The Southern California Tennis Association Foundation seeks to improve the quality of life among our nation’s youth and people with disabilities, by recognizing that those with a passion for the game of tennis should be encouraged to pursue their educational and athletic goals. Lifelong Southern California resident Victor Stern had that passion for tennis and for over 75 years played the game of tennis at a high level on the courts of Santa Monica and Los Angeles. His concern that his beloved sport continues to attract young people from all walks of life led his family to create the Victor Stern Scholarship Fund, under the umbrella of the SCTAF.
Victor “Vic” Stern was born on July 16, 1928 in St. Paul, Minnesota but at the age of 3 moved with his parents, sister and brother to Santa Monica. His father AND mother were both respected osteopaths but once residents of Southern California, Vic’s mother Rose committed herself to her family while Vic’s dad, Louis C. Stern became a well- known and beloved osteopathic physician and family doctor for scores of Santa Monica residents. Dr. Stern opened his practice at the family home at Sixth and Santa Monica Boulevard, later the site of the Santa Monica Public Library. Louis, Rose and their children also served as among the founding members of Beth Shalom (now Shir Shalom) Temple in Santa Monica., where they remained members until their passing in the late 1970’s.
Vic was the youngest and most rambunctious of the Stern children and soon released that energy through sports. Vic attended Madison Elementary School, Lincoln Junior High School and then Santa Monica High School where his 75 year love affair with tennis began. Vic was also a track star at Samohi, not an easy feat as track and tennis shared the same season.
In 1945, Vic had become a doubles specialist at Samohi, and a high ranked local player, quite an accomplishment when it came to tennis in the Los Angeles area in those days. Santa Monica High School was a tennis powerhouse and the city of Santa Monica was known as “Tennis Town.” On that 1945 Samohi championship team was its Number 1 Singles player, Mr. Glenn Bassett, who went on to become NCAA tennis champion at UCLA, the legendary coach of the UCLA tennis team and ultimately a member of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Hall of Fame, the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame and the Southern California Tennis Association Hall of Fame.
Vic Stern was part of Samohi’s number one doubles team in 1946. But that is only part of the story of Vic Stern and tennis during his youth. Vic just about went to sleep with his tennis racquet all year long. Since Santa Monica could be counted on almost all year round for clear and cool weather, their famous Lincoln Park courts became a place where the top players in the area could keep up their skills even in the dead of winter. And so Vic Stern became a presence on the Lincoln Park courts, always available to rally with whoever dropped by. In the mid-1940’s, it was not unusual to see such legends as Pancho Gonzalez and Pancho Segura on the Lincoln Park courts, rallying with Vic. During those years, Vic also played in the premier local tennis event of the day, the Pacific Southwest Open at the Los Angeles Tennis Club.
After high school graduation, the racquet was put away for a while as Vic served his country in the Air Force, from 1948 to 1952. He married his bride Wilma Weitzman on November 30, 1952; they will in 2018 be celebrating their 66th wedding anniversary. Two children followed in 1955 and 1956, local Los Angeles trial attorney Gary N Stern and Rochelle Stern who has worked for many years in the fertility and family planning industry.
Vic recalls well the old school pressure from his parents to “get a job,” even as he dreamt of continuing with a career in professional tennis. But he also knew there were few options for a real career in tennis in the post-war years, except among the elite of the sport and thus Vic focused on a more traditional career path after his Air Force service. Well into his 80’s, Vic Stern worked in the aerospace industry (where he was involved in projects ranging from the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft to the C5A transport plane) and then the hydraulic parts business. After 10 years living in Mar Vista, Vic and his family moved to the new sprawling tract community of North Hollywood.
At age 90, Vic Stern, his wife Wilma and their children and grandchildren remain residents of the San Fernando Valley. But the one constant in Vic’s life, since his glory days with the Samohi tennis team, has been recreational tennis. Rarely a Sunday went by when Vic and his son Gary did not get up early and meet friends at the nearby high school court for two hours or more of vigorous tennis. Even after son Gary made his high school tennis team, Vic would teach him a few lessons about passing shots!
Vic continued to maintain a strong tennis game into his 70’s and eventually his skills were noted by some prominent local senior players who were looking for someone who would elevate their games. For almost 20 years, even after a heart attack and quadruple bypass heart surgery, Vic Stern played tennis twice a week, including a foursome that consisted of a UCLA Nobel Prize winner!
The legs and the balance finally began to object and at age 89, Vic Stern retired his racquet, but not his enjoyment of the game, especially when the Grand Slam events are on television.
On July 16, 2018, for Vic Stern’s 90th birthday, his family decided that t the best gift they could give to this lover of tennis, as well as devoted family man, was the opportunity to help young people achieve their dreams, especially those who seek to further their goals with the game of tennis.
The Victor Stern Scholarship Fund will endeavor to award meaningful scholarships and grants to individuals and programs that have a passion for tennis and life, a passion that Vic Stern has practiced for over 75 years.