DeRoy Leads Squash for Forty Years

Udai Paul (l) and Elizabeth “Daisy” Lentz received the 2019 DeRoy Sportsmanship Award.

For forty years, the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation has partnered with the game of squash.

The roots of the relationship came in 1978, after the death of Helen DeRoy. She and her husband Aaron DeRoy owned successful car dealerships in Michigan and been major philanthropic leaders in Detroit.  Since its founding, the DeRoy has given to universities, synagogues, the opera and symphony and the Detroit Zoo (Aaron first began helping the zoo in 1928 when he donated two giraffes).

And squash. Len Weiner, who was an attorney and board member of the DeRoy Foundation for many years, was the catalyst. The Detroiter had graduated from high school at age fifteen and went on to earn degrees from the University of Minnesota and Michigan. He served on the board of US Squash. Weiner was active in Detroit, working on committees hosting national events. He was a many-time champion, including capturing the 1964 Western Open veterans title and leading the Downtown and Uptown Athletic Clubs to league victories. He was also a close confidant of Hashim Khan. “Len was a gem,” said Rick Austin, a state champion and former US Squash board member. “He loved squash. He took squash lessons until he couldn’t walk and then he took more lessons.”

In the 1970s junior squash coalesced at the Birmingham Athletic Club. New pro Walter Oehrlein, working with Weiner, Rick Austin and other members, connected with junior programs in Canada and decided to host a junior tournament. It was first called the Western Juniors (the Midwest had long hosted a Western Open). The event was typical of that era—all players were billeted and Jo and Rick Austin hosted a tournament dinner at their house, with trays of lasagna cooked by their son Jim and all the kids absorbed by a bumper pool table and games on a card table.

A group shot of the thirty-ninth edition of the DeRoy Juniors in February 2020.

In 1980 Weiner brought in support from the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation and the DeRoy Juniors began. Its thirty-ninth staging came in February 2020—making it one of the longest continuous partnerships in junior squash in the world. The tournament, since 2011 a Silver event, has often been the largest junior event in the Midwest and a key proving ground for two generations of players. “The DeRoy has been the cornerstone of junior squash in the Midwest,” said Walter Oehrlein, the former BAC pro. “It is a wonderful stage that continues with contagious enthusiasm. And we couldn’t have done it without the foundation and Len.”

DeRoy did more than just sponsor its eponymous tournament. Since 1999 the Motor City Open has held a DeRoy-sponsored junior clinic with some of the world-class pros in town. DeRoy has also been a generous supporter of RacquetUp, the urban squash program in Detroit.

In 1998 Len Weiner died at the age of eighty-six; since then, his family has continued to serve as board trustees at the DeRoy Foundation. The year Weiner died was the year that Weiner’s passion for sportsmanship bore fruit with the U.S. national junior sportsmanship award. The DeRoy has become an anchor of US Squash’s push to sustain, publicize and extend sportsmanship through the game.

“For more than two decades, the DeRoy name has been synonymous with our core value of integrity because of our highest junior award, the DeRoy Sportsmanship Award” said Kevin Klipstein, President and CEO of US Squash. “The DeRoy Foundation’s support for US Squash and its focus on sportsmanship helped establish the positive culture we have in junior squash, a culture we work hard to perpetuate as we value fair play, courtesy and respect.”

View the list of DeRoy Sportsmanship Award recipients here.

Rick Austin (l) and Len Weiner, who captured a lot of hardware in Michigan squash events in the 1960s, helped create the DeRoy Juniors.
Two old friends: Hashim Khan (l) and Len Weiner in Detroit circa 1970.