A First for Hawkeye Athletics

By Ben Frotscher
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As the University of Iowa readies to host the Big Ten Men’s Tennis Tournament this Thursday through Sunday, two loyal Hawkeyes have made a major gift commitment to ensure that student-athletes continue to receive top-notch training and instruction.

Kirk and Diane Mellecker, of Park City, Utah, have made a major gift commitment to establish the Mellecker Family Head Men’s Tennis Coach Fund. This fund created the first endowed coaching position at the University of Iowa—held by head coach Ross Wilson—and also is the first such named position for men’s tennis in the Big Ten Conference.

“We are extremely thankful for this historic and generous gift from Kirk and Diane,” says Gary Barta, who holds the Henry B. and Patricia B. Tippie Director of Athletics Chair. “The Melleckers are longtime supporters of Iowa athletics and have made an incredible commitment to the legacy of Iowa tennis. Their significant contribution will transform the lives of so many Hawkeye student-athletes for generations to come.”

Kirk Mellecker (80BGS) has always had a passion for tennis. As a UI freshman, he aspired to compete for the men’s tennis team under coach John Winnie. “I was really hoping to be a Division I student-athlete,” says Kirk Mellecker. “To get through college, though, I had to work my tail off. It just wasn’t in the cards, but I’ve always had a warm spot in my heart for the Hawkeyes.”

Kirk Mellecker, who is semi-retired after owning and operating a variety of food manufacturing businesses, understands the importance of retaining and attracting quality individuals. As someone who specialized in turning around struggling companies, he sees the value of having the right people on the front lines.

“When you get good people, you need to take care of them,” says Kirk Mellecker. “Ross is one of those people, and I believe continuity is so important to the growth of the program. This gift is a way to make sure that we have the best possible people in the best possible situations, which creates the best possible chance for success.”

Wilson, who is in his fourth year as Iowa’s head men’s tennis coach, has energized the Hawkeyes with highly rated recruits and an aggressive style of play. Wilson says he is extremely appreciative of continued support from the Melleckers, which is helping student-athletes succeed in the competitive Big Ten Conference.

“Kirk and Diane have supported our program since the moment I arrived at Iowa,” says Wilson. “They are committed to giving our student-athletes the best experiences on and off the court. I look forward to continuing to build our program alongside them and celebrating the future success of our players.”

The Melleckers’ $2.4 million commitment also includes the creation of an excellence fund, which will address the most pressing needs of the tennis program. In the short term, this fund is helping bring a United States Tennis Association Futures Tour event to Iowa City. The tournament, which will be held in July for amateurs and professionals, will provide current Iowa tennis players with elite level competition on campus and will help bolster future recruiting efforts by the Hawkeye coaching staff.

“We want to help Ross build a perennial top 25 program,” says Kirk and Diane Mellecker, who created a scholarship five years ago for Hawkeye men’s tennis student-athletes. “We have the facilities, we have the people, and now we have the resources to compete at a high level.”

The Melleckers have one son, Justin (16BS), a fifth-generation UI graduate who works at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, California. The Indian Wells Tennis Garden is the home of two professional tennis tournaments—the BNP Paribas Open and the newly formed Oracle Challenger Series, which provides additional playing opportunities around the nation to collegiate and professional athletes. Justin Mellecker is working in all aspects of this dynamic organization.

“Hawkeye athletics have always been an important part of our lives,” says Kirk Mellecker. “Our family is spread around the country, but the Hawkeyes bring us back together. They’re the glue that holds us together.”
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