Robert Wanek announces departure after 40 years of service

VALPARAISO, IN | 03.15.2021 – Julia Hess, Chief Volunteer Officer of the Valparaiso Family YMCA, has announced the upcoming retirement of Robert Wanek, Chief Executive Officer, at the end of 2021. Wanek has served in his role since 2000 and his retirement completes a forty-year career of service with the YMCA Movement.

Beginning in 1981, Wanek started his YMCA career as the Health and Physical Director at North Suburban Y in Northbrook, IL. He then went on to serve the St. Joseph, MO Y as Physical Director through 1984, followed by 10 years with the Y of Greater St Louis, eventually promoted to District Executive overseeing Kirkwood, Webster Groves and Washington University branches along with all association training and conferences.  Wanek returned to North Suburban Y in 1996 as the CEO, and also served as interim executive serving multiple branches with the Y of Metropolitan Chicago.

Wanek began his tenure with the Valparaiso Family YMCA as CEO in 2000. While serving as CEO, Wanek has been instrumental in leading 3 strategic plan efforts, the first of which led to a $10.5 million capital campaign in 2006 to construct a new building and outdoor pavilion that opened in 2010.  Over the past 20 years, Valparaiso Family YMCA membership has grown from 5,000 to 17,100 prior to the pandemic.  Wanek also has served in multiple community leadership roles with Rotary, Valpo Chamber, Valpo NEXT, Our Greater Good, Promise Indiana, and community advisory roles with NIPSCO and United Healthcare.  He currently serves as the Indiana Y Alliance board chair representing 46 Ys throughout Indiana.

In 2014, Wanek launched a 6-year ongoing partnership with St. Mary Medical Center, supporting a building addition for physical therapy, personal training and a full-time nurse advocate.  In addition, his expanded fundraising efforts have grown the Y Foundation to $1.8 million with over 100 members.

In announcing his retirement, Wanek expressed his gratitude for a career engaged in the service of others. Wanek said “Lisa and I sensed Valpo was a very special place with genuinely caring, kind, ambitious people.”  He plans to stay on in his current role until the board selects a replacement and to act as mentor to the new CEO, as needed.

Hess will lead a committee of Y Board volunteers in a national search for a new CEO.  "The Valpo Y is an integral part of our community,” Hess said.  “Our strong leadership, staff and board continue to work hard through the COVID-19 pandemic challenges we’ve experienced over the last year.  As we say goodbye to Bob, we look forward to selecting a new leader with the vision to continue our community mission and to grow the Valparaiso Family YMCA.”


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The Y is one of the nation’s leading nonprofits strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Across the U.S., 2,700 Ys engage 22 million men, women and children – regardless of age, income or background – to nurture the potential of children and teens, improve the nation’s health and well-being, and provide opportunities to give back and support neighbors. Anchored in more than 10,000 communities, the Y has the long-standing relationships and physical presence not just to promise, but to deliver, lasting personal and social change.

Friday April 9, 2021 2:00pm to Sunday May 9, 2021 2:00pm