February 4, 2016
Begin interview. Today is February 4, 2016. The time is 7:05 am. This is Ed Toole from the YMCA Retirement Fund interviewing Rosalind Hamby. Ms. Hamby, thank you for agreeing to share your story with me today.
Thank you, Ed.
So my first question for you is, what was your first YMCA experience?
Wow. We’re going to date ourselves a bit here. I walked into the financial aid’s office at Bishop College when I was at college, and told them I needed a job. They sent me to the YMCA. That was my very first experience as a YMCA intern, or summer work study student, actually, during the summer months.
So I worked at the YMCA full summers. And the YMCA asked me back to work part time during the year. After I graduated, the YMCA offered me a job making $300 a month, and I took it. That was truly the first experience that I had, because growing up, I had no idea.
We didn’t have a YMCA in our hometown. I never really heard about YMCA, but knew the acronyms because of watching TV and some other things. But it was my first experience, and the rest is history, I can tell you, with the YMCA.
So tell us a little bit about that history in terms of your years working for the Y. As you talked about your first experience, take us through your career just briefly, and on until to retirement.
Sure. Well, the YMCA offered me the job. I was the membership assistant, working for the membership secretary. And at that time, where everything was done manually, as you recall, so I typed all the bills, the monthly bills, for the members. It was a downtown facility. Downtown Dallas YMCA. A male facility only, so no females were allowed at the time.
The only females that were there worked in the office as secretaries, or maids in the residence hall, or cooks in the cafeteria. So it was quite an experience for me. But something triggered at working there, and getting to know some of the people there. Because it was a male facility only, very few African American members were there, so I was put in a situation of a predominantly white group of people.
But I didn’t feel intimidated, probably because of the years prior, and going to summer schools with my mom, spending our teen years on college campuses. We were accustomed, even from a small town, we were accustomed to being around mixed races. However, this membership director thing, it was something that maybe I didn’t quite understand, because growing up, the only job I ever had was babysitting in my little home town.
So to sit and type invoices all day long, and have to figure out who’s next and who’s next, it was a little bit of a challenge. So I, my administrative skills were really honed at that time. When I graduated and they offered me a job as the assistant to the membership secretary, I took that, and I guess six months later, the membership secretary left, and I was offered the job of secretary in the membership department.
And that was a big deal. But with no pay increase, mind you, Ed. So I worked there for about a year, and got to know a lot of the members, and it was quite interesting. And the work became interesting to me. I began reading some of the magazines that were coming through the office around YMCA, and at that time it was APD. I remember APD as one of the big magazines I would read, and some of the training’s that were coming through.
And I thought, you know, this is quite interesting. I think I might like this. And, but there was, the executive director there at that downtown Dallas YMCA branch at the time probably didn’t feel the same way I felt about the job. And he walked down to the office one day, and says, well, I hear this is about after a year I’ve been there—he says, well, you’re doing okay.
I said, oh, this is very exciting. He said, well I’m not sure this is going to work. Because you know, I think we need a white girl in this position. I said, well, Mr. Davis, if that’s what you feel, then you need a white girl. And the subject was dropped. Six months later, Mr. Davis was replaced by Bob Neal.
And my boss at the time, the membership director, Jim Wilson, thought she was doing well, and I guess had a conversation with the powers to be, and so I stayed on in that position. After Bob Neal took over, he did an assessment of the YMCA to see where we are, what we’re going to do. He wanted to do a little remodeling, do some upgrades.
And the most exciting thing happened for me, Ed. Bob Neal brought in an outside consultant to do some assessment and talk with each one of us in the YMCA, including me. Now, mind you, I was not a director. I’m a lowly secretary, but he thought that I should be included in this assessment.
When the assessment was complete, the assessment gave him a lot of ideas and tools to work with in where we should go, but the most important thing to me in that assessment, this young lady, Rosalind Sterling (that was my maiden name) should be offered an administrative position to run the administrative portion of this Y. And he went on to talk about my skills, and what he thought I could do, what he thought I could bring to the table.
Tell you, Ed, I was so impressed, I kept that assessment for years. I shared it with my parents. I shared it with everyone. It was the most important thing. And I think that gave me the confidence to keep doing what I was doing, and to move forward. Because here is some stranger that had this kind of confidence in me. And as we moved forward, Bob Neal did do some promotions, and made me a little administrative assistant over the area in the downstairs area there.
