Millard Nachtwey and Audrey Grant did not move in the same circles, but as of this tournament, the two have a connection of major significance. For the 10th time in the history of the award, the ACBL Board of Directors has selected two major figures in bridge – Nachtwey and Grant – for Honorary Member of the Year.
The honor is bestowed annually for long and meritorious service to bridge. Nachtwey, who died Aug. 3, was a national tournament director and director-in-charge at Fall NABCs who served the Mid-Atlantic Bridge Conference for decades. Grant is arguably the world’s best-known and most successful bridge teacher whose influence is felt by other teachers as well as countless students.
In nominating Nachtwey, ACBL Board Members Bob Heller (District 7) and Margot Hennings (District 6) praised him as “one of our game’s greatest assets. His contributions extended far beyond the selling table or making rulings or supervising colleagues, and that was particularly the case in Districts 6 and 7.”
Nachtwey was born in Washington DC and grew up in Bethesda MD. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Bucknell University, where he met his life partner of 40 years, Doug Grove. Nachtwey began his directing career in the early Seventies and operated his own club, Millard’s Bridge Studio, from 1978 until the fall of 1983, when he began to direct tournaments full time. His reputation as a master of tournament operations quickly grew, and he became the chief director for the MABC, a position he held for 20 years.
Nachtwey also lent his organizing expertise to the American Bridge Association, which has a presence in the Washington DC area, where Nachtwey and Grove lived. The ABA prevailed upon his volunteer spirit to mentor ABA directors on how to make a tournament experience the best it could be. ABA tournaments continue to be successful to this day, thanks in large measure to Nachtwey.
Heller and Hennings said that when the Gatlinburg Regional grew from about 4500 tables
to more than 10,000, more than the usual expertise was needed to make the tournament run smoothly. Nachtwey provided that skill.
“Millard always was in the vanguard of those changes,” they wrote, “recognizing that our
tournament future was in the common players, not the elite. He and Doug always were looking for ways to make the schedule as attractive and alluring as possible to as many players as possible. Millard dealt effortlessly with hotel personnel when there were room-contract or snack bar problems. He could run the events with one hand and be de facto tournament chair with the other.
“Millard’s volunteerism never stopped—the number of hours he dedicated to his local unit, to the district, and to the MABC is staggering and throughout it all, Millard continued to play bridge often. Those who were fortunate enough to play with him counted him as one of their ‘best partners,’ not only for his bridge play but for his demeanor both at the bridge table and away from it.’”
You wouldn’t know it to look at her today, but Grant grew up on a farm in Burlington ON, near Toronto. Early on, she developed a thirst for learning and a strong desire to help others grow.
“My 96-year-old mother is always learning,” Grant says, “I came by that honestly, and it’s not a chore. It’s more fun to keep learning than to stay put. I work at it.”
Grant has parlayed that natural desire into a career as one of the most successful bridge teachers in the annals of the game. Players flock to her courses and bridge cruises. Bridge teachers line up to find out what Grant knows about conveying information. Teamed up with her husband of 33 years, Grant has written books, publishes a bridge magazine and will soon unveil Audrey Grant’s Daily Bridge Column, available online and via an application for smart phones and tablets.
After moving to Toronto, Grant studied philosophy and education at McMaster University. She also has a separately earned teaching degree. “It was a foundation I have found to be extremely useful,” she says.
Before turning to bridge teaching, Grant taught everything from kindergarten to post-graduate university courses and was a consultant to the Toronto School Board, designing teaching courses. Grant learned bridge during her first marriage. Her husband belonged to the IMB Golf and Country Club, so she took up the game as a way to make
friends. She met Lindop at the Kate Buckman Bridge Studio in Toronto.
In establishing their bridge enterprise, Grant and Lindop “went to the best players to get the best information.” Grant’s first two books – The Joy of Bridge and Bridge Maxims – were written with world champion player and renowned theorist Eric Rodwell.
In running the Toronto Bridge Club, Grant developed some theories of how clubs should operate that she believes can help any club grow. One of them involves the posting of results at the end of a session. In Grant’s club, only those who placed had their names listed. The rest of the results were there, but only by table numbers. No one was embarrassed for coming in last, she says: “When clubs do this, it increases attendance.”
Always looking for opportunities to expand her mind, Grant has taken up yoga and meditation and she is never without a book. At the NABC in San Francisco, she is carrying around a copy of The Zen of Creativity by John Daido Loori. When she and Lindop played in the World Mixed Pairs in Philadelphia two years ago, she made a basic mistake on defense and was troubled by it. Not long after that, while at an airport, she spotted a book, Why We Make Mistakes, by Joseph Helleman. As she read the book, she gained a better understanding of why she made the bridge mistake in Philadelphia.
At home, Grant has a box labeled “Precious Notes.” It’s a collection of cards and letters about success stories from “people I have taught to teach.” That is her life’s work. “I love doing it,” she says. “If you discover something, you should pass it on.”
The list of other Honorary Members is impressive, and Grant understands that she is in elite company now. She plans to work hard so that she deserves her place on the list.
“I am always trying to get to the next level,” she says. “I want to keep improving as a teacher.”