...for me, it doesn’t mean a fitness center. It means a place where people can go, and they can, in fact, establish friendships and learn.

Rose Berberian


Rose Berberian, PhD, spent her YMCA career solely in Detroit, Michigan. Her YMCA experience began as a participant in youth activities at the South Chicago YMCA in Chicago, and later in the teen program Tri-Hi-Y at the South Shore YMCA. Dorothy Marshall, the Woman and Girls Director for the South Shore YMCA, saw promise in Ms. Berberian, thus encouraging her to attend George Williams College and consider a career in the YMCA. After graduating from George Williams in 1961, she was recruited by a national YMCA field agent to apply for an associate youth director position at the Detroit YMCA, where she became their first professional female hire.

In Detroit, Ms. Berberian found her calling, and though she received numerous opportunities to work for other YMCAs, she declined, choosing instead to progress through the ranks of the Detroit association. In 1964, she became its first female program director. In 1967, during a period of civil disturbance, she was promoted to the position of citywide high school program director, where she initiated a series of programs and initiatives designed to promote interracial understanding. From the 1970s through to her retirement in 1995, she held a variety of association-wide responsibilities, including program development, personnel and human resources, and training and strategic planning. Her last position with the YMCA was interim president of the Detroit YMCA, the first woman to hold this position.

During the years of 1975 until retirement, Ms. Berberian taught graduate studies at the University of Michigan (Rackham), Springfield College weekend studies program, and Madonna University. Throughout her post career, Ms. Berberian also served as a consultant/trainer at many local and national nonprofit organizations in human resources, organizational development, career development, and kindred fields.

Ms. Berberian was an active contributor to the Movement, authoring several articles for the YMCA publications Forum and Perspective. Many of her contributions focused on advancing the position of women within the YMCA. Reflecting on her career, she shared the saying, “do what you love and you will never work a day in your life” which captured the essence of her career.

Community and Board Service

In addition to her YMCA career, Ms. Berberian has remained active in communities by serving the Henry Ford Hospital as a Board member, HAVEN as a Board member and the past chair of the Program Committee, the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian Charter School as a Board chair, the Sacred Heart Center as a Board member, Inforun as a member, the International Women’s Forum as a member, and the St. John Armenian Church Apostolic Society as a member.


Ms. Berberian received a bachelor of science degree from George Williams College (1961), a MEd from Wayne State University (1964), and a PhD from the University of Michigan (1977). Her dissertation was entitled “The Bases of Success of Women in a Predominantly Male Organization.”


‟...it takes a lot of hard work & perseverance...”


‟It’s not like school. You don't have to go.”


‟I hope the Y doesn’t lose itself...”


‟Because there’s no longitudinal.”