Born to missionary parents in Hawaii, Luther Gulick traveled the world by the time he was a teenager. He attended both Oberlin College and Sargent Normal School of Physical Training for short periods of time, leaving to become the Gymnasium Supervisor at the Jackson (MI) YMCA. He enrolled at New York University and received his M.D. in 1889 at the age of 24.
For the next thirteen years he served concurrently as the International Committee Secretary for Physical Work and Director of Physical Education programs at the YMCA Training School (Springfield College). Gulick also promoted health and physical education in the public education system in New York City. Described by C. Howard Hopkins as “the most unique genius to touch the first half century of the American YMCA,” Gulick was responsible for introducing new ideas and practices that forever changed physical education, sport and health instruction.
He invented the Spirit-Mind-Body Triangle to symbolize the concept of wellness while at Springfield College. He challenged James Naismith to develop basketball and then helped disseminate the game to the world through the YMCA. He helped to organize the Boy Scouts in the U.S. and created Campfire Girls along with his wife, Charlotte. He wrote extensively, publishing in areas as diverse as physical measurements, dance, and sex education for soldiers.