Awards & Scholarships

Tennis & Life Camps

David Aasen Legacy

Dave grew up in St. Peter, MN. He was there in 1982, the first year that St. Peter had an NJTL program. Quickly he developed from student to teacher and then director of the NJTL program. Under his leadership the attendance nearly doubled, reaching about 200 students. Dave took the St. Peter teams to the Regional Rally several different years. He took great pride when one of his players won the sportsmanship award.

Dave embodied the spirit of sportsmanship. As a teacher in the local NJTL program and next at Tennis and Life Camps he used his acting ability and sense of humor to make various sportsmanship situations be entertaining as well as teachable opportunities. As a player in both high school and college he demonstrated the highest standards of sportsmanship, causing his St. Olaf coach to nominate Dave for the Arthur Ashe Award.

Dave became one of the best instructors and supervisors to ever teach at Tennis and Life Camps. The sportsmanship themes gave meaning to his teaching. Dave had boundless enthusiasm and energy, a wonderful sense of humor, a love for teaching and learning, the ability to make people feel good about themselves, a genuine concern for others, patience, and an optimistic outlook on life.

On Thanksgiving Day 1994 the world grew dark for everyone who loved him. Dave and his brother Erik were killed in a tragic automobile accident. Their car hit black ice on a curve just west of Rochester, MN and slid in front of an oncoming semi truck. Dave was well into his third year of teaching mathematics and coaching tennis at Blue Earth High School. He had just led their girl’s team to a third place finish in the state high school tournament.

More than 1200 people left work or school to attend a special memorial service. His students were devastated by the loss. When they talked about him everyone mentioned the lessons of life they had learned from him. “No matter what, keep on trying. Never give up. Whether you win or lose is not important. Let winning take care of itself. Focus on the things within your control. Let go of things outside your control. Focus on the positive. Always be polite and courteous to others. Never question an opponent’s line call. Be a good sport always. And remember to say thank you.”

David Aasen Award

At the end of every summer camps season the Tennis and Life Camps staff selects the instructor who has best embodied the teaching characteristics that we associate with David Aasen. They are boundless enthusiasm and energy, a wonderful sense of humor, the highest standards of sportsmanship, a love for teaching and learning, the ability to make people feel good about themselves, a genuine concern for others, patience, and an optimistic outlook on life.

All staff members nominate one or two staff members for the award. They write an essay explaining why their nominee deserves the award. The nominee with the most supporting letters wins the award. The recipient receives a plaque and special recognition in the final staff meeting for the summer. Also the winner’s picture and teaching highlights are permanently displayed in the Aasen Room in the Swanson Tennis Center on the Gustavus campus.

Past winners include Scott Jacobson (1995), Erik Samuelson (1996), Dan McLaughlin (1997), Neal Hagberg and Chris Anderson (1998), Kendall Larson (1999), Renee Perry (2000), Jessica Reinhart (2001), Todd Roudabush (2002), Tommy Valentini (2003), Nikolai Johansen (2004), Ben Hageseth (2005), Pete Schwingler (2006), Jennifer Edlund (2007), Bob Skenzich (2008), Ryan Moore and Colin McGuire (2009), David Lachman (2010), Emily Walz (2011), Jon Carlson (2012), and Chad Anderson (2013).

Award Nomination

Write and submit online one or two nominating letters on the last Monday of camps. Put the candidate’s name at the top of the letter and sign your name at the bottom. Organize your essay around the teaching qualities that we associate with Dave Aasen. Refer to specific actions by the nominee that illustrate each point. Give your nomination to the TLC camp director.

Nominee Name
Aasen characteristics demonstrated by the nominee:
Boundless enthusiasm and energy:
Wonderful sense of humor:
Highest standard of sportsmanship:
Love for teaching and learning:
Ability to make people feel good about themselves:
Genuine concern for others:
Patience and optimistic outlook on life:


Karen Gibbs, a former Gustavus player who lost part of her right arm to cancer, learned to play left handed and even won a match against the University of Minnesota. Her courage, sportsmanship, effort in the face of adversity, and positive attitude have become the legendary story on which Tennis and Life Camps is based.

Karen Gibbs Legacy

Karen Gibbs, known affectionately as "Gibber", entered Gustavus Adolphus College in the fall of 1974. During her freshman year she was one of the top tennis players in the Upper Midwest...until cancer ended her season. Part of her right arm was amputated and her struggle for life began. Immediately Gibber decided that she was going to play tennis left-handed. Surprisingly she again made the team during her sophomore year and even won her match against the University of Minnesota.

