Long before Leonard Sandridge retired in July after 44 years at the University, signs of his influence and his extraordinary career were easy to see. A reception hall at John Paul Jones Arena and a road were named in his honor. Students created an “I Brake for Leonard Sandridge” bumper sticker. He was also a frequent presence in Richmond, where state legislators listened intently to his straightforward explanations of complicated issues. “When Leonard Sandridge talks, people listen,” says UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan.
Other signs of Sandridge’s effectiveness and dedication are less visible but just as vital. They could be found in his presence in the Facilities Management offices during a blizzard, providing encouragement and support for snow-removal crews in the wee hours of the morning. Or, flashlight in hand, checking on a late-night power outage. Or in the countless hours he’s spent with alumni and University employees, listening to every concern and answering every question.
With a blend of humility, integrity and leadership, Sandridge has won the respect and admiration of the University community he has served for close to half a century.
Up Through the Ranks
Sandridge joined the University in 1967 as a member of the internal audit staff. He worked his way through the ranks—serving as comptroller, treasurer, director of the budget and executive assistant to the president—until he was named senior vice president and chief financial officer in 1990. In 1993, his position was expanded to executive vice president and chief operating officer.
A joint resolution issued by the Virginia General Assembly honoring Sandridge reads, in part, “Leonard Sandridge’s titles only hint at the responsibilities entrusted to him by successive presidents and Boards of Visitors of the University of Virginia, the value of his counsel to them, and the esteem in which he is held.”
An Honest Day’s Work
Sandridge’s workdays began at 5:30 in the morning—often even earlier—and typically stretched well into the evening. A quick look at his daunting job description hints at the enormity of what he simply referred to as a “the best job in the world.” His responsibilities encompassed oversight of all of UVA’s nonacademic support areas, including the Architect for the University, athletics, student affairs, management and budget, finance, human resources, emergency preparedness, police, compliance and the financial and managerial aspects of the Health System.
“No one has worked harder for this university,” says John “Dubby” Wynne (Law ‘71), former UVA rector.
Call Me Leonard
“I have a great deal of respect for the people that you don’t immediately think of when you’re talking about a higher education institution,” Sandridge told the Daily Progress. “One of the things that I most enjoy is when a person putting bark down around a tree calls me by my first name.”
Born in Crozet, Va., Sandridge graduated from Albemarle High School in 1960 and was co-captain of the football team. A graduate of the University of Richmond, he also has a master’s degree in accounting from UVA. He served on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1966 and was an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve for the next 18 years. He and his wife, Jerry, have been married for 47 years and have two sons and four grandchildren. Sandridge worked with five of UVA’s eight presidents and has been honored with multiple awards, including the Thomas Jefferson Award, UVA’s highest honor.
As part of Founder’s Day each year, a tree is planted in recognition of an exceptional contributor to the University. This year’s tree was a legacy sugar maple, planted on the Lawn between Pavilions VI and VIII in honor of Sandridge. The maple was chosen in part for its ability to thrive in hot, sunny sites. “Like this tree, in those times of difficulty and exposure, Leonard always stands tall, straight and with a deeply rooted foundation that has pro-tected the institution, its ideals and our people many, many times,” said Ed Rivers, chair of the Arboretum and Landscape Committee, during the planting ceremony.
In tributes to Sandridge preceding his retirement, numerous colleagues quoted Thomas Jefferson to evoke Sandridge’s character and career: “Determine never to be idle. ... It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing,” and “Whenever you are to do a thing, though it can never be known but to yourself, ask yourself how you would act were all the world looking at you, and act accordingly.”
But perhaps one of Sandridge’s favorite sayings best sums up his career: “Just do what’s right.”
The Leonard W. and Jerry S. Sandridge Scholarship Fund will provide financial support to children or grandchildren of University employees. The scholarship is a particularly fitting tribute to Sandridge, who helped plan the AccessUVa financial aid program. “The scholarship combines two of Leonard’s greatest interests—financial aid for students and the well-being of the University’s employees,” says President Sullivan.
Last Words From Thomas and Leonard
When asked what his epitaph would include if he had to choose three things (in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson’s wishes for his gravestone), Sandridge said, “If I had to settle for three things, it would be: He was honest; he worked hard; and he cared about people.”