Congratulations, Ashley Jonathan! (Proud parents Bill and JoAnne Jonathan.)
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) announced the 2020 Division II National Awards in early June, and Bellarmine University’s (Louisville) Ashley Jonathan was honored with the Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award for women’s tennis. Ashley got her start in tennis from CRC pro Suzie Booker.
“Receiving the 2020 ITA DII Women’s Arthur Ashe Jr. Leadership and Sportsmanship Award would leave me speechless,” Jonathan said upon being nominated. “Knowing that I have gone the extra mile not only for myself, but for the character of my teammates, and the self-worth of the community, truly epitomizes my personality. It confidently reiterates the message I hope to share with others, along with the Arthur Ashe quote, ‘From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.'”
Dating back to 1982, the ITA has presented the Arthur Ashe Award to men’s and women’s student-athletes who have exhibited outstanding sportsmanship and leadership, as well as scholastic, extracurricular and tennis achievements in ways that embody the legacy of tennis icon and humanitarian Arthur Ashe Jr.
Jonathan exudes those qualities. In the classroom, she was a model student and graduated summa cum laude earlier this month with a degree in exercise science. Outside the classroom, Jonathan was an outstanding citizen and participated in many Bellarmine extracurricular activities as well as organized and led events that benefited the community at large. Meanwhile, on the court, she was simply one of the best to have laced up tennis shoes for the Knights.
Early in her collegiate career, Jonathan developed a personal credo: “being a great leader is using your God-given talents, humbly, and with a ready heart to give to those in need, regardless if you receive any credit.” She then began taking inspiration from that ideal to strengthen all phases of her life.
On the tennis court, Jonathan realized that two of her biggest attributes were confidence and bravery, and she began to share that with her teammates to help create a positive team atmosphere. The positive team vibe during her four years translated to an overall record of 61-18 including an NCAA Tournament berth in 2018. Bellarmine also was humming along in 2019-20, finishing 9-0 as a team before the coronavirus claimed the bulk of the spring season.
On a personal level, Jonathan compiled a collegiate record of 140-61, just eight wins shy of the school record. She was well on track to break that record in her senior year. Before COVID-19 halted play, Jonathan was 12-5 in singles, playing all 17 matches at the No. 1 position. Her five losses came to three Division 1 players and two D2 All-Americans (in three sets). In doubles, Jonathan teamed with Ava Ratcliff, and the pair was nearly automatic going 17-1 on the season.
For all of Jonathan’s accomplishments on the court, however, perhaps more impressive is her vision and dedication to serving her fellow humans. Two of the projects Jonathan spearheaded to “help the less fortunate individuals within the community feel assured and loved” were the collection and distribution of soaps and shoes.
When traveling with the team on road trips, Jonathan noticed the waste of unused complimentary hotel personal grooming items. So, she rallied her teammates and began collecting soaps and shampoos, and at the end of each season, the team created and decorated baskets to take to community outreach centers throughout the city.
Similarly, Jonathan also saw the waste in getting rid of good shoes. As a tennis player, she acknowledged that shoes no longer good enough for competition still had plenty of life in them. So, as they did with the soaps, she and her teammates began collecting their old shoes and came up with 83 pounds of shoes to re-allocate to folks who could still get good wear out of them.
Jonathan also has lent her time and resources to other projects. She has organized and implemented cleanup efforts in our local parks and along the Ohio River, and she’s volunteered for the Rising Stars program, giving tennis lessons to disadvantaged youth in Louisville. Other beneficiaries of Jonathan’s community service work include Make-a-Wish Foundation and Breast Cancer Awareness.
On campus, Jonathan has been active in several organizations serving four years on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and recently worked with Bellarmine officials to ensure that many of the good works of the women’s tennis team not only continue after her graduation but expand to the rest of the sports teams at Bellarmine University.
“Ashley Jonathan is a profoundly caring humanitarian,” said Bellarmine Women’s Tennis Coach John Mican. “The concern she has for her fellow man is far reaching, especially for those less fortunate. The sportsmanship that Ashley displays on and off the court is what really sets her apart as a mature competitor who gives 100 percent at all times. Her leadership abilities are second to none and are a major factor in the success the team has achieved during her career.”