Methodist University is proud to announce the dedication of the newly constructed Gene Clayton Tennis Center Thursday, Oct. 19, at 5 p.m. The reception and dedication will be followed by a tennis social for interested attendees of all skill levels. This event is not open to the public, but media is invited to attend.
The new facility gives the Professional Tennis Management Program (PTM) and Monarch Tennis a new courtside home and allows all of the tennis-related programs to have their own central space, with a classroom, tennis pro shop, offices, lobby, locker rooms, and laundry. The center will also be used for tennis seminars, certification events, and student association functions. The 3,000-square-foot building is next to the eight lighted tennis courts, which were renovated in 2013.
The center is named in honor of retired longtime MU administrator Dr. Gene Clayton, thanks to a $500,000 gift from Marta and Howard Bullard. Howard Bullard, who is a member of the university’s board of trustees, said he wanted to honor Clayton for his more than 50 years of service to Methodist University. The Tennis Center was selected as the beneficiary of Mr. and Mrs. Bullard’s generosity due to Dr. Clayton’s lifelong involvement with tennis, which began when he first came to Methodist in 1963 and served as tennis coach.
“Gene has given his whole life to Methodist University,” said Howard Bullard. “So much of what is there now has his fingerprints on it in a very important way. We feel that he is deserving of having something significant named for him because of his many years of service to Methodist University.”
Clayton came to Methodist after graduating from Catawba College with a bachelor’s degree in physical education and from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Master of Education. He was a coach for the Methodist men’s and women’s tennis, cross country, golf, and basketball teams, eventually spending 22 years in athletics from 1966 to 1985, during which he won nine conference championships. He was inducted into the Methodist University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. In 2015, he was inducted into the Fayetteville Sports Club Hall of Fame.
Clayton served the University for 53 years in numerous positions including tennis and basketball coach, the dean of students, director of Athletics, vice president for Advancement, and finally as the vice president for Business Affairs. He was fundamental to the University’s growth and expansion, supervising with a strong guiding hand the construction of 27 buildings and 30 landscaping projects for campus beautification over his tenure.
“Gene Clayton has been central to the university’s growth and expansion for over five decades,” said Dr. Ben E. Hancock Jr., Methodist University president. “Marta and Howard Bullard’s generous gift to honor Gene is a wonderful expression of philanthropy.”