Jane Austin Stauffer

I was recently able to spend the afternoon with Jane Austin Stauffer.    She is the most senior open national champion in the country, having won her first title in 1950.

Our eldest stateswoman just turned eighty-eight this summer and was moving in a few days to Atlanta after a lifetime of living in Philadelphia.

Stauffer started playing squash as a teenager at the Cynwyd Club under the eye of Norm Bramall. But tennis was her early passion: the class of 1949 at Penn, she was the captain of the Quaker varsity her last two years, her teams went undefeated those years and she won the Middle States Intercollegiate individual title three times. No squash: Penn didn’t have courts or a team. In 1998 she was inducted into the Penn Athletic Hall of Fame in its second class. (Other U.S. Squash Hall of Famers who were in her Penn Hall of Fame class include Ned Edwards, All Molloy and Ann Wetzel.)

After graduation, she married Nate Stauffer and began playing at Merion Cricket Club. She won the 1951 national singles, beating Betty Howe Constable 15-12 in the fifth after losing to Constable in the finals the previous year.

But her doubles career was remarkable, especially for its unprecedented breadth. On the right wall, Stauffer won the national doubles in 1950 (with Hope Knowles) and five more times (with Frances Bottger, Barbara Maltby, Carol Thesieres and Ann Wetzel). Her last title came in 1978. She also won the mixed doubles six times (with Dan Pearson and Tom Poor) and three 40+ women’s titles (with Jeanne Classen).

In her kitchen in Bryn Mawr, Stauffer and I looked through the appendix to my 2003 history of squash and realized something amazing: she posted the endurance record for winning open national championships. She won her first national doubles title in 1950 and her last in 1978—a gap of twenty-eight years. No one has done better in U.S. history, either singles or doubles.