I then became the assistant membership director, and assistant resident director. Now you got to know, we had a residence at the time, all male, so there was a female assistant membership resident director that could not visit the facilities. If I wanted to showcase our facilities and give someone a tour, I had to ask someone else to do that. I had to ask to be taken to a floor, because of all men, to say woman on the floor, to visit the rooms, to take a look at the rooms.
But it was quite interesting. It was something very new to me. And I worked in that position over five or six years under Bob Neal. Then Bob Neal left, moved to San Diego, offered me a job to come to San Diego. But I thought I needed to stay in Dallas. My kids were in Dallas, and family.
And Jack Scarborough came on afterwards to take over the ED job at the downtown YMCA. My boss, Jim Wilson, and Jack had some, as you come in, new people come in, and there was some, a little bit of contention there. I was eventually offered the membership director position and resident director position. And wow, that was a big step. Now let me tell you how big that was.
In the United States at the time at most YMCAs, most YMCAs could not afford to have a membership director. So number one, it was very big for me. Number two, I was the only black person in the YMCA Movement that was a membership director. So when I would attend a conference or anything that had to do with membership, I would be the only black face sitting there.
However, it just never intimidated me. I never thought about it as black/white. It was there. It was obvious. And I think about it now, and what it meant to me, and that has brought me this forward in my career. And it was probably somebody was preparing me for something that I didn’t know what at the time. So I stayed in that position, took on some additional responsibilities in downtown Dallas until I left in 1986.
And that career started again in 1971. So I have to give a lot of credit to a lot of people at that YMCA. The ED said to me once, we’re giving you this position because we think you are capable of doing the job. And they may have interviewed one other person.
He said, however, I think you’re going to be a great asset to the Y one day. And I have never forgotten those words. So I have spent my career trying to be an asset to the YMCA. And I think I’ve done okay. To this point. So that’s my years at Dallas.
I’ll give you a break if you need to ask some other questions, or I could go right ahead. Well, Dallas was 18 great years. I implemented some things as far as membership is concerned. Didn’t know that I was being labeled as a membership expert, but at the time being labeled as a membership expert meant you knew all the ins and out of membership, you knew how to get people in, you know how to keep the people, retain the people.
You knew how to recruit good staff. You knew how to train others on customer service, and we called it customer service at the time. Maybe it’s the member experience now, but at the time, it was customer service. So I jumped head first into all of those things, asking to go to this training, and this training, and this training. And everybody was very supportive of my doing all of those things.
And I can recall at a membership training in Houston, someone else came up to me and said, you know, you could be more than a membership director. And I’d never thought about it. And I think, well, you know, maybe I could. And I said well, tell me what you’re talking about. Well, this is after the Houston Y had started the Houston systems.
You can do something like the Houston Y is doing and be like AJ Fickerson, and be out there training others how to do these kinds of things. AJ Fickerson was the person that started the whole bank draft system in the Movement. I don’t know if you know that, but it started right out of Houston. He called it the Houston system. And I think Dallas was one of the first people to go on the Houston system, doing bank draft.
And that was a new thing at the time, taking money from someone’s checking account? Boy that was really new. And I thought about that, and Houston was as large as Dallas. In fact, Houston and Dallas were competitors as far as memberships were concerned. We always thought we could do one-up on each YMCA, so it was a good, healthy competition.
But I went to my executive director, and he had a conversation with our IT people and the CEO and says Roz thinks she can do this system here in Dallas, and we don’t have to pay Houston to do this system. Now I didn’t know anything about computers at the time. You know, the only person that had a computer, maybe, were the people in the executive offices. We did not.
And they brought me together with all the IT people. I said I don’t know about IT, but I know what I’d like to see happen. Working with those IT people, we finally decided we could do our own system here in Dallas, and use our own local banks for the bank draft system, and we could—I could train all of our YMCAs in Dallas how to do this.
Because at the time, the downtown Y was the only Y on the Houston system. And so I did that. They made me, I was the membership director and metropolitan coordinator for membership. You know, made up title there. It was good. So I was able to get all the branches in Dallas set up on this bank draft system. I was responsible for doing audits of all the branches across the association to make sure that everyone was on the system.
Everyone was being drafted. That we were not losing money. And I tell you, it paid off in the long run. We saw our membership revenue rise, and it kept rising, and people thought this bank draft system is the best. We get them set up one time. We don’t ever have to deal with them again. In fact, it was a really cute, in the old days, in my day, the membership director also ran the annual support campaign.