As the cancer spread, radiation and chemotherapy treatments caused Karen to lose her hair and almost fifty pounds. In her weakened condition, Gibber had a shoulder separation that ended her tennis competition. Even so, she was there at most practices, leading the women through conditioning drills and assisting in every way possible. She planned to resume her captain's responsibilities during her senior year, but that goal proved impossible. She died on August 8, 1977, at the age of 21.

Karen's legacy has not been forgotten. She is still remembered for her ability to find the bright side of everything, no matter what happened to her. Losing the use of Gibber's right arm brought her the challenge of playing left handed. Frequent stays in the hospital were fun because of all the visitors. Losing weight fit into her diet plans, and being bald made Halloween disguises easier. She felt comfortable sharing her feelings and ideas on cancer, handicaps, and the prospect of early death. However, if anybody started feeling sorry for her, she quickly change the subject to a more pleasant topic.

Also Karen demonstrated good sportsmanship. She genuinely cared about her opponents as well as her teammates. She seldom made excuses or lost her temper. "Excuses," she claimed, "detract from the accomplishments of my opponents. So does losing my temper. In effect I'm blaming a loss or poor performance on my own mistakes rather than giving credit to my opponent. I don't want to do that."

Gibber is a model of the mature approach to tennis competition and life. She strove for excellence through daily discipline and an undaunted spirit that saw each new setback as a creative opportunity to accomplish more. She wanted to win, but was not afraid to lose. She wanted to improve, but starting over again left-handed did not discourage her. Gibber continued to try, in spite of everything, thereby revealing a key to both tennis and life.

Karen Gibbs Awards

Award Description: The application deadline is April 15, 2014. Applicants must not have yet started the ninth grade; NCAA rules prohibit TLC from giving awards to high school students. All applicants must register to be eligible. Anyone not receiving an award has the option of canceling before May 1 with no charge. All recipients receive a $250 reduction in camp price; award cannot be combined with other discounts. The award is merit based and does not depend on financial need. Award winners are announced on or before May 1, 2014, and may choose to attend any camps after July 4th. In case of a scheduling conflict, please contact the TLC office.

The award is based on the applicant’s (1) tennis playing accomplishments, (2) academics (B honor roll minimum), (3) extracurricular activities, (4) humanitarian service, and (5) essay explaining what you hope to obtain by attending TLC. Also the application requires a reference from a coach or teacher that describes the applicant’s good sportsmanship and sacrifice/discipline in reaching tennis goals.

Award Application

  1. Applicant needs to describe his/her accomplishments in each of the following areas:
    1. Tennis playing
    2. Academics
    3. Extracurricular activities
    4. Humanitarian service
  2. Write an essay explaining what you hope to gain by attending TLC. Include your name, birthdate and school.
  3. Recommendation Letter: Applicant’s coach or teacher needs to write a recommendation covering the following topics:
    1. Player’s personal sacrifice and discipline in reaching tennis and/or academic goals
    2. Player’s sportsmanship and/or ways they have exhibited optimism for learning

Please send completed applications electronically to tennisandlifecamps@gustavus.edu.

Karen Gibbs Courage Awards

Award Description: The application deadline is April 15, 2014. Applicants must be in the eighth grade or younger. NCAA rules prohibit us from giving awards to high school students. All applicants must register to be eligible. Anyone not receiving an award has the option of canceling before May 1 with no charge. All recipients receive a $250 reduction in camp price; award cannot be combined with other discounts. The award is merit based and does not depend on financial need. Award winners are announced by May 1, 2014, and may choose to attend any camps after July 4th. In case of a scheduling conflict, please contact the TLC office.

Please submit all application materials electronically to tennisandlifecamps@gustavus.edu.

The award is based on an essay describing the applicant’s ability to face a difficult challenge and to overcome it with a courageous attitude. For Karen Gibbs it was losing her right arm to cancer and learning to play left handed. Other challenges could be a physical or mental handicap, personal injury, tragedy, or any other difficult challenge. The essay should show how the Three Crowns (positive attitude, full effort, and good sportsmanship) played a role in overcoming the challenge. Also the application requires a reference from a coach, teacher, or minister that supports the applicant’s courageous approach to life.

