Begin interview.  Today is September 28, 2014 and the time is 2:04 p.m.  This is Ryan Bean from the Kautz Family YMCA archives interviewing Peter Post.  Mr. Post, thank you for agreeing to share your story with me today.  My first question for you is, what was your first YMCA experience?

Ryan Bean

Mr. Post

My first YMCA experience was probably as a youth member of the Waterbury, Connecticut YMCA.  I think you could join at six and my dad always had a membership card with 40 years and so he made sure I was signed up as soon as I turned six.


Ryan Bean

When did you start working for the YMCA?

Mr. Post

Well, my first job in the YMCA was a pin boy for $10 or 10 cents a string at the Waterbury YMCA.  But my first real job was at Camp Hazen in Connecticut in the summer of 1954.


Ryan Bean

And was that the beginning then of your YMCA career?

Mr. Post

I didn’t intend it to be at that time but I would say yes it was.


Ryan Bean

Okay, say more, did you stick around?

Mr. Post

I was a Political Science major, pre-law at Bates College in Maine and 1954 I had just graduated from high school.  I was one of the few high school counselors on the Camp Hazen staff.  Most of them were young college men, which was a great experience for me, because I was starting the next fall.  But I enjoyed it so much, I went back to Camp Hazen for the next four years and then the fifth year, I was getting married and so and going back to graduate school at Springfield College. 

So the only married spot was at Camp Jewel, the Hartford YMCA camp and so I worked at Camp Jewel as a unit director and then after I graduated from Springfield, I again worked at Camp Jewel for that summer before I started my next job.

But yeah, that was, the YMCA, first of all, I probably wouldn’t have gotten in to law school, but the YMCA kept sending people to the camp telling me that I should be in the YMCA as a career and it caught. It took a long time, but it caught and never regretted it for one minute really.


Ryan Bean

So they were recruiting you or trying to recruit you at the camp?

Mr. Post

We used to have a lot more national staff and they had a New England office with probably nine different people and three or four of them would visit every camp in New England during the summer and encourage those college kids to consider the YMCA as a career.  While I was under national staff, I tried to get us to continue that practice.  I still think they should but we don’t do that now.


So then where did you go after camp?

Ryan Bean

Mr. Post

My first full time job in the YMCA was as adult program director at Bridgeport, Connecticut which was then Bridgeport and New Haven were separate then.


Okay.  And then you just kind of worked your way up the ranks or was there an internship at all?  How did you advance?

Ryan Bean

Mr. Post

I went there as a young adult program director and that lasted about six months and we had a vacancy as a branch executive, and it really jump started my career right here because they had a capital campaign coming up and I guess I demonstrated that I was pretty good at asking people for money in my first six months and so they asked me to interview for the open branch executive. 

At 24 years of age, that was highly unusual but the general director wanted me and I think he sold me to the branch chairman. I had one interview with the branch chairman, didn’t interview with anybody else and I got the job, which that was highly unusual.   

But I think that as we called them then, the general secretary made it clear he wanted me in that job and I got the job. I served in that capacity and ran their big outdoor center for five, about four and a half years.  And then I moved to Boston.  It was an independent YMCA, the Wilbraham, Massachusetts YMCA, but it already had talked to the Boston YMCA about merger.  And in fact, Dr. Ray Johnson was the general secretary of the Boston YMCA was in on the interview and they interviewed three or four people and I ended up getting that job.

And I, in the back of my mind I always wanted to work at the Boston YMCA and my goal was to be the general director of the Boston YMCA, the first Y in the country.  So I went to Wilbraham.  It took us two years to really consummate the merger, because it had to go through the state legislature but we did it and the Boston staff treated me like I was a branch executive. 

I got paid by the Wilbraham YMCA.  I had a board but we just converted it to a branch board for it and so I did that for, both as an independent Y at a branch, for about four and a half, four years and then I went on the Boston YMCA staff as vice president for financial development. And the reason we did that is we raised more money than the other branch for a new building. 

The Wilbraham YMCA was an old wooden building that was, shall I say, had been well-used and it showed it.  They did get a new YMCA out of it, but I never ran that new YMCA. I was in Boston as vice president of financial development. And, you want me to keep going?


Ryan Bean

Yeah, yeah, yes. You're doing great.

Mr. Post

I then, Solon Cousins, who was a former national executive, but he came in in 1966 as the, to replace Dr. Ray Johns as head of the Greater Boston YMCA.  He’s the one that made me vice president of financial development, public relations.  And then John Danielson replaced him in 1970, and John had me in a number of different roles.  I was vice president of camping services for a while.  I was vice president of the NYC management resource center.  You probably have that in your history some place.  And I was vice president of operations and anything else that John thought I should do.

