HOWLAND - Dr. William Lippy has made a life and a name for himself by making a difference.
As an otolaryngologist - ear, nose and throat doctor - he has restored hearing to countless patients. As a philanthropist, he made local headlines in 1992 with the Jump Start America campaign to put people back in American vehicles and back to work.
But it was in 1968 that the Warren native made a move with the potential to improve the lives of thousands.
Special to the Tribune Chronicle / David Lippy
Dr. William Lippy shakes hands with Ofek Tamno, 10, who lives in the city of Beer Sheva in southern Israel.
He routinely made trips to Israel in the mid- to late '60s and noticed his friends and colleagues were fleeing by the dozens. The prospect of a peaceful life in Israel with the potential for prosperity seemed out of reach to many.
He asked how he could help them to stay and make their lives in such a troubled country. Almost every answer was the same: We want a better life for our children.
"I knew I couldn't take on an entire country, but maybe I could do something for the children. And the best way I could think of was through sport," he said.
Lippy said he considered all sports but tennis was the only one with the potential for lifetime involvement.
To that end, Lippy teamed up with five colleagues to use tennis as an outreach to underserved Israeli children, regardless of background, religion or ability to pay. And so, with a $2 million loan from Second National Bank in Warren, and no small degree of difficulty, the Israel Tennis Centers were born on April 25, 1976.
The first center in Ramat Hasharon had 14 tennis courts, and on one of them the first serve in ITC history was made between a 6-year-old girl and a 91-year-old woman.
Since then ITC has expanded to 14 centers with more than 22,000 children enrolled all over Israel. Kids receive meals, tutoring, access to psychological counseling, fitness counselors and a nutritionist.
They also are taught coexistence.
Lippy said ITC's coexistence program began more than 20 years ago after members of the Arab community began to express interest.
The troubles among Jews and Arabs in the Middle East have virtually defined the region and Israel's existence since its formation. But at ITC the generally adversarial relationship is replaced by the intermingling of mothers from both backgrounds, concerned only about their children's progress. Now all ITC's doubles teams pair one Jew and one Arab.
"Any sport overrides those barriers because the people that bring their children to a program are looking for a future for Israel. They're not there begrudgingly," said ITC international board member and ITC North America Treasurer Tom Bernstein.
Bernstein said the coexistence program grew up at the four centers closest to the Arab populations in Haifa, Tiberius, Beer Sheva and Kiryata Shimona.
And while ITC has produced many world-ranked players over the years, one story may just embody everything Lippy could have hoped to accomplish.
At age 9, Nadine Fahoum was the first Muslim Arab child to enter the Haifa center. More than a dozen years later, she has perhaps become the face of ITC's coexistence message.
As a child, Fahoum tried every sport to which she could expose herself, basketball, ballet and chess only to name a few. But in the end, tennis became her passion and she rapidly became one of ITC's elites, winning a national championship at 12. For five straight years beginning in 2003, she was a member of the Israeli National Team.
She was the first Arab to represent Israel in the Youth Olympic Games in 2006. Two years later, she earned a scholarship to Old Dominion University in Virginia. In her first year, she worked up to the No. 1 spot on the team and earned the team MVP award and conference rookie of the year honors. She would earn MVP and conference player of the year in both of the next two years, as she climbed up to the No. 15 spot in her junior year.
In her senior season she transferred to Duke University, home to the third ranked women's tennis team in the country, and started immediately in the No. 1 spot.
"ITC was undoubtedly part of it. It's where I found my foundation," she said.
Fahoum, 22, has just graduated from Duke, and is now a development associate for ITC's U.S. office in New York. There she networks with others in an effort to form groups to benefit ITC.
"She is the first woman Muslim Arab to work for a Jewish foundation to raise money for a coexistence program," said Lippy's son, David Lippy.
For Nadine, her path has been natural and it is a life she would like for others in Israel.
"The peace starts with us on the ground and not the politicians," she said.
For Lippy, stories like Fahoum's are a big step forward.
"She feels she has to help this happen for other kids, like it's happened for her," he said.