When it came time to introduce Chancellor Albert Carnesale at the recent Town Hall meeting in Ackerman Union, Hassan Ghamlouch had an advantage. As general manager of the UCLA Guest House, hospitality is his business. And he knows from personal experience how important it is to feel welcome.
Ghamlouch came to Los Angeles from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, at the urging of his best friend. “He told me, ‘Oh, it’s a beautiful place. We have to go,’ ” explains Ghamlouch, president of the Staff Assembly. “So we got our visas and worked most of the summer to save money.”
Not enough money, as it turned out. Ghamlouch and his friend had to scrap their original plans to take English classes at Cal State Los Angeles because it was too expensive. They finally enrolled at East L.A. College and took two years’ worth of general education courses. When it came time to transfer, Ghamlouch applied to several schools, including UCLA.
As luck would have it, UCLA was the first school to send an acceptance letter to Ghamlouch. “I didn’t even bother to open the other letters. My heart was set on going to UCLA,” he says, laughing.
Ghamlouch would be the first to declare his gratitude to UCLA for giving him an education and a job he loves, but UCLA has benefited from his presence as well. His first order of business as president of Staff Assembly was overseeing the first annual and highly successful All-Staff Picnic last July, which he says was a happy start to his tenure.
“You can count on the picnic again next year,” he promises, along with all of the events Staff Assembly is known for, including the “Learn-at-Lunch” series, Town Hall meetings with Chancellor Albert Carnesale, the Small Business Fair, the staff and faculty football tailgate party at the Rose Bowl and the hugely popular Casino Night. Staff Assembly also launched its redesigned Web site.
“Staff Assembly is dear to my heart,” Ghamlouch says. “It’s the most important volunteer work that I do.”
Working at the Guest House turned out to be a perfect fit for the young man who spoke no English when he came to this country 19 years ago. Although he majored in history, Ghamlouch showed an early flair for hotel management. He kept up a killer schedule, working full-time at the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles while going to UCLA part-time.
After graduating in 1995, Ghamlouch served as residence hall manager at Hedrick Hall and later as area manager for Hedrick and Sproul halls and Sunset Village. In April, he took over as general manager of the 61-room Guest House, where he has already launched a flurry of new projects, including installing a new phone system, replacing all the carpets, bedspreads and curtains, and renovating the bathrooms.
On the weekends, Ghamlouch works at the farm he co-owns with his wife, Deborah, and her father. Called The Grove, the 10-acre property in Riverside grows organic produce, including avocados, oranges, lemons, kumquats and loquats.