Kathy Kuras named YMCA of Austin President & CEO

Profiles

The YMCA of Austin Metropolitan Board of Directors has named Kathy Kuras as the organization’s new President and Chief Executive Officer. Kuras, who recently served as the Chief Operations Officer and Executive Vice President of Strategy & Innovation at the YMCA of Greater Boston, will become the Austin Y’s sixth leader and the first female in the position. She assumes the leadership role from James Finck, who is retiring on January 31 after more than 12 years in Austin.

Kuras grew up in Dallas, and brings 30 years of Y experience with several large, multi-branch YMCA associations (Dallas, Charlotte and Boston) as well as the YMCA of the USA, the organization’s national resource center, where she pioneered an enterprise-wide leadership development effort and helped revitalize the organization’s culture.

“Kathy has a unique skill as a strategic thinker and doer, with an entrepreneurial approach to expanding the Y’s reach and impact,” said Dorothee Auldridge, Chair of the YMCA of Austin Metropolitan Board of Directors. “She has spent an extensive amount of time in Austin working on projects with Y-USA, and she understands our community and our culture. Although we face unprecedented challenges, I am confident that Kathy is the right choice to lead our volunteers, staff and our community.”

Prior to leading the Austin Y, Kuras led not only operations for the YMCA of Greater Boston but also marketing and communications, human resource operations, and information technology. Pre-pandemic, she held overall responsibility for an $80 million annual budget, operations of 13 branches, 3 overnight camps and over 60 program locations with 2,500 employees, 2,000 volunteers and 40,000 membership units, serving 180,000 people annually in 55 urban and suburban communities.

“Now, more than ever, families and communities need the YMCA,” Kuras said. “As we navigate our way to the next normal following the pandemic and support racial justice and equity, we have an opportunity to emerge stronger and more connected to each other. The Austin Y will play a vital role in supporting families and bridging communities. And, it may be the most important work we do in our lifetime.”

During her time in Boston at the nation’s oldest local YMCA, Kuras implemented Meaningful Membership, an initiative to weave philanthropy into the Y member experience and new family centered iniatives, resulting in growth and improved retention of family members. In the wake of the Covid pandemic, she led creation of YMCA GO (www.ymcago.org), a comprehensive virtual platform for health and fitness.

At the YMCA of Greater Charlotte, she developed and launched an innovation strategy based on human-centered design, which created over a dozen new programs and experiences in the areas of membership, youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.

At the YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas, she co-founded the Know Before You Go (now Safety Around Water) drowning prevention program, collaborating initially with Children’s Medical Center, National Safe Kids Coalition and American Red Cross. This program has evolved into a vibrant community safety program reaching 70,000 youth and families in over 140 communities annually and inspired the national program.

But Kuras, who is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and holds an undergraduate degree in music, says Austin has always held a special place in her heart, and not just because of the legendary music scene. As a side project she has also directed the football documentary film Open Field, which made its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival in 2020.

“I knew when I first visited the YMCA of Austin many years ago that I wanted to be a part of this organization,” Kuras said, “and as a Texan this feels like a homecoming. Austin is vibrant, open-minded, innovative. Building on the foundation that James [Finck] has laid, I am inspired by what can be achieved when a diverse group of caring people come together.”

Since taking the helm of the YMCA of Austin in February, 2008, Finck guided the organization’s rapid growth, doubling the number of members and program participants within a five-year span. In addition, he has initiated many key programs targeting urgent community issues such as obesity, drowning prevention, cancer survivor support and educational enrichment. In 2013, he was named Nonprofit CEO of the Year by the Austin Business Journal. Prior to Austin, Finck served as President & CEO of the Shasta Family YMCA in his hometown of Redding, California, where he grew the membership base from 800 to 13,000. He also served as CEO at the Maui Family YMCA, where he led two facility expansions.

“It has been my great honor to serve an organization that is deeply committed to empowering young people, improving health and well-being and inspiring action in communities,” Finck said. “The Austin Y has a talented and dedicated staff who work to advance our mission each and every day. Kathy is a proven leader who will not only maintain the Y’s long-held values but also take the organization to new heights.”

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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