Courage and Confidence since 1880

NCDS News

Ringing in the 2024 Tennis Season with NCDS alumna Karen O’Sullivan ‘93, U.S. Tennis Association of New England Hall of Famer

Even in her youth, before earning numerous national and international athletic accolades, Karen O’Sullivan ‘93 was a trailblazer. When she started in eighth grade at NCDS in 1989, she was one of only a few students who commuted from the city, while most of the student population came from Newton and its nearby suburbs. “I was an anomaly of sorts. I had to acclimate. I didn’t know what to expect when I started this journey. My classmates didn’t know what to expect, either. I was probably the first kid they met from South Boston.” 

Despite having a different background than the majority of her peers, O’Sullivan shared that her 27-person graduating class was a tight-knit community that gave her and the women around her “a strong foundation that was truly special.” This foundation served her well in her academic and athletic careers during and after high school, and continues to hold strong today.

O’Sullivan explained that what is taught in the classroom at NCDS is transferable to all aspects of life, including sports. “[Being an NCDS student] was a wonderful experience to open my eyes to other opportunities. The curriculum at Newton shares the careers and paths available to girls. It opened my eyes to what else was out there in the world.” Carrying this mindset with her, she played on the NCDS tennis team, receiving accolades such as 4-time EIL MVP, League All-Star and AISGA All-Star and was elected into the NCDS Hall of Fame. NCDS was supportive of her tennis career both in and outside of school, ensuring that tennis could remain a cornerstone of her life while she was a student. Balance was key, O’Sullivan shared. “It’s one of those things that you strive for but is hard to achieve. Stay true to yourself,” she advised student athletes. “Be authentic to who you are and what you want to do, have a good work ethic, put your best efforts forward and hopefully good results will come.” 

She then went on to play at Duke University, where she was a two-year captain, two-time All-American, was named All-ACC on three occasions, and participated in the Professional Women’s Tour in Europe following her graduation. She has been a New England adult tournament player for the past 20 years, and in 2023, she was inducted into the U.S. Tennis Association of New England Hall of Fame, and enshrined at a ceremony at the International Hall of Fame in Newport, RI. O’Sullivan’s continued success in tennis has provided a pathway to giving back to the tennis community.

“[The USTA New England Hall of Fame] was an amazing acknowledgement,” O’Sullivan shared. “I was truly honored to be recognized for not only my competitive achievements, but also my contributions to the sport, which is an important journey of mine. It has given me the opportunity to travel the world and to make life-long friends, but also to give back through nonprofits in the New England area. That is my continued mission now.” 

O’Sullivan’s present endeavor is leading the nonprofit Police Activities League (PAL) as its Executive Director. PAL is a Boston nonprofit that promotes positive, trusting relationships between law enforcement and the community through programs and experiences. The organization supports programs that empower young people and guide them toward a successful future. “Moving forward, we all need to think about how we can positively impact the lives of youth when the world is not an easy place at times,” she said. “Many aren’t as fortunate as others, so how can we work collectively to help kids get on a productive life path?”

Karen O'Sullivan '93 with her father, Jerry

O’Sullivan and her father, Jerry, were also recently recognized by Sportsmen’s Tennis Center, a Dorchester nonprofit offering free and low-cost tennis, academics, and life skills programming to more than 5000 youth from underserved Boston communities. “I started playing there at eight years old,” O’Sullivan shared. “It’s been an amazing journey that allows me to positively impact the lives of city kids, and that deeply resonates with me and makes me very proud. It’s really come full circle.”