Jack Fucci Built a Career Helping Others by Being Creative
Jack Fucci: I measure success by the achievements of those around me.
A lifelong interest in sports fostered Jack Fucci’s career in the fitness industry that eventually took him to the helm of the West Suburban YMCA, a Newton nonprofit that focuses on improving health and well-being.
This is his story:
From a young age, I have always enjoyed helping others. I grew up in Watertown, played team sports, worked part-time jobs, and always tried to be that reliable, indispensable friend. As the youngest of six in a large Italian American family, my parents led by example. My mother was out in the community and shuttling all of us to activities while my dad worked what seemed to be 24/7.
I witnessed their loyalty, unselfishness and commitment to friends, family, and community daily. As my siblings, one by one, left for college or career, I formed a special bond with my father, a smart, dedicated family man. He could fix anything, and I was always helping him tinker around the house.
I played football through college, where I earned a degree in exercise physiology and physical education at Southern Connecticut State University. As football captain I put into practice what I learned at home: hard work, commitment, loyalty and making other people better.
Out of college I put my degree to work at Fitcorp, a corporate wellness company in Boston. While working at the Federal Street facility, I knew a member in a wheelchair who loved to work out with a boxing speed bag mounted up on the wall, but he couldn’t reach it on his own. His friends would place wooden pallets beneath the bag and then lift his chair up on those pallets so he could hit away.
Observing that inequity and lack of independence really frustrated me. There had to be a solution. At home, with my dad, I designed and built a working prototype of a freestanding, height-adjustable speed bag. It worked great for the member in the wheelchair and many others. I secured a patent for the design and eventually turned it into a viable fitness equipment business, selling the product all over the country and through catalogs in the early 1990s.
This released my entrepreneurial spirit. The experience essentially served as my own private graduate school. After about five years, my career path curved to another fitness-oriented technology company founded by two MIT graduates, who hired me as a business development manager. That’s where I crossed paths with the YMCA.
The Y was our biggest client, and I learned a lot about their mission. Eventually, that relationship led to a job offer at the YMCA of Greater Boston in 2002. Sandy Walker, the vice president of operations and John Ferrell, then its CEO, gave me the opportunity to parlay my fitness and business experience and “parachute into the Y” as the executive director of a new city branch location.
Each of my passions—helping people, leading a team, growing an inclusive organization, being creative, developing relationships—merged at the Y. I knew that I’d found my space. I led the Oak Square Y for a decade and the Waltham Y for two years. In 2014, I became president and CEO of the West Suburban YMCA in Newton. I am forever thankful to Sandy Butzel, the board chair at the time, and her leadership team for entrusting me to lead a great, 140-year-old institution.
My biggest learning curve in working for a nonprofit, compared with a for-profit enterprise, was understanding the dynamics of a governance board. I came to realize just how much of an asset the board can be to executive leadership. They’re all volunteers with varied skill sets and deep experience that you can turn to, perhaps more often than with a corporate board, and with whom you build a relationship based on trust.
My focus in the last few years has been leading the Y through the challenges of the pandemic. Our north star has been keeping the Y staff accessible to members. In the end, we are in the relationship business, helping people of all ages lead healthier lives. We took our programming virtual, delivered meals, and ran camp and a virtual learning academy for parents that had to physically go into work.
The year prior to COVID-19 was our most successful year. We had to shelve many plans but the silver lining is we were able to keep all of our full-time staff on board. That is helping propel our mission as we work to open a second Newton Y location and reinvest in our summer camp infrastructure.
At the end of the day, I measure success by the achievements of those around me. I am proud that many individuals I have managed have gone on to become executive directors of other YMCA branches. I try to help others identify their strongest skills and passions to achieve their personal and professional goals, which enables them to help even more people in their respective communities.