YMCA of Greater Charlotte President and CEO Stanley Law is retiring from his duties, effective June 2.
Law, who has more than 30 years of experience with the organization, became its first Black president in January 2022.
He announced his retirement in early May and says the decision has been “years in the making.”
“I would say it’s 100% stress-related [because] stress causes a lot of challenges, both to your physical and emotional health,” Law told QCity Metro when asked what prompted the retirement.
“I’ve made a decision to focus on my health so that I have a future,” he said.
Law, now 61, told QCity Metro that within the past four months, he has had three nights of full rest.
Law said his decision was also based on the challenge of rebuilding the organization after it lost $40 million in revenue during the pandemic. He said he felt as though he would have to “sacrifice too much of himself” to help the YMCA recover from the loss.
Law said his retirement is permanent, but he plans to continue being engaged in the community.
His involvement with the YMCA began as a child when he was a day camper, but Law’s career with the organization started with his role as an after-school counselor. He has also served as the President and CEO of the YMCAs of Greater Birmingham in Alabama and Northwest in Winston-Salem.
Since assuming his role as president, Law has helped the organization grow its revenue base, launch a new membership model and implement a new program structure.
QCity Metro sat down with Law to discuss his retirement plans and involvement with the YMCA moving forward.
Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
What are some of the stressors you have faced while in this position?
I think it’s just the challenges of rebuilding the YMCA, and the rebuild is slower than we have wanted it to be. We are on the right track and are pleased that we grew $14.5 million dollars in revenue last year and created a surplus budget for 2023, but it will be several years before we get to where we want to be as an organization. And I felt like I would have sacrificed too much of myself in order to lead our YMCA through that journey.
What are some ways that the YMCA still needs to be rebuilt?
We want to make sure that our members’ experiences are exceptional, which requires investing resources into our YMCA, like its facilities but most importantly, human capital. The reality is that recruiting staff is extremely challenging for our organization. We try to be as competitive as possible on salaries, but we are not where we need to be. It’s also about figuring out ways to invest in our community because that’s the future of our organization. We currently have 17 branches which we probably don’t need for the membership bases we have today, so it’s going to be a long and slow process.
Overall, do you think you accomplished what you intended to?
Yes, and beyond that. Not that I’m title-focused, but to lead three different YMCAs as president and CEO, I feel pretty good about my 33-year career. Most importantly, I was active in the communities I served in. I was on boards and committees, and collaborative initiatives. I think once the emotions of this decision dissipate, I’ll be okay.
Is your retirement permanent?
I would say that my retirement is likely permanent from the YMCA and [from] full-time employment. I’ve got some ideas on how I can stay engaged in this community because I love Charlotte, which is the reason I came back. But my first priority over the next year or so is 100% my health. I can literally count three nights that I’ve slept in four months, and I can’t continue on like this at my age.
If your health wasn’t a challenge, do you think you would have stayed?
It’s hard to say because if my health were better, I’d be more resolute to stick it out. My father had a massive heart attack when he was 70, and I hope that’s not in my future. But my health is not where it needs to be, so I’ve got to make that decision for me today.
What has been your greatest challenge and your greatest success in leadership?
What I’ve enjoyed more than anything is leadership development for the staff, which looks like mentorship. Andy Calhoun, a former Charlotte CEO, really encouraged me to be the best that I can be. My greatest challenge has been the workload. I’ve worked 70 to 80-hour workweeks for the past 30 years, and I’m a little envious of people who work a 9 to 5 job. Although I loved what I do, sometimes I just wanted to say ‘Can I have 10 minutes in between meetings?”
What kind of legacy do you hope to leave?
I really hope that people saw me as someone who is compassionate and empathetic, especially those who are underserved. I’ve been blessed beyond belief, and for those who haven’t had adequate opportunities, I’ve made it my mission to serve them. I will continue to serve those communities but in a different way, and what’s going to make this world a better place.