So I was doing training with all the campaign workers one day around membership and how we could recruit people, and this bank draft system was really what we wanted people to get on this system. And it was so great, because once you get on it, we have them hooked for life. And we don’t want you to call this member the next year to say would you like to renew your membership, because that would just give everybody a chance to say no.
And people thought, wow, what a concept. So no more calling people to be members. They just keep going, and we keep bringing in new members. And that’s when we were having membership and sustaining support campaigns at the same time.
It’s done differently now, of course. However, but that proved to be a very efficient system for a lot of folks. And people started picking that up around the country, and now it’s known around the country now. You just don’t do anything unless it’s through a monthly bank draft.
But I like to think that I had a very small portion in making that whole bank draft system, and have that impact on the entire movement as it grew, and we began to grow and move up. And the, probably the fifth or sixth year that Jack Scarborough was there, we began to, we thought, we need a new YMCA. Downtown Dallas was old.
It was a resident facility, and sometimes the residents coming in weren’t desirable to mix with the members, and we were all, unlike Houston who had separate entrances for members and residents. We had one entrance, so Lamar Hunt would walk through the door the same as the resident that just got out of rehab. So we thought, we’re, let’s build a new YMCA. And residence at that time, too, was becoming a thing of the past.
They weren’t—we couldn’t maintain and sustain those kinds of facilities. So we embarked on a, at the time, a $14 million—I’m sorry, a $6 million campaign. We raised $14 million to build a new downtown Dallas YMCA. The president and CEO at the time, Jack Davis, the late Jack Davis I must say, decided we were not going to build this YMCA until we had all the cash to pay for it.
So we raised the monies from downtown Dallas to pay for a brand-new, sparkling, 35,000 square foot YMCA. And at the time, Dallas was one of the top three YMCAs in the country. So that was a pretty big thing. We had everybody visiting our Dallas YMCA, looking at the model, trying to decide if this is where we want to go.
So my boss came to me, and my goal in this whole portion of the YMCA was to work with the marketing person, he and I had worked together, to promote this new facility. We had a model built of the YMCA. We’d go downtown at noontime, talk about our YMCA, what it was going to be, and all the facilities, and it was going to be a co-ed facility for the first time in the history of the Dallas YMCA.
And that opened in 1992. So it really was a big thing for Dallas to go co-ed, because we had only had just a male, predominantly male membership. We spent a year promoting our YMCA. When we looked at our budget performance and all the things that we had to do to make that YMCA successful, my goal was to bring in 500 new members that first week.
We had a week-long membership campaign. I was to bring in 500 new members. So the marketing director and I got together and put our heads together, and what are all these little things we’re going to do to get people down on this end of downtown. It was on the north end of downtown. We came up with one very, I think, very unique idea. At noontime, we hired a guy that would come and play a calliope.
I don’t know if you know what a calliope is. It was a musical instrument that’s very loud, that could be heard all over downtown Dallas. We were drawing people to that end of downtown Dallas. And when they arrived, we would give them hard-hat tours of the facility, talk about the facility. The pool was on the street level, so you could see people swimming.
It was the most exciting thing happening in downtown Dallas in years. Ed, by that Friday, we had enrolled 7,000 new members. I tell you, it was the most exciting thing. I was screaming everybody from our corporate offices were there, the metro offices were there. I need new applications. Get me this. I didn’t care who it was. The president. It was like you do this, you do this, you do that.
It was so exciting, and it was such an exciting time from that Dallas YMCA to enroll 7,000 members in one new week. And I tell you what we did. The building wasn’t built, so they couldn’t say we were having drinks, but we celebrated Friday night with margaritas. It was a very exciting time.
Very exciting time. So we spent those years, and after that Y came, it was just very successful. And this was in 1982, again, it was open. And not long after that, my husband took a job in 1985 with the Honolulu YMCA. So I gave up my career to move with my husband to Honolulu. And it was a very sad time for me and Dallas, and for a lot of people.
I gained a lot of friends. I earned the respect of a lot of people. There were a lot of people I did not earn the respect of. Because there was still, you got to understand, Dallas is in the middle of the Bible Belt, so you’ve got to understand that there were people, members, that did not like a black person with that much authority in a YMCA. But I had the support of the executive director, the CEO.
So, you see, I—it was—there was some racial bias there, but it did not come from staff. So it’s hard for me to say that I wasn’t given an opportunity in YMCAs, because I was. And not because—I don’t think it was because I was black. I feel it was because I did the job and I worked my butt off to get where I was. So it was very rewarding for me.
