jack Graham, Q.C. as well as Betty and her late husband Bruce Birmingham will be officially inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame as builders for their significant contributions to the success of Canadian tennis. The dates and locations of the ceremonies will be announced in the coming months when the COVID-19 crisis is behind us.
“In this challenging time for society, it is most welcome news to recognize the outstanding contributions to Canadian Tennis of Jack Graham and Betty and Bruce Birmingham as builders,” said Robert Bettauer, Chair of the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame. “Jack’s roles which have spanned numerous decades, have helped lay many key foundational blocks for Canada’s current international tennis success. Betty and Bruce’s induction is a historic first for wheelchair tennis in our Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame, as they have been instrumental in providing the resources essential to growing wheelchair tennis in Canada.”
Mr. Graham has been and continues to be a great builder of Canadian tennis. He has helped develop Canadian tennis at the local, national and international level for now over 40 years. Chair of the Atlantic Canadian law firm McInnes Cooper, one of the twenty largest firms in Canada, he was the Executive Director of Tennis Nova Scotia before completing his law studies. Mr. Graham was also President of the Nova Scotia Tennis Association (1995 to 2001), before being elected on Tennis Canada’s Board of Directors (2001 to 2019). He was Chair of the Board from 2004 to 2006 and helped lay the foundation for Canada to become a leading tennis nation. During his mandate, Tennis Canada made the decision to significantly invest in athlete development, which included opening the organization’s first National Tennis Centre in Montreal. He was also instrumental in bringing the Davis Cup to Nova Scotia, advocating for municipalities to support year-round tennis play and helping build a strong tennis pathway for the country to grow the game.
Mr. Graham also continues to proudly represent Canada on the global tennis stage. In 2009, he became the first Canadian elected to the International Tennis Federation Board of Directors. Last September, he was re-elected for a fifth term, becoming the longest serving Director on the ITF Board. He has led all of the major governance enhancements at the ITF over the past decade. Finally, as Chair of the new Atlantic Tennis Centre, Mr. Graham successfully secured public funding from all three levels of government and from donors, resulting in the creation of an 18-court Regional Training and Community Tennis Centre in Halifax. The opening of the ATC is scheduled for later this year.
“This is a great honour for me. I have always believed that tennis has the power to change lives,” stated Mr. Graham. “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many people across Canada who “dreamed big dreams” about Canadian tennis and worked hard to make them a reality.”
The Birmingham family’s contribution over the last few decades to Canadian wheelchair tennis has been instrumental in developing the foundation on which the success of the sport has been built. Through the Tennis Matters campaign, the family has donated over $2 Million to provide Canada’s wheelchair tennis athletes with enhanced funding and competitive opportunities. Their involvement has developed over time as they supported Canadian wheelchair tennis players at events, providing so much care and assistance to these athletes. Their commitment began in 2003 when they agreed to assist with the hosting costs for the Canadian Open Wheelchair Tennis Championships in Stoney Creek, Ontario and provide travel grants to allow Canadian players to participate in the event.
Since then, their generosity has expanded to new heights. In 2006, they offered funding for the Canadian National Wheelchair Tennis Championships, which were renamed the Birmingham Nationals in their honour, as was the Birmingham Canadian Classic, a Grade 2 ITF tournament. In 2008, they decided to focus their efforts towards Canada’s Paralympic success by creating the Birmingham Excellence Fund to assist with coaching and training support for prospective Canadian Paralympic tennis athletes. Since establishing this fund, Canada won its first Parapan Am medal in 2015 in Toronto in the men’s doubles category (bronze) and its first gold medal last year when Rob Shaw was crowned singles champion in the quad category.
“It is a great honour to receive this recognition and it is even more special to be able to enter the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame alongside my husband. I know how proud and grateful he would have been,” stated Mrs. Birmingham. “Bruce and I got involved with wheelchair tennis more than 15 years ago and have been honoured to support a group of wonderful and hardworking athletes with true spirit. I feel very blessed to have been able to get to know them and watch them develop.”
Recognized by the players as the “family of Canadian wheelchair tennis”, Betty and Bruce Birmingham become the first wheelchair tennis inductees into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame.