Saint Mary's School News

Saint Mary's Hall of Famer Mary Lou Jones celebrated on 90th birthday

Hall of Famer Mary Lou Jones was honored with a 90th birthday celebration, Saturday, April 30, 2022, at Saint Mary’s School, where she served for 37 years in the roles of head tennis coach, distinguished faculty member, chair of the physical education department, and beloved dean of students. The event held, in Smedes-Emory Parlor in historic Smedes Hall, was attended by hundreds of her former players, students, colleagues, and friends.

A North Carolina Tennis Hall of Famer, Jones recorded 330 wins against just 95 losses as head coach of Saint Mary’s college and high school tennis teams from the 1960s into the 1990s, including 12 undefeated seasons, the 1980 North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) high school state championship, six consecutive North Carolina Women’s Colleges State Tournament championships (1984-1989), and many North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) high school conference and North Carolina Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (NCAIAW) collegiate district championships. She held her legendary summer tennis camps at Saint Mary’s from 1974-1998.  A countless number of her players went on to play collegiate tennis at the top colleges and universities in the state and nation. She built the modern-day athletics program at Saint Mary’s, moving the school from an intramural athletic program to intercollegiate and interscholastic competition at the highest levels. She twice received the Richard G. Stone Distinguished Service Award at Saint Mary’s College and High School and was named by the Alumnae Association as an honorary alumna.

As a competitive tennis player, Jones was the winner of more than 200 tournament championships since 1948 in singles and doubles throughout North Carolina and the South, including North Carolina Tennis Association (NCTA) state championships and number one state rankings in singles and doubles. She was highly ranked in the Southern Tennis Association in singles and doubles, including number one in the South in women’s doubles. She was a five-time Eastern Carolina Tennis Association singles champion and won numerous Raleigh city championships.

Jones was inducted into the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame in 1979, was named NCTA Pro of the Year by the North Carolina Association of Tennis Professionals in 1989, was the Piedmont Athletic Conference of Independent Schools (PACIS) Coach of the Year in 1987, was named to Who’s Who in American Tennis in 1984 and received the National High School Coaching Award in 1987. She was the first player in North Carolina to use a steel racket when she pioneered the new tennis technology for Wilson Sporting Goods at the 1967 North Carolina Closed Tournament in Greensboro. Jones served as coach of the Junior Wightman Cup Team for North Carolina in 1958.  Off the tennis court, she served as Raleigh’s community ambassador to Israel in 1963, was inducted into the Wake County YWCA Academy of Women in 1990, was recipient of a Distinguished Women of North Carolina Award from the N.C. Council of Women in 1999, received the prestigious Friend of Agriculture Award from the Lee County N.C. Cooperative Extension Center in 2016, and is a member of Who’s Who of American Women and Who’s Who of the South and Southwest, among other honors. She was a longtime golf instructor alongside Peggy Kirk Bell at the Bells’ Pine Needles Resort in Southern Pines.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in physical education and master’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was president of the Women’s Athletic Association and later honored in 1988 by the UNC Physical Education Department as an outstanding alumna.