But after giving up the YMCA, and leaving the YMCA in 1985 or ’86. I finally left in ’86. My husband left in ’85, and April of ’86, I moved on with him to Honolulu, Hawaii. Was hoping that I could get in the YMCA in Honolulu. The CEO at the time did not allow husband and wives working in the same association, which I totally understand.
But I was able to keep my, able to volunteer, and keep my connections with the Y and help out. But I really seeked employment elsewhere. And after a couple of tries, I mean I did the whole gamut. I don’t think a lot of people know this, but one of the most exciting jobs, first jobs, I had in Honolulu was with the American Cancer Society doing programming work for Reach to Recovery patients.
Those are patients with breast cancer, so I had fun doing that, but it really didn’t pay a lot of money. So I went to one of the hotels in Honolulu. Never done any hotel work. Didn’t know anything about it. But it looked like, it’s a travel industry, tourism was the largest industry, so why not try that industry? And lo and behold was offered a job as the assistant manager, and then the manager, of one of the night clubs in one of the big hotels.
Everybody wanted to know, how can you equate this to YMCA? Well, it’s all customer service. In the hotels, you have return guests that come back every year, and they come back to that same hotel. They like to come back to a good experience. And they come back and see the same people. So they hired me. I talked them into hiring me, and it was the most fun job I’ve ever had, I can tell you.
I was in charge of listening to musicians and booking bands in the hotel, and over the pool bar, and the guests you get to know. It was just exciting, and it was exciting environment on the beach in Waikiki, oh, my, it was just pretty exciting. And then I thought after two or three years, you know, I’ve got to get a real job. And it paid okay, but I’ve got to get a real job, because this night work just isn’t doing.
So I was offered a position with Kelly Temporary Services. Kelly was one of the Fortune 500 companies at the time, and I became the regional manager for the state of Arkansas. I mean, Arkansas, Honolulu, for Kelly Temporary Services. And that meant I had an office in Honolulu, and I got to travel to all the other islands to do work. And that was pretty exciting, and what more exciting, their offices were in Troy, Michigan.
So I had an opportunity to train under some of the unique training experiences that Kelly had, and it was very, some of their customer service training, I was able to bring back to the Y, if you can believe that. Kelly was an awfully good company, and it spent a lot of time, and a lot of effort and dollars on training their employees on how to do this temporary work, and going out there.
So that was really an exciting time for me. That was eight years in Hawaii doing something different. When we decided to move back to the mainland, my husband took a job in northern California, the YMCA of the East Bay in Oakland. So my whole thought was, how do I get back into the YMCA?
Because being out those eight years, I compared everything to the YMCA, Ed. I thought, how could I make this work? How would we do it in the YMCA? So I came back and was offered a job with the YMCA of San Francisco as a membership auditor coordinator.
And the great thing about that, I was able to bring some of my experiences from Kelly, from a for-profit company back to this not-for-profit company, that worked well. So I spent the first year doing audits and training and setting up systems for the YMCA of San Francisco for membership, and getting their membership back on track and for working with all the branches. I’m going to take a break here for a minute.
So let me ask you this. And obviously progressive positions in Los Angeles and Honolulu, led to Minnesota, Los Angeles, and then wrapping up your career at YMCA of the USA as the VP of membership and program, maybe just tell me a little bit about what to think over those forty years.
Maybe one or two positive things that maybe you changed in membership, or exciting when you think back. And did we lose anything, do you think, in membership over the course of that time? You can go back and say, yeah, you know, with all you know. Why didn’t we do this anymore?
Very good question. I do think that over time, most of my work has been with membership and membership some kind of form or fashion. Even as an executive director or COO, you still deal with membership and you want to make that happen. But Ed, I do think over time, there was a point in time where we as YMCA folks became the imitators and not the innovators of certain areas of our operations.
I think we gave too much away, and didn’t think—the step. The step is still out there. People are still—we didn’t invent that, as we did—you know, we gave basketball away. We just, we gave too many things away. And I think there were eventually people that noticed that and recognized it. How do we get back into this game of membership, retention, and acquisition?
And what’s the most important thing that we do here? Well, I think we finally figured out that retention was really the way to go. It takes less money to retain a person than it does to acquire. You certainly want to keep acquiring, but we—so we began working on this whole retention model and training model, and making sure that those people on the frontlines had the tools they need.
