Skip to Main Content

College History: Alumni and International Work


India has a long history of YMCA organizations. It was the first nation to establish a YMCA outside of Europe and North America and addressed unique issues of religion and caste. This first YMCA was established in Bombay in 1875. In 1908 Dr. J. Henry Gray (Springfield College class of 1904) was assigned to the Indian YMCA’s Physical Education Programme. Gray was India’s first trained Association physical director to come out of the West. "Within a few years, the government of India was commending Dr. Gray’s methods as worthy of being standardized throughout the empire." 

Dr. Gray helped with the program instruction of government drill masters throughout India. In 1913 the National Council of Indian YMCAs established the Department of Physical Education at Madras, and Gray became the National Physical Director for the whole of India and advisor to the government. At the outbreak of World War I, leaders were organizing the first-ever national athletic meet for Indians, which had to be postponed because of the war. 

Because the YMCA career called for professionalism, in 1907, the Indian YMCA leaders planned to start a training school for professional secretaries. The first training course commenced in January 1911 at Calcutta. In 1912 the training department was shifted to Bangalore, where it was attached to the Union Theological College and continued to function until 1993 when it was moved to the Bangalore YMCA. In 1997 the training department was moved to the National Council's own building at Pune. 

In 1920 the National Council of Indian YMCAs established the first College of Physical Education in Madras (now Chennai) with Harry Crowe Buck (Springfield College class of 1910 and 1917). Buck arrived in India in 1919 and had been director of physical education in the Madras Association. His Madras school was declared to be the “first real constructive policy of training Indian physical directors.” Courses in the first year included methods of physical education, anatomy, physiology, hygiene, tropical hygiene and sanitation, sex hygiene, play and playgrounds, first aid, Bible study, YMCA history and administration, physical practice, Boy Scouts, and English composition. Buck’s wife, Marie, also contributed to Indian women’s physical education by publishing A Programme of Physical Education for Girls’ Schools in India, a volume on the benefits and techniques of physical activity for girls ages seven to seventeen. 

In 1938 Buck took a leave of absence from the National YMCA College of Physical Education for one year to return to the United States with his wife. In his stead, another distinguished alumnus, Dr. Elmer Berry (Springfield College class of 1902), accepted an invitation to serve a year as principal of Buck’s school. Dr. Berry was very familiar with running a school as he was the principal of the short-lived Geneva, Switzerland, YMCA College. 

The Madras school is still active and thriving as the YMCA College of Physical Education in Saidapet, a district of Chennai. The College had finally settled on this 63-acre property in 1932 after two previous locations at YMCA Esplanade and the YMCA in Royapettah (districts to the north). Buck served as principal until his death in 1943, and he was buried on the Saidpet campus. 

By the end of the 1960s, the department had grown to the point where there were fourteen physical directors. Dr. J. P. Thomas, another post-graduate of Springfield College, also greatly influenced the college as principal after Buck’s death. Thomas was a member of the All India Council of Sports, and he was at the helm when the College celebrated its golden jubilee in 1970. 

Buck is still deeply revered by the College community. A bust commemorates his burial place, and several College buildings are dedicated to him. The College grew from five students in its first year to more than 450 students in the twenty-first century with bachelors, masters, and doctoral programs. 

Geneva School (open 1927-1934)

The International YMCA School in Geneva sometimes called the "European branch of Springfield College," was envisioned and established by Laurence Locke Doggett (Springfield College President, 1896-1936). After World War I, trained and talented European men were depleted from administering YMCAs in Europe. There were long discussions during the mid-1920s about creating a European school to foster European physical directors. Its curriculum was expanded to include training for general secretaries (i.e., YMCA executives). The Geneva school was organized in conjunction with the University of Geneva and the World’s Committee of YMCAs. Doggett greatly helped get the school off the ground by spending six months in 1926 helping the organization and committing funding from Springfield College for two years. 

The school was originally scheduled to open in 1926, but its opening was delayed for one year while students were given scholarships to attend Springfield College for a year and to return in the fall of 1927. In Geneva, students were originally housed in quarters at the La Grande Boissiere, but the property was bought up by The International School of Geneva for the education of primary and secondary international students. 

Dr. Elmer Berry (Springfield College class of 1902) was the first and only director of the Geneva school. After earning a Harvard doctorate in education, served as a faculty member at Springfield College for a number of years. Berry became the Director and also Dean of Physical Education courses. He administered courses in anthropometry, physiology of exercise, physical education methods, physical education theory, practice, and teaching. Mrs. Priscilla Berry taught English. Throughout the life of the school, Berry maintained close contact with Doggett, celebrating its successes, commiserating about funding, and requesting advice.

The Geneva school operated in close cooperation with the University of Geneva and particularly the Rousseau Institute, which was founded in 1912 to scientifically explore education theory. With the Rousseau Institute, the Geneva school could include courses in psychology and pedagogy. By 1933 sixty-five men from twenty countries had attended the school. 

Blending the student body—which included young men from western Europe, eastern Europe, Greece, Turkey, and northern Africa—had some small challenges, such as finding a common language for classes and recreation. However, the students were able to bond through their physical education activities, including basketball, skiing, and gymnastic performances. In 1933, eight members of the school traveled to Algiers for the first International YMCA camp in northern Africa, and other trips included Turin and Rome in Italy and Jerusalem and Israel.

