Doug Wallace is a former Executive Director of the University YMCA and a UY All-Star. His contributions to the University YMCA include the launch of many popular programs, including Project Motivation, but has also helped to lead the University YMCA as it continues to evolve and serve the University of Minnesota community.

Doug Wallace is the namesake of the Doug Wallace Creativity Award.


Since its beginning the U-Y has pioneered to meet emerging student needs. Starting in 1887, as part of the student Christian movement, the U-Y focused on religious development via bible study groups and conferences. By 1901 it was also developing student services, such as a welcome week program, a student employment bureau, student loans and scholarship fund. Service projects with settlement houses were added. During WWI it mobilized resources for servicemen, including visiting hospitalized soldiers.

Returning veterans altered the University culture of the 1920s. U-Y staff responded by developing guidance and counseling programs. These were gradually institutionalized later by the University under the leadership of Dean E.G.Williamson, shaped from his experience with the student YMCA.

By the 1950s many of the U-Y programs had been taken over by the University itself, the last of which occurred in 1956 when the U-Y transferred Freshmen Camps to the office of the Dean or Students.

I arrived in the fall of 1963. Working with students we eventually initiated several new U-Y programs began including Project Motivation (student mentors for inner city children), Project Friendship (mentors for incarcerated youth), and a signature series of Conferences on Values in Higher Education for top University student leaders and faculty.

By 1970 we launched several more programs including a corporate responsibility internship (Metro Internship), an environmental backpack program, 20/70 Vision (one-to-one friendships with senior citizens) and later program staff and students created “8 Weeks to Live, 8 Weeks to Die”, a simulation of terminal illness that challenged students and faculty identify what they wanted to live for.

During social and political currents of the 1970s, over 80 faculty were engaged with U-Y programs, especially assisting Metro Internship students in independent study projects related to corporate responsibility research. Faculty leaders, such as Professor George Shapiro, adapted methods for their courses as a result of their experience with the U-Y.

My best memories from the U-Y:

The excitement when we created programs that challenged students to develop ethical commitments.

Magical moments when students discovered and claimed their gifts;

Friendships that have lasted over the years;

Watching students grow and develop their confidence in leading groups;

Being part of a collaborative creative community;

Working with a staff that was highly talented, irreverent and committed; and,

A deep feeling that this was work that I was called to do.


The genius and mission of the University YMCA is its ability to:

• create programs that summon students to take leadership on ethical and social issues,
• challenge students to be self-reflective about the core of what motivates their actions, and to
• develop life-long commitments for the common good.

Challenges for the years ahead

If the U-Y ever drifts away from this distinctive mission its vitality would ebb and the organization would simply become just another student activity. It must continue to attract young, gifted, creative and dedicated staff. It must continue to draw upon the talents and support of its alumni. Finally, its parent organization (The Metro YMCA) must champion and financially undergird the U-Y’s unique work with students, faculty and the wider community.