I mean, we would pay these people six bucks an hour, and we would expect them to recruit every member that walked through the door, without any training. Without any knowledge of what they’re talking about. And I think I saw it happen very well when I took the job at the Hollywood YMCA. And that’s at the time that we began, it wasn’t Activate America at the time, but the whole quality training, and I’m forgetting the name that we used.
There were a group of YMCAs: LA, San Francisco, Seattle, that together to form— you know, we need to form something so that we can get a big model together to work with our YMCAs to talk about membership and customer service, and how we treat our members. And I think at the time, they were giving some direction on where they wanted to go for the future of YMCAs as far as membership is concerned.
We didn’t feel like we were getting what we wanted from Y-USA, and I don’t know if it was because we weren’t using the tools. It was not there. We didn’t know how. But at any point, we began to build our own experience around that. And some of the things we looked at were the frontline people, and how we treated the customer service—and the training that we gave them.
I think the Hollywood Y was the first YMCA across the country to begin offering their people $10 an hour to work. This is the first thing. We’ve got to treat them like they’re valuable. So when we did that, we could also go in and say, let’s give you this training of how to take a member from point A to point C, without you passing anyone off, and you doing the whole thing.
Well, that meant a lot of training for those frontline people. So I think we missed that in the point that we didn’t recognize early on that we had to have quality, trained people greeting our members, first of all. So that’s a thing that, any time I had an opportunity to send people to training or go hear about those kinds of things, that’s what we did.
So we missed some things in there around the membership, and as I mentioned, we missed some things around innovation and tools and who we are today. But there were so many things that we did wonderful. You know, I just, sometimes it’s hard to think about what we missed, and where we’re going.
That’s gone. Let’s work on the future things. We did so many wonderful things around programming, around single women and housing. Around getting young women ready for work. Those kinds of things. It was just amazing to see some of the things grow that we never thought would be a part of any YMCA. We were, as the general public thought of us, swim and gym.
And we were more than swim and gym, but we just didn’t know how to tell our story properly. And when we began learning how to do that, we watched areas open for us in YMCA across the country. So that was pretty exciting to me.
The other thing I’d like to tell you that was most exciting is learning how to be a manager. You know, I don’t think as a manager and as a leader, we never stop learning about those things. And the more I learned, and listened, and watched my mentors and watched my coaches and what they were giving to me, I began to think, this is what I need to be doing for staff, as well.
So it became really clear to me that if you’re going to make this, if you’re going be successful in anything, you got to hire the right people, hire the attitude, train the skills. So I began pushing in that area. I became, unbeknownst to me, one of the leaders as far as staff development is concerned.
And I think, to me as I sit here and think about it, the number of people, young people, that I’ve coached and that I have mentored that have gone on to become executive directors or leaders in YMCAs. I still get little notes from people. Roz, had it not been for you. Thank you, Miss Roz. And then a lot of people will say that. Thank you for pushing me. Thank you for having the confidence in me. So I see that today as retirement.
So tell me about, this is a perfect segue, tell me about a mentor you had in the Y, and how that person helped you and influenced you during your career.
Wow. I’ve had several, you know. But I think I have to go back to Bob Neal, the first person that told me that I was going to be a great asset in the YMCA. And I lived my life trying to do that, I think, for him certainly in the Dallas YMCA. But wherever I went, I wanted to make sure that I provided something. And here’s the guy that believed in a young girl from Camden, Arkansas, that had nothing to offer as far as YMCA is concerned.
But saw the skills in me that I didn’t see, and forced me to hone in on those skills. Forced me to not be afraid to stand up before a crowd of multi-millionaires in Dallas, Texas, and at the time in the oil business, there were quite a few. That forced me to say, I’m going to take a look at this particular area and what we’re doing, and I’m going to take a risk on doing this.
It may not work. But he allowed me to take risks, and never once said, well you failed in that, so let’s move on. Never said the word failed to me. And today he never does it. If he calls me up today and says, well, what’s going on? I’m following your career. You’re here. You’re here. What can I—and if there are issues that I need to talk about today, I still call on Bob Neal.
And there are lots of people like that, too. The Larry Rosens that have helped me out. The Gary Clarks that have been there for me. That have gone in and asked me, what do you need? But I think he’s the one that really—he’s probably the reason that I’m with the YMCA still. He is.
