Ryan Bean

Begin interview. Today is September 30, 2014 and the time is 1:00 pm. This is Ryan Bean from the Kautz family YMCA archives interviewing Len Wilson. Mr. Wilson, thank you for sharing your time with me today. My first question for you is what was your first YMCA experience?

Mr. Wilson

My first YMCA experience was at about the age of 14. It was a very small non-facility YMCA in a small town where I lived, Patchogue, New York along Long Island and my friends and I were looking for a place where we could enjoy ourselves after school or on weekends and kind of found the YMCA which was really no more than some ping pong tables and some pool tables in the back of a town-owned recreation building. And we didn’t even, well, we snuck in and it took them about a week to catch us, but I knew they knew we snuck in earlier but they let us play pool and ping pong for about a week before they questioned our validity of being there. And then they said, “Well, you are supposed to join the Y,” and we said, “Well, we don’t have $10.”  And they said, “Well, we can make that up. You can do some projects around here. We’ll be glad to help you find something that you can do. But meanwhile, keep enjoying the YMCA.” And they probably got about 500 hours’ worth of labor out of us, sweeping, cleaning, moving, painting, chipping, and painting.

We kept chipping and painting until the spring in their day camp site and then we, I was asked, not my friends, but I was asked if I would be interested in being a counselor in training and I was hired that summer with a remarkable salary of $45 for the summer and my job was really to watch a very under aged camper who was very hyper and it would take more than four people to keep up with him, but that was my job. And we would try to tire him out, so he would fall asleep on the bus as we went home. So I was a counselor at the day camp for three years and that was my first real experience with the YMCA, kind of sneaking into it and then being given a part time job and then a summer job. 


Ryan Bean

And at what year did you start working in the camp? 

Mr. Wilson

Let me see. I would have been… that would be in the ‘50s, 1954, 1955, while I was still in high school, in junior high. 


Ryan Bean

Okay. And when did you first start working for the YMCA as a career?  

Mr. Wilson

Well, I had one other experience with the Y, when I was at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. My fraternity had an agreement with the YMCA, that they would take care of a group of young boys. They couldn’t get a school teacher so they had a fraternity person work with a group that was really Hi-Y. And those young men were glad to come out of Middletown, Connecticut, come up on the hill and play basketball and hang out at the fraternity house, and my job was to keep them out of trouble and also to kind of organize activities. So I did that for two years and that was a very rewarding experience. And again, I was a volunteer, and that’s where I learned what Hi-Y was. But frankly, I never went down to the YMCA or never really met a YMCA staff person. I just met those young men and we got along very well for two years. I then went from graduating from Wesleyan into the navy.

After spending three years on a destroyer and kicking around the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, I was leaving the navy, had a fellowship at Cornell in student administration, which would have been a disaster in the ‘60s, but I couldn’t get the fellowship because Joyce had, we had a child. So I went down to the Y. I was only going to get a summer job and I applied for the job in April knowing I was going to get out of the navy in about May.

The Y director either was very, very incompetent, which I could describe later or very lucky because he sensed that my navy experience would make me a natural leader and that my day camp experience would qualify me to run the resident camp, which was a boys only sailing camp on the Chesapeake Bay. So now, we felt the navy and my counseling experience would qualify me to run a defunct camp, where he had already let all the staff go and the cooking staff from the year before and had been almost out of business, but the United Way wanted it reopened or they were going to cut the allocation. It’s a sad story but that happens a lot of times. So I was hired as the camp director and we soldiered through the first year and then I thought, “Well, I kind of like this stuff,” the first summer and I had experience at college as a Hi-Y advisor, so I was given 73 clubs in the Norfolk area to run. I didn’t really know exactly how to do that, but between the camp, the youth lobby, and the Hi-Y clubs, I was positioned as a youth secretary or young boys secretary. Two and a half years later, I left that particular Y, but that was my first job at Norfolk as the youth secretary. 


