John Lawson Thornton to Receive 2009 ITA Achievement Award

John Lawson Thornton to Receive 2009 ITA Achievement Award

John Thorton second from left. Photo courtesy of ITA.

John Lawson Thornton, a 1976 graduate of Harvard University, was given the 2009 Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Achievement Award, hosted by the International Tennis Hall of Fame (ITHF) and presented by Rolex Watch U.S.A. as announced by the ITA earlier this week.

Thornton was honored Friday, Sept. 11 during this year's International Tennis Hall of Fame Board of Directors meeting, where he was presented with a distinctive Rolex timepiece. In addition to this special gift, Thornton and a guest were invited to watch a session at this year's U.S. Open from the President's Box, courtesy of the USTA, and will be recognized during the ITHF's Legend's Ball. The Harvard men’s tennis program also received a $1,000 donation from the ITA.

“As you can see from his accomplishments post-Harvard, John [Thornton] is a marvelous ‘connector’, bringing together people of different backgrounds for a common purpose,” said Dave Fish, the Scott Mead ’77 Head Coach for Men’s Tennis. “I don't think we could ask for a better ambassador of American ideals in the Far East than John. We couldn't ask for a better example of the kind of person the ITA Achievement Award was intended to recognize.”

Thornton played three seasons of tennis while in Cambridge. After graduating from the Yale University School of Management in1980, Thornton became an investment banker with Goldman Sachs. He retired in 2003 after 23 years as the president of the Goldman Sachs Group and member of the firm’s Board of Directors. Since 2003, he has been advising Chinese leaders and enterprises as China expands its global presence. 

In 2006, the Brookings Institution founded the John L. Thornton China Center, with offices in Washington D.C. and Beijing. The purpose of this facility is to address America’s inadequate knowledge and understanding of China, its domestic challenges and changing role in Asia. The following year, Institutional Investor Magazine named Thornton one of the 40 individuals who have had the greatest influence on global financial markets over the past four decades. In 2008, he was awarded the “National Friendship Award”, the highest award bestowed on non-Chinese by the Chinese Government.

The ITA Achievement Award was created in 1994 to pay tribute each year to past participants in the world of collegiate varsity tennis who have achieved excellence in their chosen careers. The person honored annually by the ITA as the Achievement Award winner is unique in his or her character and accomplishments. The spirit of this award honors both professional success and contributions to society, made either as a direct result of a career, or through humanitarian efforts.

"The lessons learned on the court over a period of four years are a vital companion to the academic lessons of higher education," said David A. Benjamin, ITA Executive Director. "The winner of the ITA Achievement Award is an individual who benefited from the experience of intercollegiate competition, went on to great accomplishments, and has made significant contributions to his community."

A distinguished award selection panel determined the winner of the ITA Achievement Award. The members of the panel are: tennis legends Chris Evert & Stan Smith; Alan Schwartz, a past-president of the USTA; David Dinkins, former mayor of New York City; former Senator John Breaux (D-La.) & 1995 ITA Achievement Award recipient; Mark Stenning, executive director of the International Tennis Hall of Fame; John Fry, President of Franklin & Marshall College, and David A. Benjamin, ITA Executive Director.