UVA Darden Dean Scott Beardsley Plays to Win

At age 61, University of Virginia Darden School of Business Dean Scott Beardsley made history this month by becoming what is believed to be the oldest Oxford University student athlete ever selected to play in a historic tennis rivalry that dates back to 1890 between Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Beardsley, a lifelong tennis player and active supporter of the UVA tennis program, didn’t just participate. He won the decisive singles match in a grueling thriller in the heat, coming from behind after losing the first set, 6-4, and surviving the third set tiebreaker, 11-9, to lift his Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club team to victory against the Cambridge University Lawn Tennis Club in the 134th Tennis Varsity – the team’s first since 2019.

“Tennis has always brought me great joy, and I believe it’s important in life to pursue your passions,” Beardsley said. “If I can inspire anyone over 50 to pursue their passions and to keep moving and learning, that would be success for me.”

Dean Scott Beardsley with team captain Tillmann Willett.

Beardsley has been at Oxford the past couple of weeks to work on his dissertation on the intersection of artificial intelligence, ethics and wellbeing – a course of study he pursued at Oxford’s Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Pembroke College while on a six-month sabbatical last fall. He tried out for the university’s tennis team during the sabbatical and made the “m5” team. He rejoined the team earlier in June and was selected for the annual “Varsity” rivalry match against Cambridge.

“Tennis is a metaphor for life that offers many lessons, and I try to apply them as I work to achieve my full potential,” he said. “Whether in the Dean’s suite or on the tennis court, the main thing is to play hard and to represent my team well. It was a privilege and so much fun to play with my Oxford teammates.”

By furthering his education at Oxford, Beardsley hopes to model lifelong learning and to better understand how artificial intelligence can align with human ethics and be put to the service of humanity – two areas purposefully interconnected with major Darden gifts, the Sands Institute for Lifelong Learning and a recent transformational gift from the LaCross family for AI. (See this Q&A.)

Beardsley also applies lifelong learning to tennis. In high school, he was the Alaska state tennis singles champion. He then played as an undergraduate at Tufts University. In the years since, he has turned to tennis for health, balance, fun and life lessons, and to build relationships.

Since arriving at UVA in 2015, Beardsley has been involved with UVA Men’s Tennis. He also hosts an annual tennis tournament for Darden faculty, staff and students at the Boar’s Head Sports Club.

Andres Pedroso, UVA director of tennis and two-time NCAA DI championship head men’s coach, co-teaches with Beardsley the class “Maximizing Leadership Potential in Sports and Business.” Taught at Beardsley’s residence on the Lawn, Pavilion I, the course explores the UVA tennis pyramid of player, athlete and person and explores books like “The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance” by W. Timothy Gallwey.

While a senior partner at McKinsey & Company in Belgium, Beardsley trained with professional tennis player Cédric Mélot. In 2021, Beardsley was the runner-up in the Belgium Association Francophone de Tennis (AFT) national 55+ championship and has played the ITF World Senior Championships multiple times. He trains in Charlottesville at Keswick with pro Tristan Venables and at the Boar’s Head.

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