Ryan Bean

And then where did you go from there?

Mr. Wilson

From there, because I met some field staff, south field staff, who assured me there might be other opportunities. A story of that general director who’s legend because he’d been there forever. He’d been there almost 30 years. I was ready to quit the Y, but I was given some information, that there were other Y’s and other opportunities. I should go to training in Stone Mountain, Georgia through the Atlantic office of the field. And I met the general director of the Louisville Y, who assured me that there might be an option and then when I got back, I was contacted by one of the branch directors, who said to come to Louisville. They had an opportunity that I should look at and that was my second job in the Y and I stayed in Louisville for 11 years with a variety of positions.


Ryan Bean

So how long were you in the Virginia Y?  

Mr. Wilson

A little less than three years. 


Ryan Bean

Three years, okay. And who, how did you get informed that there were other opportunities?  Were these colleagues, friends?  

Well, in those days, the field staff visited YMCAs. They made it a point to meet new YMCA directors. So you didn’t get all your orientation from the general director. You also had a lunch and an afternoon session with the field staff person. And the field staff person was not necessarily welcomed at the Y but they couldn’t be denied and that their goal was to meet the new staff. So after two sessions with them, he realized I was going to be another casualty in this Y because the turnover of staff was unbelievable and suggested I go to this training as an opportunity to look around and see if there was something else rather than just leave the Y. And that was probably the best advice that I had earlier in my career, to get out of that association, and look for something else. 

Mr. Wilson


Ryan Bean

And so then you went to Kentucky?  

Mr. Wilson

I went to Louisville, Kentucky and stayed there 11 years on a number of positions. I started out on a CETA grant, Comprehensive Employment Training Act. I was trained in Chicago with Mickey Finn and somebody named Booze. Finn and Booze was the combination I remember and I was an outreach worker in an all-black area of Louisville, Kentucky. And although Louisville wasn’t really segregated at that point, it wasn’t integrated either. So they wanted those kids taken care of in their neighborhoods. Chestnut Street Y was the black neighborhood and that Y served the purpose. They felt it was a good Y. And the downtown Y served another purpose, but they didn’t necessarily want too many kids from the neighborhoods in the Y. But we mixed them because we had a youth lobbying, we had a youth entrance, and Joyce and I got very involved with our clubs and our youth groups.

I’m told the CETA money sort of ran out and then when that ran out, the Y’s enthusiasm for that position sort of diminished so they found another position for me which was in the membership area, which I can do very easily. I had experience with Proctor & Gamble after college, I liked the Y, so I was pretty good at selling the Y. And then within about a year of that appointment, the camp director had to leave because they were going to close the resident camp and they had sold all the furnishings. It’s a sad story again. They told staff they weren’t coming back. And once more, the United Way intervened and said, “Well, you get so many thousands of dollars for running a resident camp. If you don’t run it, we are not going to give you that money.”  They realized that they can hire me as the camp director for a lot less money than they were getting. And then the Y should be able to run the camp and break even, anyway. So we reopened the camp. Joyce and I went out there to live and we spent three seasons living there in the summer and back home doing membership and other things.

I stayed active with the camp until I left Louisville but I was then a branch director, but also a camp director and then another branch director. It’s a long story but they really make positions for you to keep you. The only thing is you just assume more responsibility of more branches. They give you a different title and a little more money and you feel good about your career advancement within that association. I was running a startup branch, camp, and an established Y with limited facilities in a very affluent area of Louisville.

When it came finally time to make a decision about career growth, the general secretary who I respected basically said, “I’m not going anywhere and you may have the capacity to run a Y but it won’t be this one so I suggest that maybe you look somewhere else. You’ve been here long enough and done about all I’m going to let you do.”  So that’s when I put my papers in officially. I mean, the Louisville job was a sleight of hand. I knew I had it before I even got there, but then I had to get into the market, if you will, of looking at jobs and I looked back at the East Coast and felt I could handle my own association or maybe I couldn’t but I felt I could, and I was able to get the appointment as the general director of the Red Bank Y in New Jersey.

