Marilyn Friedman (Fernberger) was born on August 13, 1927, and grew up in Philadelphia. At the Philadelphia High School for Girls she enjoyed playing field hockey, tennis and she swam on the swim team. At the University of Pennsylvania, she became a member of Sigma Delta Tau sorority. She also participated in sports that were available to women in pre-Title IX days.
She married Edward Fernberger on June 21, 1947 and graduated from Penn in 1948. They had three children. Tennis was the family’s passion. The Fernbergers became involved with the United States Tennis Association, specifically the Middle States section and the Philadelphia district.
Marilyn Fernberger was the first female co-chair of a professional tennis tournament. The couple turned an eight player indoor men’s tournament held at the St. Joseph College Memorial Field House into the U.S. Pro Indoor held at the Spectrum Arena. The tournament was part of the World Championship Tennis circuit and the Grand Prix Tour. From 1968 until 1992, attendance jumped from 2,500 to more than 95,000.
She is credited with bringing women’s professional tennis to Philadelphia. Fernberger chaired the Virginia Slims tournament from 1970-1979 and she received numerous awards and honors for her service.
When she died on May 2, 2012, her family requested contribution to the Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education Fund.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is home to the Marilyn and Edward Fernberger Collection. It contains records of Philadelphia area professional and amateur tennis tournaments held between 1962 and 1992. Among the materials are scrapbooks, photographs, scorecards, posters and more having to do with youth tennis, Virginia Slims of Philadelphia tournament, the U.S. Pro Indoor, and other tournaments