UNCW to Name Student Recreation Center in Honor of the Late Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard

Friday, January 21, 2022

The late UNCW Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Pat Leonard’s name will be memorialized on the student recreation center she helped establish, university officials announced today. 

The center will officially become “The Pat Leonard Student Recreation Center” in honor of Leonard, who passed away on June 2, 2020. The UNCW Board of Trustees approved Chancellor Jose V. Sartarelli’ s recommendation to name the recreation center in Leonard’s memory.

A ceremony will be held Saturday, Feb. 12 at 1 p.m. at the student recreation center. The event is open to the public. COVID safety protocols will be in place and masks will be required outdoors for the ceremony and indoors at all times.

"Pat Leonard dedicated herself to generations of students at UNCW. The recreation center is one of many special buildings, projects and services she championed during her decades here,” said Sartarelli. “Her skill as a leader and mentor, combined with her sense of humor and her selfless care for others, shaped and supported our Seahawk spirit for years, and we are honored to recognize her memory by naming the student recreation center for her."  

Leonard joined UNCW in 1983 as the associate dean of students. She was named dean of students in 1987 and became vice chancellor in 1996, a position she held for 24 years. She was the longest-serving vice chancellor at UNCW. 

The original 65,000-square-foot Student Recreation Center, built in 2000, was among the projects Leonard was most proud of. A major expansion and renovation of the student recreation center, funded by student fees, was completed in 2013, which more than doubled the size of the facility.  

“Students, faculty and staff connect and collaborate at the rec center, learning from each other and working together to build a healthier campus community one exercise at a time,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lowell Davis. “Pat Leonard set high standards for UNCW and inspired the Division of Student Affairs to join her in achieving them. We are honored to celebrate her legacy, now and in the future, at the Leonard Recreation Center.”

Leonard played a pivotal role in managing and planning the dramatic growth at UNCW. She was involved in overseeing 20 major construction, renovation and green space projects that transformed the UNCW campus, including seven housing projects and nine student support buildings, as well as the recreation center, Fisher Student Center, Fisher University Union, DePaolo Hall, the Burney Center and the Warwick Center. 

In February 2019, university officials broke ground on the new Student Housing Village. It was among the last projects Leonard oversaw. 

“Pat was steadfast in her commitment to students and loyalty to UNCW,” said Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor of student affairs at East Carolina University. “She did not give up easily, which led to so many innovative and successful accomplishments, such as this recreation center, all aimed at enhancing the student experience at UNCW.”

Fondly known as “VCPL” by thousands of students, Leonard developed programs to foster a sense of community and provide students with a fully rounded collegiate experience. She adopted the motto for the division, “Creating Experiences for Life,” to convey her staff’s commitment to helping students develop strong, positive habits to carry with them long after their days at UNCW.  

Nicholas Pianovich ’20, a member of the UNCW Alumni Association board of directors and former student government president, said Leonard’s commitment to the establishment of the student recreation center and subsequent expansion exemplifies her dedication to Seahawks past, present and future. 

“This 100% student-funded project helped to propel UNCW as a premier destination for students seeking higher education,” he said. “Her leadership in shaping our university and its culture was extensive. Pat Leonard’s unwavering advocacy for students and partnership with the student body during her 37 years of service had an impact like no other. One of the best ways I can think of to honor VCPL is by bestowing her name on a building which continues to serve students, faculty and staff in her legacy.”

The Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard Legacy of Excellence Fund supports future generations of Seahawk leaders. To learn more about how you can make a gift in her honor, visit

-- Venita Jenkins