Interestingly enough, the reason I got that job, one of my staff at my branch, a woman who had been there for a while as a program director, had also been related to the camp, moved to New Jersey and she had become the director of the Y that was having difficulty. The Red Bank Y, on the other hand, was a more affluent community and really doing quite well. She knew I was applying and found out that I had been eliminated from the process because I was from the South region and they wanted someone from the Northeast who really could understand the dynamics of New Jersey. She informed somebody on the selection committee that they really ought to look at my resume because I was born and raised in Long Island, I went to college in New England, and Norfolk was a stopping place after the navy, but Louisville gave me a wider breath of experience.

And so they took another look, they interviewed me, and I was hired to be the general director of a YMCA that was under construction. And when I got there, let me see, this will be ‘78. I believe it was about the same time as the highest inflation in the country, gas shortages. Historically, I’m thinking about what Joyce and I encountered when we got there. Also, they had a one and a half million dollar construction loan, that was two percent over prime, which meant we were paying 19 percent a year on the debt that was a bridge loan. So we were raising money to pay off the bridge loan interest and trying to get the facility going and I was there while it was under construction.

It’s been totally remodeled a couple of times and going very well but I was there for nearly four years and that Y did a lot of good things and continued to do a lot of good things, outreach and a couple of communities would assume really high profile social mission to improve fitness at the facility, had a day camp, not a resident camp but a day camp that had unfortunately, in the center of New Jersey, a ski slope and which could make a fortune, if it was cold and you could make snow. If it wasn’t cold and you couldn’t make snow, you had a liability and a cross factor that choked you. So when it got cold and we could make snow, we made a lot of money. When it couldn’t, we had staff and equipment that just was costing us too much and liability in that thing. And my feeling is that I am sure they don’t run that anymore but it was a headache because when it got cold, everybody including the general director was out there on the slopes pushing the snow around and making sure that we are ready when they opened for people coming down the slope.

Almost every Y I’ve had up to that point had some kind of flaw, that needed to be corrected by hard work and a lot of total involvement all the way down, and that was the one. The other one was the outreach in a real hard area that was almost totally funded by a very creative director, who realized if you were going to aggregate government grants to cover YMCA employees, you need to build in the overhead for the government grants that would cover 120 percent of their salary and benefits, so that when you lose one grant, you don’t lose a staff person. And he was able to keep the program rolling because as he lost one thing which could be child abuse, you could pick up a grant in four months for drug abuse and use the same staff because they’re skilled in counseling and family, but you needed that bridge money to keep them.

So we never really lost staff. We kept some good staff but it was creative bookkeeping and most of the people who were funding us at that point understood that they had to build in something above the cost to cover that interim period, when you would have to go or let people go. So that guy retired and I don’t see him again, or I haven’t seen him in a while but very, very creative in keeping the program going. That’s a good branch of the Red Bank Y. That was up to Red Bank. How much further do we want to go there?


Ryan Bean

Let’s go all the way.

Mr. Wilson

All right, keep going. When I was at Red Bank, one of the things that I really got interested in was marketing or customer service, as you would call it, and I felt that in a way everyone in the Proctor & Gamble practice otherwise really made sense in terms of treating the member with the highest priority. And Carmelita Gallo came from the Chicago Y. It was like a step by step or some kind of dance program where you danced with a member and learned the steps as you go along. Anyway, she taught it to my staff and I really got enthusiastic about it and started to develop a rationale for increasing awareness of members and training staff and it just really blossomed at the Y.

Then I was asked if I could bring some of that information to some other Y’s, and I’m really telling a lot of secrets here but I’ll go ahead. Because of that, I started conversations with a number of directors in the Philadelphia area who were entranced by it. So I became more of an adjunct to the field at that point or to the MRC as it was because they would be asking me all the time to go out and do this and I really liked it.

