Provost gets good mileage

A day breaks down to 24 hours, 1,440 minutes or 86,400 seconds. Managing that time can be difficult for a busy professional with a family. For many, exercise is something that gets left on the back burner.

Dr. Ali Houshmand, Rowan University provost and a father of two, spends his days tied up with all the meetings, paperwork and projects related to overseeing more than 900 full-time, part-time and adjunct faculty members working in six academic colleges and a graduate school on two campuses. Yet he still finds the time to run six miles a day.

"Twenty-four hours a day is a long time. Never say I don't have time to exercise.' To me, that sounds like I don't have time to live.' " he said. "There is always time to get your mind and body in sync. The more I exercise, the less tired I get."

Houshmand, 52, has competed in 17 marathons. One of his most memorable marathons took place in New York City in 2001 about six weeks after 9/11. Prior to the marathon, Houshmand had been experiencing a lot of pain. The doctors did X-rays, a bone scan and MRI but were still not sure what was wrong and advised him to only walk the 26.2 mile marathon route.

"I had already qualified and registered so I went with my wife and kids and carried my cell phone. I figured I could run or walk a mile," he said. "The first mile was a lot of pain. Then I saw a man who was doing the race by crawling and was very inspired. If he could crawl, I could run in pain."

Houshmand finished the race, but for six months after he could hardly walk. It turned out he had a stress fracture.

Houshmand accepted the job of provost over the summer.

He was previously provost at Drexel University.

His typical day starts at 5:30 a.m. He leaves his Exton, Pa., home by 6 and arrives at Rowan by 7 or 7:30. At the end of the business day, Houshmand usually winds up taking work home and may not finish until 9 or 10 at night.

He gets his workouts in during the day.

Instead of the typical lunch meeting with co-workers or executives, Houshmand's idea of a power lunch is an outside run on Rowan's campus or going to the Rec Center with some reading material and walking on the treadmill with a 15 degree incline. Then he'll eat a sandwich or leftovers from home.

He stays connected to his job, even on the weekends, constantly checking e-mail and dealing with documents.

"I'm a Blackberry freak," he said.

The weekends also serve as the best time for Houshmand to do some serious running.

"I go for a long run and get lost in the long farm roads. I take time to think and strategize." he said.

Houshmand realized his athletic as well as academic skill while growing up in his native Iran.

Houshmand's parents did not do much to encourage his athletic or academic drive. The economic situation was tough, coming from a poor family, Houshmand noted.

"It was just something that was in me," he said. "I was extremely curious, always asking why and finding solutions."

Houshmand earned his bachelor's (with honors) and master's degrees in mathematics and mathematical statistics from the University of Essex, England, and master's and doctoral degrees in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan. Before starting at Rowan, he had worked for United Airlines, the University of Cincinnati and Drexel University.

"To be successful in life you have to be disciplined," he said. "Nothing just happens, it requires effort."

Houshmand's other athletic endeavors include mountain climbing, triathlons and about 30 years of playing soccer. Running remains his passion and even though his job keeps him busy, he doesn't plan to give it up anytime soon.

"I would love to qualify for one more marathon," he said.

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Date Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2006 (All day)