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Pieces of Eight

Alan Nielson, recreational services coordinator, prepares Student Recreation Center staff for lifeguard duty. His work includes first aid instruction and CPR training on campus and in the community. (Photo by Judy Currin)

Nielson Arranges Schedule for Lifesaving Efforts

In coordination with the Recognition and Rewards Committee of the ECU Staff Senate, the Pieces of Eight series honoring exceptional ECU staff members recognizes Alan Nielson.

By Judy Currin

While he was an undergraduate at UNC – Pembroke, Alan Nielson’s roommate convinced him to sign up for a lifeguard class. His roommate was already enrolled.

“It wasn’t something I was drawn to, but I needed one more elective,” Nielson said. “The class was at night and it fit my schedule.”

Today, Nielson continues to use his training from that class. He is on staff at ECU’s Student Recreation Center in charge of maintenance, staffing and training lifeguards for the aquatic areas. He works with safety services offering students and members of the community the opportunity to enroll in lifeguard classes, CPR and first aid instruction and AED certification through the Red Cross.

AED certification trains rescuers in the use of an automated external defibrillator, a machine that administers defibrillation therapy to treat emergency cases of sudden cardiac arrest. Studies have established that when defibrillation therapy is administered within the first few minutes of sudden cardiac arrest, a patient’s likelihood of survival may be as high as 80 to 90 percent.

When he’s not at the SRC, Nielson can be found working at ECU’s Blount Sports Complex, which houses 10 intramural fields. While ECU’s Buildings and Grounds Department takes care of the mowing and fertilizing, Nielson paints the fields for softball, rugby and lacrosse club events.

Nielson worked as a student employee with the ECU Club Sports Program while earning his master’s degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies.

“The more I got into the recreation field, the more I saw a real need to help with teaching and certification,” he said.

Nielson enjoys working with the students and believes his five years at ECU has helped him to expand his instruction.

According to SRC Assistant Director Gray Hodges, Nielson has “devevloped a good relationship” with co-workers and the student employees he supervises. (Nielson supervises 20 to 25 students a semester.) “His influence has made a difference in their experience at ECU,” Hodges said.

Nielson has been a certified lifeguard for 12 years and an instructor for the American Red Cross for six. He is a trainer for CPR, first aid and AED.

Hours spent conducting community training have been reduced since the birth of Nielson’s 15-month-old son, Dylan. Nielson’s wife, Cori, is a graduate of ECU’s School of Nursing. She commutes to her job with Craven Hospital in New Bern.

While the two of them contemplate another addition to the family, Nielson continues his community service through his participation with the Shriners of North America.

The Shriners’ official philanthropy is the Shriners Hospitals for Children, Nielson said. The hospitals are a network of 22 pediatric specialty hospitals that offer “no-cost orthopedic, spinal cord injury and burn care to patients under the age of 18,” he said.

All funds are provided by the fundraising efforts of the 191 Shriners chapters throughout North America.

The Shriners are also known for their colorful parade performances. Anyone who has attended a parade in Greenville, has probably seen Nielson in his recognizable red fez.

“I’m a member of the Desert Rats,” Nielson said. “We drive jeeps with a desert theme in a variety of maneuvers. It’s fun and we often receive donations for our participation.”

Although many years have passed since he chose his last college elective, Nielson is still finding ways to fit life-saving activities into his schedule.

This page originally appeared in the May 19, 2006 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at