The collection is largely formed by correspondence, documents of the Caltech Y's activities beginning in the 1920s and by
photos, audios and videos.
The Caltech Y was founded on the Caltech campus (then the Throop College of Technology) in 1916 as a branch of the national
YMCA. From the start, the students chose to de-emphasize the religious aspect of the Y in favor of social services. Originally,
Bible classes were held weekly, and religious leaders have been routinely invited to the campus to speak. But the focus of
the organization over time has been to provide social programs for the campus and for community outreach.
In 1924 an advisory board and a director, Charles Schweiso, Jr., were appointed. Schweiso provided individual counseling
to students. Services for freshmen were instituted, notably the little t (a handbook for freshmen) and Freshman Camp. Students
participated in the annual regional YMCA conference at Asilomar, in Pacific Grove, California.
The post-World War II era brought change to the campus. Lee A. DuBridge succeeded Robert A. Millikan as Caltech’s new president,
and Wesley Hershey was hired as the Y’s executive secretary (director) in 1946. Under Hershey’s leadership, the Y expanded
its programs, bolstered by a major bequest from Millikan’s estate (Millikan died in 1953). The Friends of the Y was established
in 1961 to provide continuing financial and programmatic support.
The 1960s brought political and social tumult to the nation and to Caltech. The Y served as a focus for discussion and action
on racial issues and the Vietnam War. The well-regarded Leaders of America program brought prominent visitors to campus to
speak formally and informally to students and other members of the community.
In 1970, undergraduate women were admitted to Caltech. New social programs were instituted, some based around the idea of
encounter groups. The issue of drugs on campus was widely discussed. Also during the 1970s, the Y chose to separate from
the national YMCA—its members and constituencies were no longer exclusively male or even Christian.
Wesley Hershey retired in 1974. He was succeeded by Walter Meader (1974-1982), Huston Horn (1982-1987), followed by Ken McGuire
and Paul Gibson. The Y’s first woman director, Lucy Guernsey, began her tenure in 1989. She was succeeded by Sue Borrego
in 1992, who was followed by Athena Castro, beginning in 2000.