The La Jolla YMCA’s Sam Wurtzbacher steadfastly supports families, fun, fitness

Sam Wurtzbacher was born in Wheeling, West Virginia and has lived in San Diego since 1982. He received his bachelor’s degree in physical education from University of California at Long Beach and has been the executive director of the La Jolla YMCA since 1990.

Wurtzbacher said he is passionate about the mission of the YMCA, and has spent a total of 36 years with the organization. He believes in giving back to the community and is an active member of La Jolla Rotary Club. He lives in Talmadge with his wife and has two adult daughters. He enjoys camping, hiking, remodeling homes, landscape design and social activities with family and friends.

What brought you to La Jolla?

It was the opportunity to serve as our community YMCA’s executive director. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the development of a great YMCA for nearly 22 years.

What makes this area special to you?

It’s definitely the people. I partner with a passionate, volunteer-led Board of Management whose members really make a significant commitment to help improve our community in order to make a positive impact on the lives of children and their families. Our dedicated members and donors stay involved and committed to their community YMCA, creating an environment of caring and building a brighter future for all.

What might you add, subtract or improve in this area?

I think about the possibility of working closer with city schools in bringing physical education, fitness and nutrition back into all of our elementary schools. Our YMCA is woven into strong partnerships with neighborhood schools with a goal of mobilizing resources to reestablish these needed activities to all children.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by working alongside my current and past board chairs, who are committed to our Y and creating a healthy and caring environment, while working together as a team to achieve our common goals.

If you hosted a dinner party for eight, who (living or deceased) would you invite?

I would invite John Lennon because I love the Beatles, Michelangelo because he is truly God’s own artist, Beethoven for the love of classical music, Pope John Paul II to bless our meal, Anne Frank because of her optimistic spirit, Jane Goodall to study our behavior, Rosa Parks to show us the great power of ordinary people, and Mother Teresa to show us the power of devotion and compassion.

What are your five favorite movies of all time?

“The Champ,” which gets me crying every time; “Sergeant York,” which portrays a hero against fighting; “The Ten Commandments,” which is just a great story; “The Green Mile,” which speaks of a compassionate heart; and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” for its fun action.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I am very persistent and patient, which go hand-in-hand with the overall development of our La Jolla YMCA. Our strong core of committed volunteers and staff has been steady in how we managed and progressed our Y over the years. We have been very persistent in providing sound programs and activities for people to have fun, learn, and play in a safe and enjoyable environment.

What do you do for fun?

I enjoy spending weekends with my wife and family. I love taking hikes on San Diego trails, seeing concerts in the park, and relaxing on hot, summer days at the beach. I also get satisfaction from remodeling my home.

Describe your greatest accomplishment.

I’m proud that, year in and year out, I’ve been able to be a part of the YMCA and its positive effects on thousands of La Jolla families, including my own.

What’s your philosophy on life?

I believe that a spirit of cooperation accomplishes more than a spirit of competition.