Friends and colleagues called the accomplished coach's death a 'tremendous loss' for the University. Long-time women's tennis coach Cissie Leary passed away at her Haverford, Pa., home Saturday night at the age of 42. Leary died of scleroderma, a chronic auto-immune disease that may affect the skin and internal organs including the heart, lungs and kidneys, according to Athletic Department officials. Several of Leary's colleagues said she had also been suffering from kidney and circulation problems. Remembered for her warm smile and determination, Leary was in her 20th season as coach of the Penn women's tennis team. The Athletic Department hired her in 1977 at the age of 22 -- straight out of Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. Friends and associates said Leary chose not to discuss her illnesses and always maintained a positive outlook on life. "She was a fighter up until the very end," men's tennis coach Gene Miller said. "She didn't even want to talk about [her illness] -- she only wanted to look ahead." Miller said Leary often formed close bonds with her players and also "affected many people's lives around the community." Leary molded the women's team into a powerhouse that was often competitive on the national level. During the recently completed fall season, Leary's squad compiled a 6-2 dual-match record and tied for third in the East at the ITA Team Regional Championships. Overall, Leary had a career record of 229 wins and 119 losses, including 16 winning seasons. Athletic Director Steve Bilsky said Leary "always had a smile on her face" and was well-liked at the University and by women's tennis coaches across the country. "She didn't let anybody feel bad for her," Bilsky said. Hal Mackin, manager of the Levy Tennis Pavilion, called Leary "a very positive person" who often attended Penn football and basketball games. "It's a tremendous loss, not only to the tennis program, but to the University," Mackin said. In addition to her duties at Penn, Leary actively contributed her time and energy in the community. She volunteered with the Greater Philadelphia Kidney Transplant Association and participated with her team in the Fight Against Drugs Campaign for underprivileged children. Leary, whose real first name is Catherine, is survived by her mother, Catherine Meisner Collins of Ann Arbor, Mich.; husband, Michael; daughter, Katie; two brothers, Tucker Collins and Duff Collins. A memorial service will be held tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Church of the Redeemer in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Bilsky said the University will probably hold a memorial service on campus after classes resume in January.Comments powered by Disqus
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