By GABE COHN
At the beginning of the semester, after almost a year and a half of anticipation, UT finally opened up its new Fitness Center. With all of the hype going towards the new fitness center it’s easy to forget who is making it work behind the scenes. It all begins and ends with the director of UT’s campus recreation department, Charles Yezak.
Yezak, who is in his 16th year working in UT’s campus recreation department, has had a lot of success in growing UT’s campus recreation over the years, but, he has had a long and storied past before he began his career at UT.
Yezak grew up in the lone star state on a ranch 20 miles outside of Waco. Even though most of his childhood was spent on a ranch, Yezak was surrounded by sports because his father was a high school football, basketball and track coach, and coached some of his youth soccer and basketball teams. Yezak was also a dedicated eagle scout (highest boy scout rank) throughout his childhood and worked for his father in his feed and supply store while attending Marlin High School.
After Yezak graduated from Marlin High as the valedictorian, he attended Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas to study poultry science and agricultural education. Even though his education focused on agriculture he continued to fuel his love for sport and recreation by working as a little league referee and as an intramural sports coordinator while at the university.
After Yezak graduated, he worked at the State University of New York at Binghamton for four years (1996-2000) in many different departments. He was a resident director, the chief judicial officer for the College-in-the-Woods Living-Learning Community, and a conference coordinator while at the university.
After his stint at Binghamton, Yezak applied for the coordinator of intramural sports and fitness position at UT in June 2000.
“I wanted to pursue a lifelong dream of mine to offer recreational programming at the university level,” Yezak said. His enthusiasm and expertise drove UT to hire him a month later. Yezak then served as the coordinator of intramurals and fitness for five years before UT added the Office of Campus Recreation in 2005. He has been director of the department ever since.
“One of the most exciting aspects of my job is that no day has ever been the same,” Yezak said. “Each day poses a different set of challenges and situations in order for me to analyze and provide solutions to. My tasks range from supervising full-time employees, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the new fitness and recreation center, and mapping the future of our department.”
Yezak’s commitment to campus recreation has been huge during the growth of the university over the past 16 years and it shows. In 2005 he won the Outstanding Service Award from the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association and he has been awarded employee of the month at UT in both 2012 and 2014.
Brittany Schrader, the coordinator of fitness at UT said Yezak is a great boss and who builds strong relationships with his employees.“Charles is a very happy-go-lucky person and he is generally easy going and carefree in nature,” Schrader said. “It’s nice to work with someone who has this type of spirit because in times of stress and being ‘busy’ Charles can take stressors, job responsibilities, and tasks to make the best out of most situations. He gives his employees the freedom to be creative and implement programs that will best accommodate the UT community and it works well for our staff. He is genuine in his work and he truly cares about the Campus Recreation program, the UT student body, and really the entire UT campus.”
Yezak also tries to work with students, whether they are incoming freshman or graduating seniors, so they can have the experience they need to feel confident in their schooling and in their future work environments. Natalie Harackiewicz, who is a freshman criminology major and one of Yezak’s assistants, explained the influence that Yezak has had on her.
“What I like about Charles is his passion and positive outlook towards his work,” Harackiewicz said. “His passion and positivity have rubbed off on me and that attitude has helped me make the transition from high school to college. He has opened my eyes and given me opportunities I never thought I would have had going into college. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work and learn under Charles and i’m excited for what the future holds in the department.”
Through it all Yezak has had a vision for making the UT recreation department the greatest in the nation and that vision is being realized through the new Fitness Center.
“In a way, the new fitness and recreation center has brought up a new beginning for the Office of Campus Recreation and I am excited for the adventures that await my team and the department in the future,” Yezak said.
Gabe Cohn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org