Andy Crane getting a hug from a Tenacity alum, Boston College graduate, and current Tenacity Fellow Luis Sanchez as Keon Jones (rear far left), Yves Singletary (rear middle-clapping), and dozens of other Tenacity alums applaud. (Photo courtesy of Bethany Versoy)
Surrounded by more than 30 former and current players, Latin Academy tennis coach Andy Crane was honored during the Tenacity gala at the Westin Waterfront Hotel over the weekend.
“This is pretty awesome, you think about it, everybody on this stage I’ve known for quite a long time,” Crane said to a ballroom packed with about 800 people. “They don’t look that old do they?”
In 1999 Crane became the founding program director at Tenacity — a tennis and enrichment program that began with 1,100 students and currently serves 6,500 youths in Boston and Worcester.
On Saturday night, the 66-year-old received the organization’s Founders Award, two years after he left the organization as a fulltime employee.
“You’ve been an amazing mentor to me, Tenacity, the staff at tenacity, to so many hundreds of kids,” Tenacity President and Founder Ned Eames said in a video tribute to Crane played during the gala, which raised approximately $500,000. “Tenacity simply would not be here today in anywhere close to the form, shape and scale that it’s in if it wasn’t for you. You’re an amazing guy, very unselfish, very talented, very capable and we all thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
During his final year at Columbia University in 1969, Crane was hired by the Amsterdam News to cover Arthur Ashe at the US Open, which Ashe unexpectedly won. Crane later wrote for Newsday and the New York Post for a year and got to cover the Boston Bruins winning the Stanley Cup in 1970.
Crane decided to go to law school at Boston University. He worked as a public defender in Vermont before being appointed to be Defender General by the Vermont governor. In 1985 he was hired to be the Executive Director of the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, a post he left in 1995.
In the mid 1990s he helped found Boston Latin’s tennis team before he started working for Tenacity.
“He is a lawyer by training and education,” Tenacity employee Stephanie Gendron said in the tribute video, “and he is a tennis player and he never had any formal training in the field of youth development or social work or education and yet he’s better at all of those things than the entire Tenacity staff put together.”
Another former Tenacity employee Kaytie Dowcett said: “Andy was the busiest person I knew and if I needed anything and I went into his office I was the center of his attention and I know that was true with any kid, any employee; you never got the sense that he was frazzled or that he was spread in 35 different directions even though you knew he was, because his attention was all about what was in front of him and who was in front of him.
“And that influenced my role as a supervisor at Tenacity, it influenced my role as a teacher and mentor with kids at Tenacity and it influences my role as a school teacher right now.”
After the video Crane was introduced by a former student, Luis Sanchez, who recently graduated from Boston College and broadcasts the women’s basketball games at BC. He is also a Tenacity Fellow.
Sanchez first signed up for Tenacity in the summer of 1999 but still struggled to point his life in the right direction. Crane took him in to live in his own Jamaica Plain two bedroom apartment as a 14-year-old in 2004.
“He had one rule, his one rule was that I go to school every day,” Sanchez said. “I had to attend and this was a nonnegotiable. My life went from a downward spiral and came to a complete halt and began an upward trajectory. It’s possible that if Andy did not interject into my life, intervening in the way that he did, that I would not be here today or not have graduated from high school, I would have graduated from college. I might still be sleeping on a street or somewhere worse, a jail cell or in a coffin.
“His presence has been felt not only in this room but in the hearts and minds of everybody that has been impacted. He is my mentor, my family, my best friend.”
After receiving the award on Saturday night, he told the crowd that helping students like Sanchez was better than all of the previous accomplishments in his life before he started working for Tenacity in 1999.
“I had a great life prior to 1999 but it will come to no surprise to anybody that nothing compares to this,” he said, “because every one of these young people has an amazing story and I got to live through all of them.”
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