So in all your time at the Y, we talked a lot about membership because that was definitely your background, but membership or otherwise, what do you believe was the most significant thing or couple of things that have happened in the YMCA Movement over that course of time, on any level?
On any level? That’s huge, because as I think about the big picture, I think it’s when CEOs around the country finally realized and began to understand we need to broaden our perspective of who we are, and begin to make sure that we diversify what we’re doing. And I think one of the biggest things that Dave Thornton brought to this YMCA is when he took a stance and really got involved around diversity and inclusion.
And you began to see people think about it more. You began to see people become aware of it. Because it was just bringing the awareness on the table. And I can’t say that they weren’t concerned about diversity. There were some, maybe, that were, and some were not. Because as I look at myself and how I came up through the ranks, an African American woman bringing up, you know, people thought, well I’m okay, I’ve got an African American woman over here.
But it was not just about that. It was even diversifying their membership. You know, even Dallas, when we brought women into the membership, that’s diversifying the membership. But I think those CEOs that wanted to make us bring it to the top of the table, the top of the agenda, and wanted to make people, just the awareness of where we were.
I think that opened a lot of doors for a lot of people to feel very comfortable. And you know, Ed, I could probably say that I could have been, I was probably a pioneer there. I didn’t realize it at the time. Because when you go someplace, and you see another face like yours, then that makes someone else over here feel well, if she can do that, I can do that, as well.
But I always made it a point to go back to my roots. I never forgot where I came from, and I never forgot those people that helped me get there, black or white. So when I visited Dallas, I would make sure I’d go downstairs to the laundry to say hello to the janitors and the maids. I’d make sure of that. So in my own way, I guess, I was one of those pioneers, but I didn’t realize that at the time, because it was not on the table.
And as it became more prevalent and people began to talk about it more, then I wanted to put myself out there more. And I think it opened so many doors for a lot of people to feel confident, especially people of color that wanted to come into YMCAs.
So I think that was a huge, in that arena, that was a huge movement. Yes. And I think there were some other movements around programmatic issues, as well, I think, that really opened some doors for us. Dealing with different kids, and with disabilities and things like that. Well, I don’t know. That’s pretty big to me.
So is there one thing that stands out to be your most proud of when you reflect on your career with the Y? Over all that time, one shining moment. Just something unusual that happened?
Well, I tell you. It’s a small shining moment, but there again it gave me enough confidence. When we left Honolulu, moved back to San Francisco, and I was the membership coordinator for the association, one of the executive directors at our low-income branches, the Buchanan Y in San Francisco became ill. They had hired him, and he became ill, and he had to leave, and we feel sorry.
And he went back home, and a few months later he passed away. But Gary Clark, everybody was getting ready to set up—oh, we’ve got to post this position. We’ve got to hire a new executive director for this YMCA, and Gary Clark said to them, you have your executive director.
So he came to me and said, Roz, I’d really like for you to take this position. Well, I’ve not been an executive director. You got to understand, I left the Y as a membership director, metropolitan coordinator. Came back as doing membership. So the first thing I said to Gary was Gary, do not send me to Buchanan because I’m African American. Send me there because you think I can do the job.
He said that’s exactly why I’m sending you there. So at the time, I didn’t have a lot of, any executive director experience at the time. So I said, you know, there’s a training I would like to attend. And it was EDI. The executive director.
I said, let me go to this EDI program, and I want to see what this is about. And he said fine, you can do that. Well, in the middle of all this, I’m now working as the executive director at the Buchanan Y. In the middle of all this, I get called to jury duty. And I know this training program is very important.
So I’m embarrassed about it today, but I did go to the judge, and to the clerk, and said I need to be excused from this jury duty, because I’ve got this very important thing going on in my career right now, and I can’t miss—you’re not allowed to miss a day. And the judge came back, and he brought me into his chamber. He said I understand that, but I have a letter typed up here.
You take this letter to your leaders and tell them we need you in this courtroom. So I did that. And for four weeks, I sat on this trial, and I was elected foreperson of the group. At the end of the trial, I go to the clerk. I said, I’d like to get an audience with the judge, please. So I went back, and I say, and this was quite an experience. I wanted to do this.
And I said, oh, by the way, I am the new executive of the Buchanan branch YMCA, and you are exactly the kind of people we need on our board. I was building a board. And he looked at me. I said yes, sir, you are a supreme court judge. We need you. He said, well, I guess I’d have to say yes.