So I wasn’t in Red Bank long enough really to accomplish a lot, but I felt that I had other skills in running a local association. And Dick Betts was the executive of the Philadelphia Y having come from Chicago. He was an ordained minister and a Y-VP in Chicago and had come to Philadelphia to really revolutionize things. Well, the MRC director and MRC being a small field in its own working out of Chicago in a contract, that director was ready to retire. Now, I had done some training but wasn’t as knowledgeable in member services. I could be but he had other skills which were tremendous. So when he was ready to retire, there was a gap that needed to be filled and I thought, “Well, that’s interesting. So maybe I’ll look at that.”  And I got support from some of the executives in that MRC for being looked at and I was interviewed.

While I was interviewing for that, an opening came up at the Vanderbilt Y in New York and I thought, “Well, if I’m going to make a move, if I don’t get that, I wouldn’t mind going into New York. I could commute and I could run a branch and maybe learn a lot more about the Y in a metropolitan association and even ask the general secretary. Once my board knew I was looking, they were supportive of me going but they were also hesitant to endorse my long term agreement with them, which was at least seven years at the Y. So I was hot and heavy for the MRC job in Philadelphia, and I also took all kinds of psychological testing and evaluations in New York, it was unbelievable. And as it turns out, I became a finalist in both.

So as the good Lord would ordain it or, fools manage it, it turned out that the MRC job was really the one I wanted, but the general director in Philadelphia wanted to absorb another community near his service area and felt the one way to do that would be to make an offer to the director of that Y and bring him in to his management team as an MRC Director. So this was all being done within a matter of a week or two.

They were going to close on the Vanderbilt job and they offered this job to this guy in, one of the neighborhood units of Philadelphia who, by the way, Henry "Hank" Van Zanten was actually here at this conference so we have a great start there. He was offered the job as the MRC director and of course, that was kind of, I just felt I had more to give at that point. I could do that job, so I was very disappointed.

One week into the job, after he had had his farewell at his Y and taken all the gifts and everything, Hank was into the MRC job and had a change of heart and told the CEO in Philadelphia, “I don’t want this job. I want to go back to my old job and my board will accept me back, but I am going to have to do it very quickly and I don’t want a gap here. So I am resigning from the MRC job and I’m going to go back and be the general director of the community YMCA right outside of Philly.”  Well, that word got to me quickly and I knew who the other finalist was right with me in Philadelphia and I also knew that he and I were in the running for the Vanderbilt Y.

Now, there were two job openings and two candidates and this guy has quit in a hurry. So they got to make an offer quick or they got to go through the process all over. So Walter Goldt who was the other person on the New York staff at that point actually came out of New Jersey. I got on the phone with him and I said, “Walter, you know, we are finalists in both of these jobs. Now, the CEOs don’t need to know this but we need to talk. I’ll take either job but I would prefer the Philadelphia MRC job. So I’ll take either job but I would prefer the Vanderbilt job.”  So I said, “Well, listen, if you will withdraw from the Philadelphia MRC, I think I’ll have a better advantage when I negotiate with the CEO. I will withdraw from the Vanderbilt job because I know you are the other guy in the running. We are both in the running on this.”  So it was a blood oath that we took over the phone. He dropped out of the Philadelphia running and I dropped out of the other one.

A day later, I got a call from Philadelphia. They said, “I would like to have you come on in and talk about this.”  And when I was interviewed, first I told them the salary wasn’t high enough because what I was making at Red Bank, I needed a bigger bump. So when I went in to meet him again, he said, “Look, we’ve really looked over your credentials and you are the guy for the job and we will meet your salary request and we’ll even help you with the moving expenses.”  I thought, “I’m really negotiating for a much better platform,” because I know at this point, there’s no other candidate.