I think I was acting executive a period of time of four branches but I was acting executive of, while I was still operations director, I was acting executive for over three years of our central, big central branch YMCA in Huntington Avenue.  So I would say, in 1981, John left and I became the president of Boston YMCA.  And as he served for 11 years, I served for 11 years and then became the, I guess you call the chief operating officer of the YMCA of the USA in 1981 and did that until I retired.


Ryan Bean

So it sounds like you've, you've had an incredibly successful career and you've also had a career that was marked by people investing in you.  What would you credit your success to in all these experiences that you had with the YMCA?

Mr. Post

I would say that the most important thing for me early in my career is I did have a skill for fundraising and I think many of people that were my supervisors understood that and were very pleased that they had somebody on their staff who was comfortable doing that because all YMCA people are not comfortable doing that.  I would say that was one thing.  Second of all, I was able to have excellent relationship with people who, names that you will know.

I started with Howard Hagan in Bridgeport, but then the second general secretary there was Parker Lansdale, and Parker and I became very close friends, I think people, to get to the kind of positions I had in the YMCA, I'm sure because of some skill levels, no question about that, but also people that they'd take an interest in them.  Parker Lansdale was one and as I said Howard Hagan.  Mike Mihailoff also was my direct supervisor my first six months and really a friend and supervisor. 

After that I'll always, didn’t have title of operations.  He was head of central branch in Bridgeport and Mike took an interest in my career.  And then Dr. Ray Johns, Solon Cousins and John Danielson.  So, and they are a varied group of people and people that I, every one of them I enjoyed working for, and as far as I am concerned, made great contributions to YMCA. 

One of my interests as you know is world service and Mike Mihailoff was a fraternal secretary as was Howard Hagan.  So in my first years at Bridgeport, I got exposed to World Service.

One other experience that I neglected, when I was at Springfield College, I really worked full-time at the Westfield, Massachusetts YMCA as a youth director.  They fired the youth director right after I was there for about four weeks and I sort of became the acting youth director for the Westfield YMCA, and it was a great experience. 

So I've had a very broad experience.  I would say the most important thing for me that also helped me advance was that the Boston YMCA did more, had a higher percentage of social program and direct service to the disadvantaged of any YMCA I worked with.  Although Bridgeport had, when Parker Lansdale had that, and so, I was able to add some programs to the Boston YMCA which spoke to that and made the Boston YMCA extremely relevant to the community.

We had a training incorporated program that we borrowed from Chicago which trained underemployed people or unemployed people and it’s still going today.  It was started when, probably I shouldn’t have because we were broke in 1982 and 1983, but we started that anyway and it's the best thing that ever happened, because the business and industry really loved the people we produced. 

As I said still going today and I believe these statistics are they've trained 6,000, 7,000 people by now, maybe more.  Last I knew the statistics were still the same that 92 percent of the people had started that program and they did it in 16 week blocks, so you did about three a year. You had 30-35 people in those programs and you could just think about from ‘83 to now, how many people they trained. 

And 92 percent completed the program, 82 percent got jobs, and 72 percent were promoted within one year.  It’s a fabulous story really and one of the great programs that it was brought to me by a young lady who wanted to start the program, Elsa Bengel and she had worked in Chicago.  And first time I turned her down which shows that I did make dumb decisions because, she was forcing it.  She came back another three months and said, "You need to do this."  And I don’t know why but I said, “All right.”  It was probably the best program that I've ever added.  And then we got into a family homeless shelter, 22 families in our central branch and that's still going on.  And so those would probably be some of the things that I’d be most proud of in the Greater Boston YMCA because they've great service to people and they've had longevity, which shows they're valuable.


That's wonderful, yeah.  To kind of reframe some of that because you've had, you've said pieces of this.  What does the YMCA mean to you?

Ryan Bean

Mr. Post

Well, I'd have to say, that my concept of the YMCA evolved over the years but I think the basic thing is, I went into the YMCA because I saw that it made a difference in the lives of people, a positive difference in the lives of people.  I'm very comfortable being in that setting of trying to help people in a positive way.  I see it as an institution.  If it's in a community and it's a good YMCA, it does make a difference to the quality of life in that community.  I've always felt very positive about that.


Ryan Bean

That's great.  What is something that you believe all new YMCA employees should know?

Mr. Post

Got to think about that for a minute.  Well, first of all. I think that they need to understand that the YMCA is a service organization, that they’re not there just to make money.  They’re there to make a difference in their community.  I would tell every new employee that came to work for me, I would say that to them, because I think sometimes the YMCA does get a little too commercial, so I would make that point. Would I have always made that point?  I'm not sure, but I would make it now.


Ryan Bean

That's good.  And then on the other end of that spectrum, what is something that all YMCA leaders should be aware of?

