| By Michael Sarro

On Nov. 17, the New York Junior Tennis League (NYJTL) held its 26th Annual Awards Luncheon at the Waldorf Astoria where they presented this year’s Leadership Awards to former champion John McEnroe and Howard Lutnick, chief executive officer of Cantor Fitzgerald. The afternoon consisted of a reception/cocktail hour, followed by a lunch with guest speakers, as well as a live auction with proceeds going to the NYJTL and the thousands of kids in their programs.

The Master of Ceremonies for the event was Ted Robinson, NBC’s lead announcer of tennis coverage since 2000 and McEnroe’s longtime broadcast partner. Other special guest presenters on hand were former New York Mayor David Dinkins, who presented the Educator of the Year award to Beverly Mitchell, principal of P.S. 37 in Queens; former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, a lifelong friend of Lutnick and thus introduced him, and also Kay McEnroe, mother of John who had the privilege of introducing her son to the stage.

“We are proud to honor two recognized leaders of the New York City business and sports community, “ said NYJTL President and CEO Dr. Deborah Antoine. "We are also pleased to celebrate NYJTL’s significant recent accomplishments.”

The first honoree, Lutnick guided the rebuilding of Cantor Fitzgerald following the devastating World Trade Center terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 that claimed the lives of 658 of the firm’s 960 New York-based employees. Since then, Cantor Fitzgerald has provided more than $180 million to help the families of the firm’s colleagues who perished and 10 years of healthcare coverage.

During his speech, Lutnick said, “After the attacks, we had two options, either close up the business for good, or rebuild it from the bottom up. We decided to start over by hiring people we liked, creating a better work atmosphere, and immediately set up funds for the families of our lost colleagues.”

The second honoree, McEnroe has made a major commitment to growing the sport of tennis in New York City with the opening of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, located at Sportime Randall’s Island. In addition to his Academy, McEnroe continues to play international competitive tennis on the ATP Champions Tour and for the New York Sportimes of World TeamTennis (WTT). He is also widely acclaimed as the face of tennis broadcasting for CBS, NBC, ESPN2 and the Tennis Channel.

McEnroe concluded his speech by saying, “With my program and programs like the NYJTL, we are a lot closer to having another tennis champion from New York City,” as the entire room applauded and gave him a standing ovation.

During the luncheon, there was a live auction for attendees. Among the several “priceless” live auction items was a trip for two to the upcoming USA-Switzerland Davis Cup tie-breaker to be played in February in Switzerland, four tickets for the Presidential Suite in Arthur Ashe Stadium for the 2012 U.S. Open, and two tickets to the Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. The auction was conducted by celebrity auctioneer C.K. Swett of Phillips De Prury who used a giant racquet as his gavel.

The NYJTL has been changing lives through tennis and education for 40 years. It is the largest tennis and education themed, non-profit organization in the United States and are planning to get even bigger. Larry Leeds, father of the late Cary Leeds who played for Yale University, was another speaker on hand and discussed the plans for the new Cary Leeds Center for Tennis & Education which will be the NYJTL’s new flagship site. The complex will offer 22 tennis courts, including two stadiums that will offer viewing for 1,000 spectators. The facility will also include a library and study centers for the kids when they are not on the courts.

Howard Lutnick, chief executive officer of Cantor Fitzgerald, was honored at the 26th Annual NYJTL Awards Luncheon


NYJTL CEO & President Deborah Antoine thanks all for their support of the NYJTL


Former NFL quarterback and radio personality Boomer Esiason was on hand to honor his friend. Howard Lutnick, chief executive officer of Cantor Fitzgerald


Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins shows his support for the local tennis community at the 26th Annual NYJTL Awards Luncheon