ennis was Antoaneta Vanc's first love, but her professional career was cut short by injury. Vanc, associate professor of strategic communication, never imagined that education would be her vocation.
"You don't know what path your life is going to take," she said.
Vanc's trail led to Quinnipiac, where she was recognized with the university's most prestigious academic honor, the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2015.
"It's still surreal," Vanc said. "It is the highest teaching honor that someone can receive. When I was a tennis pro, I never thought that I would be a professor. I was actually exempt from going to school. Now, I'm going to school every day and being tested every day by our students."
Vanc grew up in communist Romania. She was a national tennis champion, playing singles, doubles and mixed doubles.
Athletic prowess runs in Vanc's family. Her father was an accomplished water polo and handball player, her mother was a standout fencer and her sister, Andreea, won two World Tennis Association doubles titles and advanced to the third round of both the 2005 Australian Open and the 2005 French Open.
The fact that Vanc was able to play any sport is quite remarkable. She was born with inwardly-turned feet and doctors predicted she might never walk. Her father, however, pushed her to overcome the obstacle by making her follow a strict regimen that included exercise and walking on her toes to strengthen her legs and feet. By age 5, Vanc was playing tennis.
"Tennis played an important part in my life," she said. "I started playing tennis to fix my body. I got so good."
She was so good that she won national titles and was ranked in the top five in Romania. But Vanc's dreams of playing tennis on the world stage were dashed when an injury forced her to retire.