Award Application

  1. Applicant needs to write an essay describing a difficult challenge and how she/he overcame it with a courageous attitude. The essay should show how the Three Crowns (positive attitude, full effort, and good sportsmanship) played a role in overcoming the challenge. Include your name, birthdate and school.
  2. Recommendation Letter: Applicant’s teacher, or coach needs to write a reference that supports the applicant’s courageous approach to life.

Carl Walz, a young player from Aitkin, MN, came to Tennis and Life Camps and was inspired. Some day he wished to become an instructor at TLC, but first he wanted a local high school program for boys. Singlehandedly, he persuaded his school to sponsor tennis and his dad to coach the team. Shortly after winning the regional title, he was tragically killed in an automobile accident.

Carl Walz Legacy

Carl Walz loved to practice tennis almost as much as playing matches. He would never end a practice session without begging to be fed "just a few more" tennis balls to work on his stroke of the day. Often it was his overhead. He knew to make it as a singles player it would have to be a reliable shot. Overheads were just plain fun to hit. You were supposed to go all out... pure power and a sure winner. Sometimes another 30 to 60 minutes would go by while he was taking his "last few shots." Even then he was usually forced off the court by a waiting parent taking him home to supper or homework, or because of darkness.

Carl credited Tennis and Life Camps for helping his tennis skills, court etiquette and personal growth. TLC enriched the pleasure he derived from sport, aided new friendships, and provided guidance as to the role tennis might have on his life. He had hopes of becoming a TLC instructor.

A tragic accident on May 28, 1999 changed everything. Carl was killed instantly and the world lost a fine young man. He lived 16 beautiful years. He had just won his high school subsection tennis tournament. Life was good and then it was over.

Tennis brought Carl many happy memories. At twelve he played a tournament match against Peter Spreitzer of Duluth. After three hours and two tiebreakers, it all came down to the last point. Peter won the match, but Carl rushed to the net and enthusiastically shook Peter's hand, exclaiming that it was the most fun he'd ever had playing tennis. This began a friendship that included playing doubles together, going to TLC, and just getting together to bike, rollerblade, swim and have fun.

There was no boy's tennis team in Carl's hometown of Aitkin, MN until Carl made it happen. He developed the sport at a club level for several years and finally convinced the school board to allow it to become a varsity sport with his dad as the volunteer coach. Carl often functioned as the "unofficial" assistant coach, encouraging and helping his less experienced teammates. Carl became Aitkin's first "franchise" player.

Off the tennis court Carl also helped others. He organized a fundraiser for a homeless shelter, served in soup kitchens, helped with Operation Christmas, became a peer helper, and sang in his high school choir.

His enthusiasm for tennis and life, the importance he placed on friendships and service, and his contagious smile will keep Carl's spirit alive in our hearts. An excerpt from one of Carl's favorite books, "Simple Paths" by Mother Theresa now adorns the headstone at Carl's grave and is as follows: "We only surrender our body in death; our heart and our soul live forever."

Cindy & Joe Walz, parents

Carl Walz Award

Award Description: The Carl Walz Award is a non-monetary award. The award recognizes a junior or senior in high school who has promoted tennis in his/her community in a unique and outstanding way. Joe and Cindy Walz, parents of Carl and recipients of the 2009 USTA National Family of the Year Award, sponsor the award. The recipient’s picture and accomplishments are permanently displayed in the Swanson Tennis Center on the Gustavus campus.

The award depends primarily on the letter of recommendation from a community member (other than the applicant’s parents) who has observed the applicant’s community contributions.

Past winners include: 2001- Jenny Cizaldo (Milbank, SD); 2002- Leah Moberg (Wausau, WI); 2003- Allison Wilkie (Omaha, NE) and Neil Koehler (New York Mills MN); 2004- Nicole Siebrasse (Aberdeen, SD); 2005- Jaime Landsverk (Aitkin, MN); 2006- David Lachman (Rice Lake, WI); 2008- Alice Browning (Aitkin, MN); 2009- Matt Baker (Rosemount, MN); 2010- Audra Harvey (Eveleth, MN).

Award Application

  1. Applicant needs to describe his/her accomplishments in each of the following areas:
    1. Tennis playing
    2. Academics
    3. Extracurricular activities
    4. Humanitarian service
  2. Recommendation Letter: A community member needs to write a 300 word minimum recommendation covering the following topics:
    1. Player’s contributions that have profoundly affected the entire tennis community
    2. Player’s sportsmanship