UNCW alumnus remembers Patricia Leonard’s multi-generational impact on students


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — For nearly 40 years, Patricia “Pat” Leonard was a driving force at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

A statement from the University said she passed away peacefully at her Carolina Beach home on Tuesday.

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When Leonard arrived at UNCW in 1983, her first role was associate dean of students. At the time, the University was known as a ‘suitcase campus’ with limited co-curricular programs. Her vision is credited for making the campus a home for thousands of students. She was later named Vice Chancellor in 1996.

Nick Pianovich is a UNCW alumnus who was a former student body president and member of the University’s Board of Trustees. In those roles, he worked closely with Leonard on a number of projects.

“She truly left a lasting memory not only at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington but also all of Wilmington through her many extra-curricular activities,” Pianovich said.

Students and colleagues affectionately called her “VCPL,” short for Vice Chancellor Pat Leonard.

“She was responsible for the creation and building of more than 20 structures on our campus which truly revolutionized UNCW and brought a small commuter campus to a predominant 21st-century campus that is continuing to leave its mark not only in North Carolina by educating students but across the United States as a research-intensive University,” Pianovich said.

In a statement posted on the University’s website this week, UNCW Chancellor Zito Sartarelli said, “She built one of the most prestigious division of student affairs in the country and was well-known among her peer professionals in student affairs both in North Carolina and throughout higher education.”

Pianovich adds that Leonard was someone who took risks.

“She truly worked to revolutionize student affairs across the country and that can be seen by the amazing staff and personnel that UNCW calls home to and its been a wonderful experience to be apart of that,” he said.

Pianovich says when Leonard entered a room, students would greet her by chanting, “VCPL, you rock, you rock!”

“I think that’s what her legacy is, knowing that she did all of that for our campus, not for herself but for future, current and past generations of Seahawks,” Pianovich said. “The way she revolutionized student affairs will not only affect our university but universities across the country and I hope that when people think of the vice chancellor, they remember how much of an impact she had on every single student’s life who attended UNCW.”