His demeanor screams of professionalism as he walks through the front door of the Campus Center. Taking his keys, he unlocks his office door and has a seat at his new desk – University Recreation’s new Director has finally arrived.
TJ Peele accepted the position as the new Director of University Recreation (UREC) and took his office this semester. At only 34-years-old, Peele is young for his position and younger than some of those he supervises. Regardless of his age, Peele is aiming to make an impact – and a professional one at that – at the University of West Georgia.
“I want to know what West Georgia needs. I don’t want it to just be me trying to fit West Georgia into my mold I don’t think that’s fair,” says Peele. “I want to merge West Georgia to what I think is a quality way of doing things, efficient, high caliber and high quality ways of doing things.”
Peele hails from the state of North Carolina. He earned his degree from the University of South Carolina at Aiken majoring in exercise science.
“I had pretty much settled in as exercise science as a major, I just love being active,” says Peele. “Health and fitness and wellness were always something I was interested in from a young age.”
It was at USC Aiken where Peele got his first experience with recreation, particularly in the intramurals department.
“I was teaching swimming lessons at the pool and my eventual boss told me ‘Hey TJ come see me’,” says Peele. “I stopped by his office and he told me about a job opening as an intramural supervisor, so I applied and he offered me that job.”
It wasn’t long after that his boss told him about an operations job where he would work more closely to his supervisor. He eventually became the coordinator of that program, quickly moving up the ranks.
“I decided to look for a full-time job and got a job at Wake Forrest University as the Coordinator of Intramural Sports and then moved up to the Assistant Director of Intramurals and then Assistant Director of all their recreation programs,” says Peele.
He worked at Wake Forrest for 10 years before coming to UWG, recently leaving his position as Assistant Director of Wake’s recreation facility.
Peele is filling the spot of Former UREC Director Matt Miller, who left last spring. The role has since been covered by interim Director Brad Whittaker who is still working as Associate Director at the UREC.
“I want to learn a lot, I want to be open to what this position can teach me,” says Peele. “I want to allow this position to organically teach me things that I may not even know that I want to get out of it.”
Peele’s love for health and fitness was something showcased by his major. But his passion came from his early days when he was growing up in North Carolina.
“In the summer times, I would have the option to go to work with Dad and going to work with Dad was going to the church,” says Peele. “Well the church had a gym and a game room. I’d invite my friends and we’d play in the gym all day.”
He is the son of a Baptist preacher. When he was young he went with his dad to First Baptist Church of Asheville where his dad served as the Minister of Education.
“I’m a terrible singer, I mean it’s awful. So during choir on Wednesday nights, when I was supposed to be in choir practice, I started sneaking away to the gym and that’s just where I spent my time,” says Peele. “I played a lot of basketball growing up in church gyms; just being in that environment brought something out of me.”
He found joy and pleasure in playing basketball in the gym when he was young, and today he now serves as the Director of University Recreation – or the ‘big boy gym.’ But his humble upbringing has shaped the way he carries himself and gives aid to those he works with, and of course, with the students as well.
“Hopefully I can make an impression on people, students specifically, to make their lives better and help them learn and grow and understand what they can do to help society to be better citizens,” says Peele. “It means a lot when somebody trusts me and feels that they can come to me for something because I get lot out of helping them and being able to lend a hand.”
As he finally gets settled in at his new office, Peele is looking to help and serve those he comes into contact with every day. His desire to help others is the driving force behind his passion.
“I want to put a lot into it [UREC] and then get the opportunity to see the students grow and move out into this world,” says Peele. “Taking what they learned from West Georgia, and maybe a little bit of my influence, and make fruitful, happy, successful professionals.”