Local YMCA to Pay Tribute to Former CEO Croxen, Wife

Photo courtesy Dennis Croxen Dennis and Peggy Croxen will be honored at the invitation-only George Williams Society Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 7, in La Cañada Flintridge.
Photo courtesy Dennis Croxen
Dennis and Peggy Croxen will be honored at the invitation-only George Williams Society Dinner on Wednesday, Nov. 7, in La Cañada Flintridge.

Dennis and Peggy Croxen have left quite an imprint on the YMCA of the Foothills.
Dennis Croxen, who once was the institution’s chief executive, advocated that a successful YMCA leads by its mission, said current CEO and President Tyler Wright.
“He has been the greatest inspiration and an impactful individual on my career,” Wright said in a phone interview. “He’s been a mentor and a friend throughout my entire career and was someone I could call up if I didn’t have an answer to a question.”
Croxen’s wife, Peggy, was a volunteer who later served on the board and was the first recipient of the Pat Aho Award for her service and dedication, Wright said.
“She was everywhere,” Wright said. “She didn’t do it because she was married to the CEO. She just loved the Y and wanted to give back.”
The couple, who have been married for 39 years and now reside in Denver, will be honored on Wednesday, Nov. 7, at the invitation-only George Williams Society Dinner to be held at La Cañada Flintridge Country Club.
“This is truly a culmination of our 60th anniversary celebration,” Wright said. The current YMCA of the Foothills got its start in 1958 as the Crescenta Cañada Family YMCA with several hundred participants from the La Cañada and La Crescenta areas, according to the anniversary website. The dinner is named for YMCA founder George Williams, Wright said.
In 1844, Williams founded the YMCA in London. According to the YMCA’s website, he joined 11 friends to organize the first Young Men’s Christian Association for men to study the Bible and pray to escape the hazards of street life.
A social is scheduled for 6 p.m., with a presentation and dinner at 6:30 p.m.
The event is of a celebration of people who have given a lifetime of talent to the YMCA, Wright said. Dennis Croxen, in particular, served as general director and then CEO for 17 years.
“He is the longest sitting CEO for our Y,” Wright said. “More importantly, he was my boss from ’89-’93. You can quote me on that. I’m still trying to kiss up to him,” Wright said with a laugh.
The mission of the YMCA, according to its website, is to “organize, develop, finance, and conduct programs for an association of persons of all ages that will, by putting Christian principles into practice, enrich the quality of their lives spiritually, mentally, physically and socially.”
One of the first jobs Croxen said he had out of college was counselor and director of a camp for the Wilshire and Hollywood YMCAs.
“I hadn’t thought about a YMCA career until I really started college,” he said. “And I really loved working in the YMCA camps and I loved working with youngsters in summer camp.”
Croxen started working for the YMCA in Long Beach in 1971 after he earned a degree in recreation with outdoor education from Cal State Northridge. He worked at the Long Beach YMCA and was a program director until 1976, when he became a branch executive for the Huntington Beach YMCA until 1984. Then he transferred to LCF.
“Before the name change, it was known as the La Crescenta/La Cañada Y,” Croxen said. While there, he helped start the campaign to build the Verdugo Hills branch with a $1.8 million drive, and the facility was opened in 1989.
Croxen also helped expand the LCF facility with another capital campaign for which $3.6 million was raised, and the improved facility was reopened in 1996.
He lived in La Crescenta with Peggy, who taught art at Crestview Preparatory School in LCF, and their two children.
“She helped as a lot of spouses do in volunteering and helping with dinners, and that sort of thing,” said her husband. “She volunteered the whole time I was there. It was part and parcel of my success.”
Croxen said his time at the YMCA of the Foothills was the longest job in his career. He started in 1984 and left in May 2001 to join the national staff of the YMCA in Chicago.
He said he moved to Denver to open an office and worked with YMCAs in the western part of the country — including Chicago — and later retired in 2008.
Croxen said he has stayed in touch with a lot of the volunteers and became good friends with them. When he returns to LCF, he’s looking forward to seeing people he used to see on a more regular basis as well as the changes that have occurred over the years.
“When I was the CEO, they didn’t have the Crescenta Valley Y, it was still the Crescenta Athletic Club,” he said. “At the time, I looked at that as a potential YMCA. We only had the two operations: Verdugo Hills and La Cañada. I haven’t seen the Crescenta Valley facility at all — the remodeled Foothill Athletic Club. There have been changes in both facilities I’ll be seeing.”
The YMCA is much more than a place for fitness as there are youth programs, camping, aquatics, swimming lessons and much more, Croxen said: “Even though people think of the Y as a gym, it’s really much more than that.”
He said he was confident in the future of the YMCA’s mission nationally and, in particular, at the YMCA of the Foothills.
“It’s a great organization that’s well thought of within the YMCA movement,” Croxen said. “People look to the YMCA of the Foothills as one of the best Y’s in the country.”
Wright said he would like to hold the George Williams dinner once every five years.
“It’s like a class reunion,” Wright said. “That’s the premise. We don’t want to do it every year but have some routine to it.”

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