This wasn’t some honorary degree. Some, “Hey, you’re an amazing tennis player, so let’s give you a diploma” type of thing.
Venus Williams earned this. The hard way.
Williams, 35, received her IU diploma, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, on Aug. 14 from Indiana University East.
It came four years after she enrolled in IU East’s online degree completion program in 2011.
The women’s tennis former World No. 1, now ranked No. 11, completed her final online courses at IU East this summer.
Then, she headed to Richmond — on her way to the Western Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, about 90 minutes from the IU East campus.
It was her first visit to the campus of 4,500 students, a place where her dream of earning a business degree was finally realized.
“I’ve learned so much,” Williams said in an IU East press release. “It was always my dream to have a business degree, and I ended up going to art school so many times, but in the back of my head I felt like I needed the tools to be a better leader, to be a better planner, to be better at all of the things I wanted to do in my businesses because I’m so hands-on.”
Williams earned her associate degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 2007.
At IU East, Williams said she was able to apply academic lessons and skills she learned in class to her businesses, allowing her to work better with staff and be more strategic. She has her own clothing line, EleVen, and a myriad of other businesses.
Williams, of course, is best known for tennis. She has 22 overall Grand Slam titles, including seven in singles, 13 in women’s doubles and two in mixed doubles. She has five Wimbledon singles titles, making her one of only four women in the open era to have won five or more.
So, as she descended on Richmond to receive her diploma, a celebrity was in the midst. Though, university officials say Williams acted just as the other graduates did.
During the diploma presentation, Williams followed the commencement tradition of flipping her tassel to the left, signifying that she is now a graduate.
While in Richmond, Williams toured the campus and spoke with students about courses. She also met faculty members, including School of Business and Economics Dean David Frantz, who has worked with Williams since she first enrolled in online classes.
“Venus took concepts from the courses and tried them out in real life, and then she would want to learn more,” Frantz said during the diploma presentation. “Venus had a certain openness to learning that we cannot teach and we celebrate. The drive and the tenacity that Venus shows on the tennis court, we saw in her studies.”
IU East Chancellor Kathryn Cruz-Uribe said the campus was honored to call Williams an IU East alum.
Williams is the first to graduate under an agreement between IU East and the Women’s Tennis Benefits Association.
“IU East and the Women’s Tennis Benefits Association have an agreement that establishes our campus as the primary provider for baccalaureate online degree completion programs for WTA players,” Cruz-Uribe said. “Venus was instrumental in connecting IU East and the WTA in this highly-valued partnership, and we are very grateful for this.”
The university signed a similar agreement in June with the ATP, the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuits. The first player from the ATP enrolled for fall classes this semester is Rajeev Ram, of Carmel, now an online student at IU East
Both agreements provide the opportunity for players to professionally train and play tennis while completing their bachelor’s degree online.
“It was just a wonderful experience,” Williams said. “I love being a Red Wolf. I love this school, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.”
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