Equipment manager thrives on busy athletics schedule

Hossein Hosseinzadeh knows very well how seriously Emory community members take their exercise regimens.

When Hosseinzadeh, equipment manager for the Woodruff P.E. Center, arrives to open the building on weekday mornings at 6:15 or so, 20 to 30 people are already there waiting to be let in. The building officially opens at 6:30 a.m.

When hundreds of faculty, staff and students each day need towels, racquetball and tennis rackets and other recreational equipment, Hossein-zadeh makes sure there is enough of everything to go around.

When any of the P.E. Center's 100 exercise machines and 40 pieces of weight equipment malfunctions, Hossein-zadeh immediately goes into action, sizing up the problem and finding a way to fix it. "I have a little background in equipment repair from Georgia State," said Hosseinzadeh, referring to his time as a graduate student and staff member at that university. "But I've mostly just learned on the job. It's a great feeling when you're able to fix one of the machines, and it gets easier the more you do it."

Handling a hectic pace

The work that Hosseinzadeh and his 18 to 20 work-study students do is no small task, considering that Emory community members make about 50,000 visits per month to the P.E. Center. Two retired senior citizens also work in the equipment room part time.

In addition to maintaining and repairing exercise and weight equipment, Hossein-zadeh and his staff are responsible for keeping records of all locker rentals for faculty, staff and students; renting and laundering hundreds of towels per day; and maintaining and storing recreational equipment for Emory's 17 varsity athletic teams as well as all other P.E. Center users.

About 2,000 students per day use P.E. Center lockers and/or equipment for physical education classes, and the equipment room staff maintains all locker and equipment records related to those activities.

"There are days when we have more than 1,000 people coming to the equipment room desk," said Hosseinzadeh. "Our schedule is always a little beyond control. We're always rushing around."

J.C. Langford, a retired insurance claims manager who works the morning shift in the equipment room, said that Hosseinzadeh remains unflappable in the face of an eternally hectic schedule. "Hossein takes everything in stride," Langford said. "He has a lot of patience and always gives extra effort to get equipment to the coaches on time. Sometimes we have days when the men's and women's teams are both playing, and we have to get all of their equipment out by noon. It's a photo finish sometimes, but we always get it done."

Hosseinzadeh's renowned patience and diplomacy also come into play when the equipment room receives requests that they cannot fulfill, such as whether the P.E. Center rents skis and bicycles. Hosseinzadeh and his staff also help out occasionally with special events in the P.E. Center, setting up equipment and making sure it's in good working order.

A lifetime of athletic endeavor

A native of Iran, Hosseinzadeh has been heavily involved in the recreation field since adolescence, when he became an avid camper and skier. He and his wife Elizabeth, an architect whom he met at Georgia State, have en-joyed taking camping and skiing trips together for years. They left for a 10-day ski trip in Vail, Colo., on Jan. 6.

Hosseinzadeh earned a bachelor's degree in physical education in Iran and for one year taught physical education at a small school that trained physical therapists. Twenty-one years ago, he moved to the United States to pursue a master's degree at Georgia State University. In 1977, he completed a Master of Education degree with an emphasis in recreation.

During the late '70s and '80s, Hosseinzadeh held recreation positions at Georgia State and at the DeKalb County Department of Parks and Recreation, where he oversaw golf courses, tennis centers and other outdoor recreational facilities. For several years, he had been interested in working at Emory. When the position of equipment manager opened in 1991, he seized the opportunity.

"I had been thinking about the possibility of working at Emory for 10 years," Hosseinzadeh said. "It was at the top of my list for Atlanta [colleges and universities]. I don't think there is any school this size with a nicer [physical education] facility. The swimming pool is one of the best in the city."

"Being in a university atmosphere with a beautiful facility" is the biggest drawing card for Hossein-zadeh at Emory. "I meet a lot of people each day, people who are energetic and have a positive attitude. That's what I enjoy the most about being here."

--Dan Treadaway