The students published a monthly magazine entitledJuventus between 1930 and 1933. Juventus means "youth." It was created as a place for self-expression and a record for future students. The magazine contains articles written by the students on recent social and athletic events as well as a mix of famous quotes and poems. Its first issue featured the following statement by Samuel Ullman (later popularized by General Douglas MacArthur) on page one.

"Youth is not a time of life – it is a state of mind… It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions. It is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite of adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals." 

In a letter to Dr. Doggett, Berry mentions that he attended the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics in addition to the YMCA World Directors’ Conference during the summer and that "…it was a great pleasure to meet so many old Springfield men and realize the wonderful leadership which they are having throughout the world. The presentation of the Olympic cup this year to the YMCA is a great tribute to our world-wide movement and in no small part to the work of our Springfield men." 

The Geneva school closed in 1934 due to financial problems. Finances were a challenge every year despite annual requests for funds. The international financial depression of the early 1930s did not help matters and limited the attendance of some pupils due to personal finances. When Springfield College could no longer support the Geneva school, the board of directors voted to suspend operation for one year, and the school never reopened. 

South America and Uruguay

South America had an early tradition of both North American and native-born Springfield College-educated leaders. Springfield College men were secretaries and physical directors in Brazil and Argentina. Myron Clark (not of Springfield) was a secretary in Brazil and recognized that indigenous leaders should be developed. He helped Alvaro Almeida secure studies at Springfield College and then enabled him to return in 1903 to become secretary of the Sao Paulo Association. 

The Training Institute of the Latin American (or variously South American) Confederation of Christian Youth Association (Instituto Tecnico de la Confederacion Latinoamericana (or Sudamericana) de la Asociacion Cristiana de Jovenes) located in Montevideo, Uruguay had a strong tradition of Springfield College graduates as administrators and faculty members. 

Though a small country, Uruguay had the justified reputation of being very progressive. Its capital, Montevideo, was one of the most important cities in South America. It was there, as we have seen, that in 1909… a YMCA was organized. Across the years, it proved to be a strong Association. By a 'lightning campaign,' it raised $100,000 to match $100,000 from the United States and Canada and made possible a building which was dedicated in 1927. It thus helped causes in other places in South America…As the location of the Continental Committee and the Training Institute (Instituto Tecnico) to which men came from other South American Associations; it exerted an influence on the Movement in the entire continent. In the 1950s, the Montevideo Association had 5,000 members and 12 secretaries. 

Professor Juan Carlos Ceriani (Springfield College class of 1936) at the Instituto Tecnico in Montevideo organized and described the first rules for the game of indoor soccer in the late 1930s. Indoor Soccer continued to spread in popularity through other Latin American YMCAs. Ceriani went on to become the General Secretary of the South American federation of the YMCA in 1965. Another Springfield alumnus, Orestes Volpe (Springfield College class of 1930), was the physical director of the Instituto Tecnico in Montevideo. Other Springfield College alumni included James Summers (Springfield College class of 1911) and Julio J. Rodgriguez (Springfield College class of 1920) as National Director of Physical Education in Uruguay. 

The Instituto Tecnico is now called the Instituto Universitario Asociación Cristiana de Jóvenes (Instituto Universitario ACJ -- Graduate School of YMCA) in Montevideo, Uruguay and remains current and active. 


There has always been a strong promotion of the Olympic Games by the YMCA because of its emphasis on physical education as an aspect of character building. While the earliest modern Olympic Games were composed of athletes from North American and European countries, YMCA World Service secretaries quickly strove to organize multi-national games across under-represented countries. With the growth of Associations in Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay during the 1910s, YMCA secretaries trained at Springfield College and local schools organized the first Latin American Games in Rio de Janeiro in 1922. The Far Eastern Games had been organized in 1913 with Japan, China, and the Philippines. 

Springfield alumnus Dr. J. Henry Gray had helped organize the Indian National Games and also promoted its recognition by the International Olympic Committee to be officially included as an Area Game along with Latin America and Asia. Through Gray, the International Committee of the Olympic Games invited India to participate in the Olympics in 1920. Indian YMCAs recruited men from across the country and held trials for the final selection of the 1924 team. Harry Buck of the Madras school became the head trainer for the selected team and took the Indian athletes to the Olympics in Paris, training every day. In 1920 the International Olympic Committee awarded the Olympic Cup to Springfield College, the only college or university ever to receive the Cup. 



Kenneth Scott Latourette. World Service: History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men's Christian Association of the United States and Canada. New York: Association Press, 1957. 

Mrs. H.C. Buck. A Programme of Physical Education for Girls' Schools in India. London: Oxford University, 1938. 

"Dr. Berry Takes Position in India." Springfield Union. 14 October 1937. 

S. Thyagaranjan. "Pioneer of Physical Education." The Hindu. 17 April 2003. 

Laurence Locke Doggett. Man and a School: Pioneering in Higher Education at Springfield College. New York: Association Press, 1943. 

Elmer Berry correspondence to Laurence Doggett, 26 September 1928. Geneva School files, Office of the President (Doggett) records. Springfield College Archives and Special Collections. 

Based on research conducted by Kirstin Kay, spring 2008