Mike Puritz remembers the exact moment Anteater Recreation Center opened for the first time. It was 10 p.m. Jan. 7, 2000, and even at that late hour, students were lined up to get in.

“They were starved for a recreation center,” Puritz says. “They were so excited to come through the doors. I stayed until midnight just watching them play.”

Puritz likes seeing people have fun. In fact, it’s a big part of his UCI career, both as associate director of programs for Campus Recreation and as the new Staff Assembly chair. When he’s not helping students and staff members do everything from scaling a rock wall to practicing Japanese swordsmanship at the ARC, he’s helping Staff Assembly plan events like the Staff Appreciation Picnic Aug. 28.

“Staff picnic is our marquee event,” Puritz says. This year’s picnic, “Pirates of the Caribbean,” will be from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. in Aldrich Park and feature presentation of Staff Assembly’s Excellence in Leadership awards to three supervisors.

Staff Assembly organizes other events, including Meals with Mike – lunches with Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Michael Gottfredson and four or five chosen staff members – a summertime Concert in the Park, a Halloween costume contest and a pancake breakfast in spring.

“All these events are designed to make it more fun to work on campus,” Puritz says.

He joined UCI in 1980 as women’s volleyball coach before transferring to Campus Recreation 10 years ago. He oversees all recreation programs, including club sports like soccer and volleyball; fitness and wellness, such as Step Up UCI; clinics and classes; and outdoor adventures like surfing, sailing and rock climbing.

Volunteering for Staff Assembly has enhanced his UCI experience. As chair, he hopes to spread the word that it’s not an elite group – employees are already members. They just have to get involved.

“For the first 17 years I was here, I kept within my own little world,” he says. “Through Staff Assembly, I’ve met wonderful people all over campus and at the medical center. It opens your eyes to what’s going on at UCI and in the UC system. It forces you out of your little area.”