Walter got one in the Vanderbilt with the same cockiness. He knew that I wasn’t in the running anymore and he knew I would have been the other candidate, so they negotiated very favorably with him. I got the MRC job, he got the job at Vanderbilt, and later he became almost like an MRC director in New York and I went onto, from the MRC job, I went onto the field job. But every time we met, we had kind of a smile at each other, because probably we outfoxed the system of the urban group CEOs who thought they were very supreme in their hiring practices, but when they get caught short, they make decisions, expedient decisions, in this case, but good ones. The MRC sort of catapulted me into the rest of my career and Walter stayed with the New York Y not only as a good branch exec, but as a corporate staff person until the end of his career. He stayed in New York. I moved on from Philadelphia, but Philadelphia was a pretty good experience with the MRC and a lot of other collateral assignments to justify my salary because the MRC couldn’t do it. But what we were able to do with the MRC in the contracts, we took a lot of poor YMCAs struggling.

We called them troubled Y’s in those days. In the Philadelphia sending area, we had about 50 Y’s which maybe half were desperate. We threw a lot of good collaborations with good Y’s and good management. We were able to pull them all up so they could pay their fair share. The MRC contracts were funded by the fair share collections that you got. The YMCA got a percentage of that back. So as we got more YMCAs financially stable and they could pay their fair share and they would pay their fair share, the money came back to the Philadelphia MRC contract, we could do more good, and I was able to walk away from some of the collateral assignments that I had and that enabled me to be a little bit more creative, huge resources, bring in things, and it was the best of all times.

The MRCs were a unique service area for the national that could feel the pulse of the local Y’s but still use the mother ship, the urban center, and I had access to people at the Philadelphia Y that some of those Y’s in Southern Jersey or in that area in Philadelphia couldn’t afford. So that went on and I wasn’t sure where it was going to end and I wasn’t itching for any more CEO jobs. I just liked what I was doing and the field exec that was in King of Prussia right next to Philadelphia tended his resignation to go, of all places, to New York. He was going to retire and then he took his retirement and they got a contract with Paula Gavin to help her manage the corporate office.

I basically was asked to apply for the field job and there were other candidates but because I was asked and then I was reminded to put my papers in again by the person who was going to make the selection, I felt, “Well, Joyce, when I put my papers in, it’s going to happen, how do you feel about it?  It means we can stay here but I’m going to travel a lot more. I am going to be in and out of.”  She felt okay with that so I threw my papers in for the field job and that was just a tremendous discovery for me, what the national Y can do or what it didn’t do, and enabled me to reach a broader number of YMCAs and have access to four or five tremendous consultants, some of whom are here.

Ken White was one of them; Bill Cameron was another one, Alice Sawyer was another one. And I had a staff that was like Camelot in the east field and MRC directors who were very, very sharp from Boston, Rochester, New York, Pittsburgh, and of course, Philadelphia. We just met as a total staff team and dispersed resources and responses to YMCAs in trouble.

The majority of our stuff was for troubled Y’s. And we had training in all kinds of intervention and discovery and very, very creative staff – David Long, Ted Vest. They’re legends to me and a lot of younger staff knew those people and knew how they could deliver. So I was the field exec with Dave Mercer. John Danielson who hired me worked with the national staff team with David and then along came the re-engineering under… help me with the name now after Mercer– Ken.


Ryan Bean

Gladish?  

Mr. Wilson

Gladish. I’m sorry. Ken Gladish basically welcomed me to the staff meeting and he had a number of other people moving in and out of second position but Danielson wasn’t there. But there was just some wonderful things happening at national and when Gladish came along, the feeling was that it was time for some changes. By eliminating the fields, they could also reposition the MRC contracts and save a lot of money and centralize the services into Chicago

I mean, history will tell them whether that worked or not but I felt it was a unique experience having a field and MRCs dispersed and being able to have career advancement within those. But the model that they were proposing was to give more control and more resources to the department heads in Chicago. The department heads were ready to feast on the money, that would come from the MRC contracts, and flow into their departments. And that meant the field staff, directors and staff, were going to be eliminated. The MRCs had to be, if you were going to stay as an MRC director or field staff, you had to become a consultant for national which we were able to get a few of our people positioned there, but we lost our support staff. We lost our office. And I was part of that re-engineering and I didn’t want to fight it because I mean, it was the way it was going to be.

