If You Don’t Succeed the First Time, Try Again

By Sophia Labeko on June 17, 2021


Liane Wong, UCSF Fitness and Recreation Interim Director, will be retiring on July 1. If you heard rumors of her retiring last year, those weren’t rumors. She was supposed to retire and commence an email, meeting, and paperwork-free life, but the COVID-19 pandemic presented new and unforeseen challenges to the centers and her team, and like a true leader, she postponed her retirement to spend another year answering emails, attending and hosting Zoom meetings, and doing mounds of paperwork.

Wong started her career at UCSF in 1991 as group fitness instructor. In the 90’s she became the Fitness Manager at the Millberry Fitness Center and later the Membership Manager. Reminiscing on those days, Suzie Kirrane, then a graphic designer for the department, recalls Wong’s “undaunted” demeanor as she “forged ahead in various management roles, continuously innovating the membership and sales experiences.”

When the Bakar Fitness Center opened, Wong became the Communications Manager for both centers and later the Marketing and Member Experience Manager. Finally, at the postponement of her retirement, she became the interim director and is retiring as such.

Memories and Admiration

Through many years and different roles, Wong has always made a positive impact on the people around her. Jane Huynh, who’s worked with Wong for 14 years, always looked forward to partnering on projects, because “Liane was thorough and fun to work with. In a department with many successful female role models, I always appreciated her tenacity, creativity, and work ethic.”

Adrienne Chambers, Fitness Manager, confesses that, “Liane is very good about keeping me at my best,” as she leads by exemplifying effective work practices and listens to feedback and opinions. The roles did reverse during the F45 classes, when Wong was a regular participant and Chambers enjoyed coaching her but most importantly “making sure she did not slack off!”

Fernando Hernandez, Bakar Sales Manager, recalls doing some rewarding volunteer work with Wong. They’ve served food to the homeless and wrapped gifts for kids at the UCSF Family House. Although he cherishes the times of giving back to the community, his favorite memory is participating in an escape room with the entire sales team.

All the people we’ve interviewed, concur that it was the member satisfaction and retention, that drove Wong to advance programing and service. She wholeheartedly cares about the fitness community, its members, and the staff. “When the fitness center closed during the pandemic, our members realized how much they missed seeing each other. The fitness centers are just large rooms with equipment. It’s our staff and our members who create the magic and energy that inspires and motivates everyone to live their best lives. Liane has been at the heart of creating that amazing culture,” concluded Gail Mametsuka, retired director.

Retirement Tips

Mametsuka, who retired last year, also shared a word of advice for quality retirement, “enjoy every minute of it, because you’ve worked hard all your life and now it’s your time. A hard concept at first, but you get used to it quickly. Sleep in, stay up late. Try new things: art, read, sports, food, travel, volunteer.” Mametsuka is confident Wong will have plenty of endless projects and activities, “but most importantly I know she will maintain a balanced life that keeps her fit and healthy physically and mentally. I look forward to spending time with her in retirement.”

While the team will miss Wong’s leadership and drive, they’re happy she’s taking time for new adventures. Hernandez said it best, “she has given so much to UCSF Fitness and Recreation, she deserves happiness, great health, and amazing new memories in the next chapter of her life.”