WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - UNCW students and staff are in mourning after learning one of the most influential and prominent members of the Seahawk family dies.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Pat Leonard, passed away peacefully in her Carolina Beach home Tuesday.
“I know this comes as a heartbreaking shock to many who knew, admired and loved “VCPL,” as she was known by many generations of students,” Chancellor Jose Sarterelli said in a message sent out to UNCW students and staff.
Leonard began her storied career at UNCW in 1983 as associate dean of students. In 1996, former Chancellor Jim Leutze named her a Vice Chancellor.
Over her 37 years at UNCW, Leonard built one of the most prestigious divisions of student affairs in the country and was well-known among her peer professionals in student affairs, both in North Carolina and at universities across the nation.
"It is hard to imagine this campus before her, and virtually impossible to think about it without her moving forward," Sarterelli said. "Simply put, UNCW wouldn’t exist the way it does today without all of the work and passion Pat put forth since her arrival in 1983."
Sarterelli credits Leonard with building a path of school spirit and a culture of inclusiveness while offering support to any student who needed help.
"Move-In Celebration for new students was one she was proud to champion because these traditions helped students build connections with each other and an affinity and sense of pride among the Seahawk Nation," Sarterelli said. "In fact, in recent years, she made time to play cornhole with students on Hoggard Lawn, which always delighted even the students she beat."
Leonard is credited for her vision on many of the buildings on the UNCW campus. Sarterelli says she gave voice to students with concerns and needs, and assisted in making spaces for several cultural centers on campus, including the expansion of Centro Hispano and the placement of the LGBTQIA Center.
Of her many awards, Sarterelli says she truly cherished receiving the 2019 William C. Friday Lifetime Achievement Award, given to her by the Association of Student Governments of N.C.
Leonard served on the Board of Trustees at New Hanover Regional Medical Center for 13 years and played a significant role in the founding of Coastal Horizons Center.
"Pat was an extraordinary person who considered herself quite ordinary, and there will never be another like her," Sarterelli said.
Leonard, who turned 65 five days before her passing, leaves behind a wife, Susan and a host of close family and friends.