Mr. Post

Well, I think they need to, there's a great tendency as you move up in the YMCA to take yourself too seriously and I would think that all employees ought to realize, that they’re there to serve people and it's not about them, it's about the final result of what happens so that your members and your people that are running your program and it's not about you.  And if, my guess is, that if people had that attitude, they'll get ahead.


Ryan Bean

That's great.  Am I correct in remembering that you were pretty active in the formation of urban group and supporting them at major metropolitan Ys and coordinating their efforts?

Mr. Post

I actually, Solon Cousins and John Danielson, I think and it started Solon Cousins moved from the Boston YMCA and went to the national in New York to work with the Urban Group. And he did that for about two years and then left and became head of the Crusade of Mercy which is United Way in Chicago.  But John Danielson, his successor in Boston, did write quite a bit of the concept papers of the Urban Group.  I was, was not in the Urban Group until 1981, and it’d probably really functioned for almost 10 years when I became a member.   

I did represent John because he had tragedy and his family and I represented him when we hosted the Urban Group in Boston probably in 1979.  That was my first opportunity to meet with that group and I was a little bit awestruck, but we got through it.  And so anyway, but I was instrumental in helping found the Metro 30, which is now a part of the Urban Group, when I was on the national staff.

My concept was that we ought to have, that there was great learnings for putting like associations together and of course now they’re both merged but I thought there was great, there was great value and a lot of research done by the Urban Group and I'm not sure it gets credit for what it delivered to the YMCA of the USA. 

And of course, the World Urban Group grew out of the Urban Group, and so I was not involved in the very beginning of the Urban Group, but I was certainly involved as a, served as chairman and was involved and staffed it when I was with the national staff.


Yeah, yeah and when you said about the 30 group, that’s I was thinking of.  What were some of the issues that those groups were responding to?  Why did they need to get together?  What wasn’t being met?

Ryan Bean

Mr. Post

Well, I think that it was sort of somewhat in response to the fact that, I think some of our leaders, both in the United States and Canada, felt that YMCA was becoming too much of a health and fitness and maybe miss themselves as mission.  Not that fitness and health and particularly this days of obesity isn’t a purpose in itself but is it enough, and I think the answer was no, it’s not enough.   

And the Urban Group and its early years did a lot of program development, child care, studies of child care and child care standards, although they were done by the national staff, the impetus for it came out of the Urban Group.  A lot of program initiatives that were non-fitness came out of the Urban Group and we had a community development.   

One of the best, well, two or the three best conferences I ever attended were community development conferences sponsored by the Urban Group.  Toronto, the leaders of really serving in the community I would say were John Root in Chicago, John Danielson and Solon Cousins in Boston and Henry Labatte in Toronto.

But I can remember John Alden in LA and Bill Phillips in Seattle and Washington D.C. very much involved with serving the community in a broader sense.


Ryan Bean

That’s great, thanks for sharing that. Earlier you had mentioned, and that’s in alignment in what I heard you saying what you liked about Boston, that it was a full program, YMCA in particularly maybe had actually emphasis on disenfranchised, but you had also mentioned about their history of working with World Service.  Could you share a little bit about that and also say something about what you think local YMCAs United States can gain from participating with international YMCA’s.

Mr. Post

Absolutely.  I have to make sure my first, and the guys, both Mike Mihailoff and Howard Hague were on the Bridgeport staff, the general director and his number two guy, and they both been fraternal secretaries.  Over the years, I met a number of fraternal secretaries that had started YMCAs all over the world.  I honestly believe, that if we’re ever going to get to that goal that seem so far away of peace, and it seems farther away today than it has in quite a long time, the YMCA might have some part of contributing to that.

I remember during one of during President Clinton’s time, when the chief negotiator for the Likud for Israel was Yusoff Mohd who was the vice chairman of the Jerusalem International YMCA.  I also know that representing the Palestinians was a person who got his training in Lebanon, and if you look back at the YMCA movement, the internationalists that really made a difference, to start with John Alden but you can go to Paul Limbert who served as secretary general but the president of Springfield College ran Blue Ridge Assembly and in some ways the giants of our movement came out of international.

Joel Nystrom who was head of the International Movement and for the YMCA in the USA for years was on equal footing with the national general executive back in the ‘50s and started Buildings for Brotherhood, a great program to rebuild the YMCA’s that were destroyed during the Second World War. And so, I think that the international aspect of the YMCA has given us great vision of what we could do.

Just recently, I was at, where we met at the World Alliance and I worked with several people that are here to bring forth to a number of associations the problems with the kids on our border. My position is the YMCA should do something bold and bodacious, about working with those kids. I think that’s been taken out of our hands, but I believe that a number of YMCAs including Houston, are very much involved in it and Clark Baker was in the group as we talked about it.

