UNC Wilmington Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli Announces Retirement

Friday, September 24, 2021

After steering the University of North Carolina Wilmington through extraordinary growth with quality, spearheading development of innovative new degree programs, successfully navigating multiple hurricanes and a global pandemic, Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli announced today that he will retire effective June 30, 2022.

During his leadership, the university earned national recognition for achieving excellence amid adversity. UNCW set records for annual enrollment and graduation; publicly launched Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW, which is closing in on its $100 million goal; increased community, military and international partnerships; enhanced on-campus and online educational offerings; and achieved a new research designation. For the past three years, UNCW has been one of only three UNC System institutions ranked among the “Top 100 Public National Universities,” according to U.S. News & World Report. The university community also has worked together to overcome significant challenges in the aftermath of Hurricanes Florence and Dorian, to navigate the campus impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to focus more fully on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.  

“The success that our students, faculty, staff and alumni have achieved in recent years has been nothing short of outstanding,” Chancellor Sartarelli said. “I am immensely proud to have served UNCW during such a pivotal time in history, and I want to thank the Seahawk community for making this great university so special. Leaving UNCW and the City of Wilmington will not be easy for my wife Kathy and me, but we are looking forward to a new adventure.” 

The Chancellor took office July 1, 2015, after previously serving West Virginia University as chief global officer and Milan Puskar Dean of the College of Business and Economics. Including his service at WVU, he is among the most experienced leaders in the UNC System. Before transitioning into higher education, Chancellor Sartarelli spent three decades in international marketing and management with three global pharmaceutical companies – Eli Lilly and Company, Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson.  

“Chancellor Sartarelli has taken UNC Wilmington to new heights, leading with ambition all while handling serious challenges posed by hurricanes and the pandemic,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “UNCW has increased its student population by nearly 40 percent in the past decade under the Chancellor’s direction, providing quality educational opportunities to more North Carolinians and expanding campus facilities to meet that growth. I’m so grateful for his steady and visionary leadership, and I know all Seahawks join me in thanking him for his service to UNCW and the state.” 

Sartarelli said that announcing now will give the UNCW Board of Trustees, President Hans and the UNC System Board of Governors approximately nine months to conduct a national search for the next Chancellor. He noted that the university will celebrate its 75th anniversary at the beginning of the fall 2022 semester, an optimal time for a leadership transition. President Hans will work with Gidget Kidd, Chair of the UNCW Board of Trustees, on next steps in the search. 

“Thanks to my predecessors, UNCW already was a strong university when I arrived,” the Chancellor said. “I have had the privilege of working alongside dedicated Boards of Trustees, my leadership team, faculty, staff, students and countless alumni, donors and community partners to open new doors of opportunity for the university, the region and North Carolina. I have no doubt that the university’s trajectory of success will continue to soar far into the future.” 

Kidd, a graduate of the Class of 1991, has worked with Sartarelli from the outset of his tenure at UNCW. “Chancellor Sartarelli thrives on turning challenges into opportunities,” she said. “When Hurricane Florence significantly damaged Dobo Hall, our main science building, he and his leadership team used the renovation funds to reconfigure the building, upgrading the roofing and drainage systems to withstand more powerful storms in the future and installing state-of-the-art labs while maintaining the much-loved character of a nearly 30-year-old campus landmark. The Chancellor has inspired the UNCW community to pursue excellence at every level, and the Board of Trustees is very grateful for his service.” 

During his tenure, Chancellor Sartarelli was recognized by Business North Carolina as one of the state’s most influential leaders. Wilmington Biz Magazine included him among the “Power Players – businesspeople and officials having the greatest impact on the region’s business and economic landscape.” A native of Brazil, Chancellor Sartarelli received a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing from the São Paulo School of Business Administration (Fundação Getulio Vargas) in São Paulo, Brazil. He then attended Michigan State University as a Fulbright Scholar, earning an MBA in marketing and a Ph.D. in business administration. 

Many of the university’s major accomplishments during Chancellor Sartarelli’s leadership:

  1. Enhanced the largest sustained enrollment growth with quality among UNC System institutions in recent years. UNCW led the system in enrollment growth from 2009-2021 at a rate of 40 percent and during Chancellor Sartarelli’s term at a rate of 24 percent. Preliminary enrollment data show 18,031 students (highest in UNCW history) for the fall 2021 semester, including a record 3,542 graduate students. Graduate school enrollment grew 121 percent during the Chancellor’s term. 
  2. UNCW’s growth of enrollment resulted in the largest volume of enrollment growth in the UNC System – $74 million over a six-year period.  
  3. Chancellor Sartarelli’s focus on retention and graduation culminated with the largest-ever class of graduates in 2020-21: 5,117 students. Since 2015-16, the number of graduates totals about 27,000 students, about a third of all living alumni of the university. The university has a 6-year graduation rate of 74 percent, one of the best in the UNC System.
  4. Provided strategic support for research and scholarly activities, which earned UNCW the elevated designation of “Doctoral Universities: High Research Activity” – R2 institution – by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in 2018.
  5. In addition to the cutting-edge science conducted at the Center for Marine Science and MARBIONC during Chancellor Sartarelli’s tenure, UNCW students and faculty have also accomplished much related to psychology, artificial intelligence, geospatial intelligence training, national drug courts, creative writing, coastal engineering and international trade and exchange, to name just a few areas of strength. The Chancellor also was a strong advocate for the launch of UNCW’s first nanosatellite, SeaHawk-1.  
  6. Received approval for 17 new baccalaureate- and graduate-level programs including new undergraduate degrees in coastal engineering (the first of its kind in the nation), respiratory therapy, cybersecurity* and intelligent systems engineering* (*pending approval by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.) Supported growth of doctoral degrees in educational leadership, marine biology, nursing practice and psychology; and advanced many distance learning options, including clinical research, an accelerated RN-to-BSN program (top 20 in the nation) and an Executive MBA.  
  7. Provided strategic leadership during the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, which caused $124 million in damage to UNCW. Advocated for and received additional state support to aid in the university’s timely recovery$35 million directly from the legislature. Implemented strategies to diversify structures and ensure resilience.  
  8. During the worst global pandemic in a century, the Chancellor helped guide the campus through state-mandated closures in spring/summer 2020. Worked to ensure the development of policies and procedures to navigate COVID-19 conditions, including comprehensive safety, de-densification, testing and vaccination strategies that positioned the university to remain open and operational, with on-campus living options, since fall 2020. Used federal government funding to further invest in students.   
  9. Connected with all 58 presidents of NC community colleges. Developed statewide initiative to create 45 Pathways to Excellence partnerships for community college students.  
  10. Worked closely with Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air Station New River to offer quality programs designed for military personnel, veterans and their families, an important segment of the university’s total enrollment. In 2020, UNCW paid homage to its founding as a school for World War II veterans with the opening of Veterans Hall. The 145,000-square-foot facility houses the College of Health and Human Services and faculty and staff from the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Office of Military Affairs.  
  11. Advanced relationships with the business community. In 2015, only 19 Fortune 500 companies recruited new employees at UNCW. Today, more than 100 companies recruit on campus, increasing opportunities for students to apply for and receive strong job offers. He also supported expansion of the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, initiated a related business competition for area youth and worked to significantly increase the number of startups in the region – more than 100 at last count. 
  12. Significantly strengthened the university’s relationships with international institutions, moving from 52 partnerships six years ago to 113 in 2021. UNCW earned recognition from Open Doors Reports and is one of three recipients of NAFSA’s prestigious 2021 Senator Paul Simon Spotlight Award for Internationalization 
  13. Oversaw expansion of the university’s physical campus. Over the past few years, UNCW has undertaken approximately $450 million in campus construction – 23 buildings constructed or restored, four parking lots finished, multiple roofs replaced, and two multiple-unit, modular structures built. UNCW has plans for future library expansion and renovation.  
  14. Collaborated with students, faculty, staff and alumni to focus more fully on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. In July 2020, UNCW launched the Chancellor’s Renewal and Change Accountability Committee to work alongside the university’s administration to develop strategies and drive change. While much work remains, accomplishments to date include increased space for Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion centers from 3,160 total square feet of space to 6,223 square feet, additional funding for diversity scholarships – a $1 million fund has been fully pledged – and key cultural collaborations within the greater Wilmington community. UNCW has committed to invest nearly $1.5 million annually for five years to increase representation of underrepresented populations at the university.  
  15. Launched Like No Other: The Campaign for UNCW in February 2021. Thanks to the generosity of thousands of alumni, students, employees and donors, the university is moving ever closer to its goal to raise at least $100 million in philanthropic support for scholarships, professorships, programs and other university priorities. Secured the largest private philanthropic gifts in UNCW history – a $10 million gift from David Congdon ’78, and his wife, Helen, and a $5 million corporate gift from Quality Chemical Laboratories, and its founder Dr. Yousry Sayed (now a member of the UNCW Board of Trustees) and his wife Linda, ’78, ’85M.  
  16. Earned national recognition for the high quality of the UNCW experience. U.S. News & World Report ranked UNCW among the nation’s top public national universities for the past three years. UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State University are the other two UNC Systems schools on the Top 100 list. UNCW is ranked 19th nationally on the U.S. News list of “2021 Best Online Bachelor’s Programs,” highlighting UNCW’s two qualifying programs, nursing and clinical research. UNCW has also been included consistently on the “Best Southeastern School” list by The Princeton Review. UNCW has been featured in the prestigious Fiske Guide to Colleges annually since 2017, one of only four institutions in the UNC System. 
  17. Led the athletic activities at the university and, during Chancellor Sartarelli’s tenure, 80 percent of student-athletes posted a GPA of 3.0 or higher, annually received the NCAA Public Recognition Award for Academic Excellence, won 11 CAA Championships and 16 teams participated in NCAA postseason play. 
  18. Engaged the academic, business, research and athletic worlds. Chancellor Sartarelli has been a member of APLU, AASCU, North Carolina Campus Compact, CAA, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, Wilmington Rotary Club, and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and these connections served him well to advance the mission and operations of the university. 

“What an exciting experience this has been for me and my wife Kathy, and my service to UNCW isn’t finished yet,” Sartarelli said, reflecting on his tenure thus far. “There’s more to be done this year, and I am eager to be a part of helping our great university continue to focus on achieving excellence in everything we do. Go Seahawks!”


A PDF of this message can be found here.

About UNCW 

The University of North Carolina Wilmington is dedicated to learning through the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service. Guided by our 2016-2021 Strategic Plan, the university is committed to nurturing a campus culture that reflects its values of diversity and globalization, ethics and integrity, and excellence and innovation. A public institution with more than 18,000 students, the university is focused on supporting and enhancing the student-centered learning experience that has been a hallmark since its founding in 1947. UNCW offers an array of programs at the baccalaureate and master’s levels, and doctoral programs in marine biology, educational leadership, psychology and nursing practice.

Jose V. Sartarelli