So he was very close friends with Willie Brown, the mayor at that time, so I thought, gee, and everybody, Gary Clark and Mark Lisk and everybody. When I got back to the Y—what? You’ve got the supreme court judge on your board? How did you do this? He’s been best friends with Willie Clark, and we’re trying to get in to see—uh, Willie Brown.
And I thought oh, I could do that for you. Gary said you could set up a meeting with Willie Brown? So I did. Boy, I became the talk of the—you know, I was the executive director extraordinaire at this tiny little branch in Buchanan. But you know what? You get to the point that, if you don’t ask, it won’t happen. And I needed to build a board.
There where three people on the board there, and I needed a board. And so he got Willie Brown involved, and we all—Buchanan ended up being a fairly unique YMCA.
That’s a great story. So we got a little time left. I have a couple questions. What does the YMCA mean to you?
Oh, I tell you. I tell people the YMCA is the only job I’ve ever had. It’s like those others just didn’t exist. But to me, it’s all the things combined into one that a person needs in their life. Where you’ve got family, you’ve got friends, you can get love when you need it.
It’s a career, and it was a very lucrative career for me, but I think more than that, the one reason I stayed with the Y is because I enjoy making people feel good about themselves. And at the Y, I could do that. It allowed me to make other people, whether it was staff or whether it was constituents, feel good about themselves.
And I can tell you that I can walk to any YMCA today, almost, and there may be one staff person left, there may be one constituent left there that knows me, but they will say to you, you had an impact on my life. And so that’s what it means to me. It gave me an opportunity. And you don’t get that opportunity in a lot of jobs, to have that kind of impact on that many people around the globe.
There are people that say, oh, you’re Roz Hamby. How are you? I’ve heard of you. That’s a big thing. That’s a very flattering thing. Oh, you did this. That’s the thing that the YMCA has brought to me, and that’s the kind of love that I have, and that’s why I still have the connections that I do in the YMCA, and want to continue to volunteer. Because it’s just—I still enjoy having fun, but the YMCA is the reason that I can have fun.
That’s great. So if we could get all the CEOs and COOs and board chairs on a conference call right now, and you could talk to them, what would they need to be aware of? What would you tell them, going forward, YMCA leaders, this is what you need to be aware of going forward.
Going forward, I think, you need to be aware of, number one, how we have evolved in the Y, and how the world is changing. You need to be aware that it’s no longer male/female and the diversity that’s out there. You need to somehow learn how to embrace all of that. You need to embrace these Gen Xs and millennial’s and what they’re doing, and be willing to make the change.
Be willing to step out of that old mode that you worked in for the last 40 years, which may have been successful for you. But understand that as we move toward the next century, there’s going to be some things that’s going to be off the charts that you may have to deal with. How are you going to do that?
How are you going to—what expectations are you going to have from people that’s going to allow them to feel the way about you that you want to be remembered in the YMCA. And that’s—it’s all about the dash in your life. So what is it that you want, and you got to move toward that. Because I think we still have some CEOs that are stuck in the past.
Some CEOs that are not willing to change. Some CEOs that are not willing to embrace whatever there is in the world today that we need to embrace, whether it’s around race, or gender, sex, whatever it is. We need to be able to embrace that.
Because some people will say to you, well, I’m okay with that. But then privately, when you go back and the way you deal with your staff and your YMCAs, it does not reflect that feeling. So you need to reflect the feelings of the world today, and the community.
That’s great. Is there anything that I did not ask you that you would like to share?
Oh, let’s see. I think I’ve talked quite a bit. I would like to share a little bit about my experiences at Y-USA. And I tell you, it was one of the most, again, one of the most exciting parts of my career.
And ending my career there, I would like to give a kudos to Neil Nicoll, who just would not give up on me, to bring me to Y-USA, and some of the work that I see happening there, that’s going to reflect the generations of kids to come, that is, I hope somehow we can continue that kind of work.
From the early on, the early infants all the way through the teens, and get these kids understanding more about how education is important to us. And I think that’s a national thing that you got to put out there. Our local YMCAs are drenched—yes, they understand the need for education, but they’re really trying, they’re working with all ages.
Y-USA needs to be the one entity that can provide some of those top trends, and provide it to local YMCAs to make sure that we’re helping our young kids understand the value in higher education. And I hope we continue that.
Well, Ms. Rosalind, Roz Hamby, thank you for your time, and making time this morning. Early this morning.
Oh, thank you. It’s my pleasure. Thank you.