I just think with all our camps and so forth, there are places where we could have helped those kids until they got placed or until they got adjudicated, because the law calls for them to be adjudicated if they’re from Columbia or any place, but Mexico, and Columbia and Canada, but certainly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. My granddaughter is more than half way through her 29 months’ experience in Guatemala, so I get first hand of about the tough living of the kids of Guatemala.

YMCA, I mean let’s face it, it started in London but it spread throughout the world and most of that was spread by US and England.  I think we have a responsibility to this world and to peace. I really think that the YMCA in Jerusalem, although I understand that it’s not financially viable right now, but it’s significant in terms of the fact that Arabs, and Muslims, and Christians and Jews can meet in that setting and they have a hall there.

I recall seeing a television program on public television where they had the women and they had three women that were Jewish and three women that were Palestinian. If we’d left it up to them, they’d solved the issue it was a great program done in the YMCA in Jerusalem. So, I think we provide a great value and sometimes we hide our light under a bushel basket.


Ryan Bean

Thank you. So then the second part of my question was what can local Y United States learn from their international counter parts?

Mr. Post

Well, first of all, I think a great many of us, and I have learned through the YMCA as a very active person in the, at the World Urban Group but then as part of my assignment, the Jerusalem International YMCA, we don’t know our history. We don’t know world history. I would venture to say that a lot of people don’t understand today that England and the United States are mostly responsible for setting up the country of Israel. It was set up without a lot of thought outside of setting up a country, a home and land for Jewish people, but in doing that you displaced a lot of other people.

And so, I think that every YMCA general director at least ought to be familiar with the history of the world and of the Middle East in particular, because it’s a pretty important part of the world today, and they ought to know a little bit about it and they need to understand that people are people in wherever they are.  If the YMCA can make a difference, we need to make a difference.  I would hope every young Y professional would be exposed to it.

I think we were more exposed when I was coming up in the YMCA. Buildings for Brotherhood, when I was a camp counselor in the ‘50s, we used to have carnivals for Buildings for Brotherhood.  We would talk our kids into leaving their bank accounts when they went and it would go for Buildings for Brotherhood, but we’d explain to the young campers what it was going for and I'm not sure we do that enough today. But the YMCA should always stand for global understanding and for peace.


Ryan Bean

Thank you.  So we’ve got maybe about 10 more minutes. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about yet today that you would like to share?

Mr. Post

Well, I guess I’d like to talk about my YMCA’s career so I’ve really done it.  But I felt like I had a great education for being a YMCA, Bates College in Maine, is where I got my undergraduate degree, and in many ways, Bates is like a YMCA. It’s in that group of Amherst and Williams and Middlebury and Bowdoin.

It tends to be more people-oriented and more kids off the farms in Maine and New Hampshire went to Bates.  And then I went to Springfield, and again, I was exposed to the YMCA and to humanics through the Springfield College and I felt that I had a perfect education for going into the YMCA. The combination of the strong liberal arts and then a specialty in human service was a great education for what I ended up doing. And as you know, I still spend a lot of time raising money for World Service because we do such great things.

I mean, if you think as a Philippines, you think of Haiti, Dominican Republic which we’re going to hear about here, but it goes on and on. The YMCA responding Japan, to needs and I feel like it’s a great missionary Movement without being missionaries. It makes a difference in the world.  I was privileged to serve in the Bridgeport and Boston and Westfield, Massachusetts and really, great YMCAs that I'm sure made a differences in their community.

I think if every YMCA director today took as sort of a motto of what they were going to do or even a mantra, make sure that you improve the quality of life in your community. If we did that, how can we go wrong? Now, I’ve exposed my whole intelligence to you now, so, but I had a great career. I just love every minute of it and I love what I'm doing now in terms of raising money for International.


Ryan Bean

That’s great. So I guess one last question then maybe you dig a little deeper into that is, if you could say something about how YMCA professionals can continue to be of service to the YMCA, not just during their careers but over the course of their lives like you continue to do.

Mr. Post

Well, I think if you take it seriously, if you really believe in what you’re doing, if you love what you’re doing you can’t stop. In some ways, it’s a great Movement and I'm a little surprised, and I have close friends who, once they retire, they have very little to do with the YMCA. That’s hard for me to understand, because it’s such a great Movement, it does such great service.  

It doesn’t mean every YMCA’s does or every YMCA’s secretary does, but from John Alden forward, there have been people that stand up and make a difference in this world and they only did that through the YMCA. And so in some ways, I feel like I've been blessed because I have been allowed to continue to serve, and I would encourage anybody who retires and still has a lot of energy to keep going because there’s a lot of things that the YMCA could use them to do.


Ryan Bean

Absolutely. Well, thank you for that and thank you for sharing your story. I really appreciate it.

Mr. Post

All right.