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Hove, Arthur (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 64, Number 8 (May 1963)

The University YMCA celebrates its centennial,   pp. 19-[20]


Page 19


The
University
YMCA
Celebrates
0
its
Centennial
A PRIL 1, 1963, was a big day for
the University YMCA, as some
275 student and alumni: leaders
gathered for a centennial program
reviewing the organization's past 100
years of service to the campus.
  The YMCA idea came to this
country from  across the Atlantic,
where the movement was born in
London in the 1840s. Moving spirit
in its appearance on the Wisconsin
campus was the famed naturalist
John Muir.
  Muir walked from his Marquette
County farm home to enroll in the
University in 1861, at about the
same time young soldiers were
streaming into Camp Randall to
await Civil War duty. According to
the narration of the anniversary pro-
The old YMCA, located next to the Memorial Union until it was razed in 1954,
served the
campus for more than 50 years.
gram, "Muir was deeply touched by
what he saw at Camp Randall." He
felt the soldiers were being exploited
by undesirables, and tried to be a
father or brother to as many as he
could.
   The earliest record of the campus
 YMCA is found in a letter written
 June 1, 1863, by Muir to his sister.
 The postscript read, "I had almost
 forgotten, Sarah, to tell you that I
 was elected judge in one of the de-
 bating clubs a short time ago, also
 president of the Young Men's Chris-
 tian Association. You say that you
 expect something great by and by!
 Am I not great now?"
   Although a formal campus charter
 was not granted by the international
 committee until 1871, several other
 lines of evidence in University his-
 tory indicate that the Muir letter
 referred to a university organization,
 so 1963 has been considered the cen-
 tennial year.
   Colorful times were ahead of the
 "Y" in the 1860s. There was the
 struggle to remain financially sol-
 vent, and the persistent zeal of the
 -leaders--and--members-to -serve uni-
 versity students. Guests at the an-
 niversary dinner got the feel of the
 early times, as songs by the Zor
 Shrine Chanters, slides, and narra-
 tion recalled the periods of the or-
 ganization's growth.
 One of the most colorful of the
 early problems-the feud between
 religious liberals and fundamenta-
 lists-and the struggle between reli-
 gion and high living at the turn of
 the century, was depicted as the
 Chanters sang "Softly and Tenderly
 Jesus is Calling" followed immedi-
 ately by "There's a Tavern in the
 Town."
 The YMCA has had three differ-
 ent homes since it began on the cam-
 pus, the first of them in an old house
 on North Lake Street. The next
 move took the "Y" to a four story
limestone building next to the red
May, 1963
19


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