So the best thing to do is try to re-engineer it and make sure that the departments one on one understand what has to be done out there and they perhaps to this day feel that specialists coming out of Chicago are better than generalists in the operating theatre. Most of the MRC people were generalists. They knew how to run YMCAs and they knew how to get in there and talk to people. I don’t know quite how that’s managed now but my sense is the only thing they really eliminated were the volunteers in the field committee. They have gone back to a structure that basically puts resources where they are needed.  But there is no hub of power in an MRC. They’re under contract now but it’s short lived they can’t perform but they didn’t have that sense of permanency based on contract money flowing in and I think to Nicoll’s credit, Neil has been able to negotiate contracts where money seems to flow evenly and I don’t know all the nuances of it.

Then there are a whole host of people that are in and out of YMCAs. They are well respected and I hear it from local Y’s but it’s not the same structure. And we have volunteers in the field and in the MRC who really felt obligated to help local Y’s and to make decisions that allocated resources.

So they eliminated the field committees. They kept some field committee people on the board but I don’t think that’s a rationale for board selection. The geographic identity and loyalty to an area may not be the preference for picking the actual board. I don’t know. But I was out of a job and I was in a field’s position and I’m not going to be a consultant. So I was able to work a little while with George which was the debacle of the few years.

Finally, using my prestige and my influence and my salesmanship, I was trying to sell George which is like the computer debacle of the Y. Two local Y’s who knew it was a debacle and didn’t want it. That was a joke, me trying to sell something I know wouldn’t work to the local Y’s and trying to, and I was just ready to hang it up. I was given a good option for a severance package. It was more than I thought I will get and it was offered and I turned it down and I was supposed to go to Chicago and I said, “Well, I’m not going to do that. So I don’t know what you guys are going to do with me but I don’t want a severance package.”  

So I had been to Jerusalem on a visit in 1991 as kind of a new deal. Excuse me, 1992, I went to China with the fields. That was a good experience. In1998 or something like that, I went to, I had gone to Jerusalem and Joyce and I really enjoyed that. So Ken Gladish came to one of my annual meetings as a field guy and we had a very half-baked sandwich behind the stage sitting on boxes and talking about careers and he said, “I would like you to consider going to Israel. The exec there is going to be retiring. We’re going to push that along and we know there is going to be an opening and I’m going to nominate you for the job. And I want you to go to Jerusalem to be the exec.”  It’s not like going to Chicago or working here, so I said, “Well, this is an offer?”  He said, “Absolutely.”  And the salary is fine. I wasn’t worried about that. So I said, “Well, I have to go home and talk to Joyce.”  

So it’s kind of divine intervention how your career succeeds in the Y. It wasn’t always a safari of management but the genius of the Lord. So that night, I went home to Joyce and she was in ministry training and was on the final phase of her moving into becoming a minister at the seminary. I walked in the door and she was sitting there and I said, “Joyce, I have something I want to really tell you and it’s very important.”  She said, “I have something I really want to tell you and it’s very important.”  And I said, “Well, gosh, where do we start?”  She said, “You tell me.”  So I said, “Well, Ken Gladish just sat on a bench with me behind the stage and said if I wanted to, I could go to Jerusalem and be the director general there and we’d start right away or within a year.”  “Wow!” she said. “That’s amazing,” she said. “I was just accepted for my candidacy into ministry but I had to have an intercultural experience and that was going to be my focus in intercultural experience.”  She said, “Can you imagine when I tell them that I would want to get my experience in Jerusalem?”  And I said, “Well, you tell them that. What does that mean?  You want to go?”  “Yes.”  So we made the decision that night and Joyce completed her ministerial certification in Jerusalem and I spent four and a half years there during the Intifada and all the stuff that went on at the Jerusalem Y.

