Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017 – 2:30 PM
By Laura Coleman
To know Coach Susan Stevens is to have been her friend; and to have been her friend is to have been a close friend for life. When she died Monday, March 13, at the age of 74, friends throughout the country immediately banded together expressing a profound sense of loss for a woman who had touched so many lives.
At 4 foot 10 inches, the longtime Beverly Hills School tennis coach was a veritable powerhouse of energy. And she had a personality that left an impact on everyone she knew. Known for her ability to talk to anyone and maintain incredibly meaningful relationships, as well as her tenacity, Stevens was also an accomplished athlete, participating numerous times in the Maccabiah Games and running marathons.
Originally from Tacoma, Washington, Stevens moved to Bremerton, Washington when she was 12, graduating from East Bremerton High School in 1960. She then attended Washington University in Bellingham, where she graduated with a degree in education. Her first teaching job took her to Campbell High School in Northern California where she taught Physical Education and Health.
After marrying her first husband, the two travelled around Australia for six months before settling in Hawaii for several years where she worked in a department store and occasionally as a substitute teacher.
In fact, Stevens’ love of traveling was a lifelong passion and took her across the world. She visited nearly every county in Europe, traveled up and down the East and West coasts, spent time in the South Pacific, enjoyed Fiji, Bali and Israel, and took numerous cruises. Every place Stevens went, she made friends and she kept in contact with them.
In 1971, Stevens started teaching Health and P.E. at Beverly Hills High School, where she went on to coach generations of students in both tennis and track & field. It wasn’t just that Stevens had an uncanny ability to derive the best from her students, it was that she also became their mentor; and as they got older, a true friend, later attending their weddings and getting to know their children. She even fixed up a few couples.
Married and divorced twice herself, Stevens remained good friends with both men. It wasn’t like her to create an enemy, she just didn’t have it in her. Indeed, she was a true role model and positive influence for the people in her life with her infectious positivity and encouraging nature.
As a coach, she was dedicated; but she taught her students that what was even more important than winning – and she was competitive – was sportsmanship. During the 24 years she coached the girls tennis team, they counted 14 league titles, including winning one CIF championship where they were ranked as one of the top five girls teams in the country. Eight of those years she coached the team to second-place finishes. For the seven years she coached the boys tennis team, they tallied two league titles and three years finishing in second place.
As an athlete, Stevens was fearless. In the 1980s, she took the No. 4 spot in tennis in Southern California. And she truly shined at the Maccabiah Games in Israel where she received a gold medal in 1981 in singles tennis; two gold medals in 1989 for tennis singles and doubles; and three gold medals in 1993 for tennis singles, doubles and mixed doubles. In the Pan American Maccabi Games in Argentina in 1995, she brought home gold in tennis singles, doubles and mixed doubles. In 1996, Stevens was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
A generous soul, Stevens loved to give back and was on the board for the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and also funded a sports scholarship for years. After retiring from Beverly Hills High School in 2001, she continued to substitute teach in the P.E. department until two years ago. In 2015, she was awarded the McCarthy Lifetime Achievement award by the Beverly Hills Athletic Alumni Association.
And while she was the epitome of health throughout her life, in the end her body just wouldn’t cooperate. She ultimately died from complications due to Cushing’s syndrome and diabetes.
Stevens is survived by two sisters, Marilyn Boyd and Jan Sayers, along with several nieces and nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, and friends that adored her. Her loss will truly be felt by many people throughout the community.