Alumni Profile

Robert Wilkins ’86

Modest Minister In a culture where many clamor for their 15 minutes in the limelight – whether for good deeds or bad – Robert Wilkins ’86 is a refreshing change. In fact, the executive director of

L.A.’s Stuart M. Ketchum-Downtown YMCA has little interest in media coverage about himself. He never bothered reading a flattering Sunday Profile in the Los Angeles Times’ “Lifestyle” section last year, though he heard it once. “My 10-year-old daughter read it to me and said, ‘Daddy, this is way too long,’ ” Wilkins recalls. “And I agreed with her.” Told that the newspaper article actually devoted a lot of inches to the Ketchum YMCA’s groundbreaking programs, he quickly responds, “I’m glad to hear that. Any stories should be on the work.”
When it comes to his work, Wilkins exudes the zeal of a gospel preacher, which, as an ordained minister, he is. Since he began working for the downtown Y eight years ago, Wilkins has created a network of activities that bring together young and old, rich and poor, and different ethnicities to fulfill the Y’s stated mission of building “a healthy mind, body and spirit.”
For all his fund-raising success – the Ketchum Y raises more money than any other YMCA in the country – Wilkins believes that his vision for downtown Los Angeles has more to do with heart than with funding. He dreams of a city where people have the tools to reach their potential, where even the most disadvantaged want to give to the community more than they want to take from it, “where love has as much currency as money,” he says.

The Wilkins zeal is evident at a Downtown Volleyball Beach Blast organized by the Ketchem Y. With him are professional beach volleyball players (left to right) Sinjin Smith, Randy Stokles, John Hanley and Andy Fishburn.

MONEY IS NOT the issue, Wilkins contends. “Everyone says our society can’t do good things because we need more money, more staff, more buildings,” he told the Times. “They’re wrong. We have plenty of that right now. All we need to do is use it properly.”
The 46-year-old Wilkins partly credits USC for what he’s done with his life. During his first stint on campus in the early ’70s, he volunteered at what was then the USC Community Center. When he returned more than a decade later, he completed his B.A. in religion. “The foundation for both community outreach and the ministry came from experiences at USC,” he says.
His rock-bottom philosophy, however, is attributable to his mother’s religious faith. “That’s all we had growing up [in Louisville, Ky.]. I came back to that reality and said, ‘Yeah, that’s all you really need: faith and prayer and determination.’ That’ll take you a ways.”


Alumni by Year

Alumni News




Alumni Profiles

Roger Swearingen '46

Robert Wilkins '86

Stacy Kravetz M.A. '92

In Memoriam

Herbert Zipper


Photographs: Carey Miller, David Cherkis

Features -- The New Asia - 100 Years Young - Building Los Angeles - Trojan Football Preview
Departments -- Mailbag - On Stage - What's New - In Support - Alumni News - The Last Word