And to this day, I’m still in love, in rapture with the Jerusalem International Y and have some trepidation about its future. But the four and a half years there, I had, I took a job which I thought I was experienced but I had no knowledge of what to expect. I mean, running the Jerusalem International Y is not like running any other Y in the country and nothing prepares you for it. It is a cathedral of YMCAs. It’s a symbol of what the YMCA as a Christian organization can do for reconciliation in a war-torn area. The strife between religions and culture and history and the Holocaust and the Intifadas all blend, and somehow the Y stands tall as the one place where it can be reconciled with people willing to talk and play together and plan for the future of their children.

I would mourn the loss of that place, because it is symbolic more than it is productive. And it is meaningful to the community as well as the Christians or Arabs or not Arabs, just Europeans who have lived there. And to lose that would be a tragedy for any purpose or any reason, to lose it and not be able to function in YMCA. And my feeling was I was blessed because I was under the protector of the Y-USA, when I was there. I couldn’t be fired, I could make some decisions, I could make some hard calls.

Whether it was perceived as being insensitive to one side or the other, you blunder through some things, you make decisions, but it doesn’t mean that your board, which is one third Jew and one third Arab or Christian usually but Muslim, too, and then European or American NGOs, so we have three components in the board, they don’t always understand what’s going on. They look at it from a different perspective. The Arabs look at it one way. The Israeli, Jews, look at it another way. But they couldn’t fire me and I had one board chairman who wanted to and Sam Evans wouldn’t allow me to even think about it and that board chair resigned. But I was asked to stay another year, maybe two, and at the end of four and a half years, I felt that we have accomplished a lot.

This Y will never be finished. It will never function like a regular Y but it takes, it’s going to take somebody skilled at the helm to go through the shoals of what is just, it’s unlike any other landscape in America. I mean, I know there are situations around the world, that I don’t understand, but I do understand Jerusalem is a unique place and that Y is, it is a cathedral. It is built as a testimonial to the three faiths getting together under the YMCA banner. And to have anything but a functioning Y or affirm that haven would be a tragedy. So rather than think about another two years there, if I could have somehow taken that Y and moved it to New Jersey, I would have stayed. But grandchildren were getting older.

We were, I wasn’t weary but it’s a stressful environment in Jerusalem during the Intifadas and gulf wars and gas masks and having to deal with security issues and threats of violence and armed guards in buses, bombs blowing up in front of your church on Sunday and you can’t, Joyce couldn’t preach because she couldn’t get in the church. You know you leave it. You don’t want to leave it but you’re 65, going on 65 and a half and it’s time to turn it over.  And willingly, I turned it over to whoever they chose. And Norris was a good choice.

He is working with me now, and I don’t have to comment on the Jerusalem International Y now because it’s not part of my YMCA history. I have some strong feelings about it and I have some very, very much apprehension about what’s going on, but that’s my career and I never planned it and I never knew that I would be a YMCA professional in 41 years after I started. I look back and I had 50 years’ worth of employment on my social security.

My first check came from the Y. I guess I might have been 15 and my last check came from the Y when I was 65. So 50 years of continuous employment and my first check was $75 from the Y and my last check was very, very good from the Y and I’m in the Retirement Fund. I’m enjoying retirement and enjoying all the memories of the Y career that was never planned. Somehow some intervention and some contrivance happened, and it has really been great, really, really great. So that’s kind of the story of my YMCA career. And I’ve thought about how I was going to relate it to you and it’s just come out. I’m not blaming anybody. I’m thanking everybody for the opportunity to, I spent 41 years in this organization. 


Ryan Bean

Thank you for your time and thank you for sharing your story.