NASHVILLE, Tenn. — No fanfare sounded when Joubert Klopper completed the final exam of his undergraduate years at Vanderbilt. No raucous celebration ensued, and that was for the best: The noise would have awakened the rest of the house, his family slumbering through the South African night.
Klopper arrived at Vanderbilt in January 2020. By the end of the spring semester nearly three and a half years later, the economics major and SEC Men’s Tennis Scholar-Athlete of the Year needed only one more elective to complete his undergraduate studies ahead of schedule. Home in Bloemfontein, South Africa, after the tennis season, he completed the final course online during Maymester. Given the time difference, it was after midnight local time when he typed the final punctuation on the final exam of a journey spanning years and continents.
“I was pretty happy about it, but the whole family was sleeping—I was just there with my dogs,” Klopper recalled. “So I went and made myself a cup of tea and went to bed. It was somewhat anti-climactic.”
A reluctance to disturb anyone’s sleep wasn’t the only reason for muted celebration. Earning his degree marked the end of one journey, but Klopper already had a ticket booked to return to Nashville. Four seasons, 90 victories, two significant injuries and one degree after he arrived, he still had unfinished business. Literally. He is now enrolled in Vanderbilt’s 10-month Master of Science in Finance program, having completed a summer internship with a Nashville investment bank. And thanks to the additional eligibility afforded NCAA student-athletes affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, he is playing one more season for the Commodores.
Klopper returned because Vanderbilt still had something to offer him on and off the court—a chance to hone his skills for a potential professional tennis career and the knowledge and connections that will serve him well in the business career that awaits. But he also returned because he had something to offer Vanderbilt. Something he wanted to give back.
Vanderbilt, after all, is where the cocky teenager who thought he knew everything discovered just how much it’s possible to learn. And as first-year men’s tennis coach and alumnus Scott Brown begins to shape a new era for the program, Klopper’s expertise in what it means to be a Commodore might prove no less useful than the SEC star’s backhand.
“If I could go back to 2019 and have the choice of any school in…