June 8, 2009 — Mark E. Fletcher, who built one of the nation's top intramural and recreational sports programs at the University of Virginia, died this morning after returning from his morning run. He was 57.
"Mark made a difference in life at the University during his time with us," said Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va.'s executive vice president and chief operating officer. "He was an extraordinary University citizen and a friend of all of us – he was simply the best.
"Mark was known for his steady leadership, uncompromising integrity and a keen sense of duty to this institution."
As associate director of athletics and executive director of intramural/recreational sports, Fletcher led a program in which at least 94 percent of undergraduate students participated. The program also boasts the largest faculty and staff participation rate in the country. In 2005, Newsweek magazine named U.Va. "the hottest school in the country for fitness."
"Mark's passing is a huge loss for the entire University community," said Craig K. Littlepage, director of athletics. "Mark took great pride in having one of the best-managed IM/Rec programs in the country."
When Fletcher arrived at U.Va. in March 1985, the University had two indoor recreational facilities: Memorial Gymnasium and Slaughter Recreation Center (with the North Grounds Recreation Center under construction). He supervised about 12 full-time employees.
Today, the University has four major indoor centers and several outdoor facilities. The staff has grown to more than 40 full-time staffers and hundreds of part-time student employees.
"He took special joy in the employment of students within the program and was pleased with how these work experiences were important building blocks for developing community leaders among U.Va. students," Littlepage said.
Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer and a friend of Fletcher's for 33 years, remembered his commitment to U.Va. students. "Mark's heart was always with our students, and with balancing their needs," she said. "He was always doing things that made a big difference to the betterment of our community."
She noted that he was a longtime member on the University's Safety Committee, and was instrumental in developing and installing the flashing-light pedestrian crossings, among many other important actions.
"He was kind, honest, but firm when he needed to be firm," she said. "Everything he did was for the betterment of others and our community, and not what was convenient for Mark."
In addition to his duties in IM/Rec Sports, Fletcher oversaw construction and renovation projects that transformed the University's athletic venues. He was responsible for all athletics facilities and operations at the University from 1992 until 1997, and then supervised the $86 million expansion of Scott Stadium, completed in 2001.
Among other projects he oversaw were the creation of the David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium; completion and lighting of Klöckner Stadium; the creation of the artificial turf competition field and renovated football practice fields at University Hall; construction of "The Park," a 22-acre outdoor field complex on North Grounds; construction and expansion of the Aquatic & Fitness Center; the renovation of Memorial Gymnasium to house varsity wrestling and volleyball teams; the construction of Carr's Hill Field and building; the completion of the third floor of the Dr. Frank C. McCue III Center; renovation of the Sheridan Snyder Tennis Center; and renovation of the North Grounds Recreation Center.
More recent projects included renovations of Madison Bowl Field and Lambeth Field.
"Mark exhibited steady leadership in his advocacy for facilities devoted to the health and well being of the University community," Sandridge said. "He was visibly proud, on behalf of the University, for every improvement to our athletic and recreation program."
University officials recalled Fletcher as an administrator who was committed to being a facilitator, not an obstacle.
"He always found a way to make things happen," Lampkin said. "If you came to him with a problem, Mark would help you solve it."
This spring, when local high school sports teams faced extreme scheduling difficulties due to frequent rain, Fletcher invited them to use the synthetic Carr's Hill Field to make up games that otherwise would have been canceled, as the natural grass fields at the schools were unplayable.
And when Western Albemarle High School lost Newcomb Hall as the venue for its senior prom because of a scheduling conflict, Fletcher arranged to host it at the Slaughter Recreation Center.
On the night of the prom, "Who was out there directing traffic and showing people where to park, but him," Western principal Dave Francis said. "We had a wonderful prom."
Fletcher came to U.Va. from the University of Denver, where he served as assistant director of athletics and recreation from 1981 to 1985, after serving for two years as director of campus recreation. Before that, he was with the office of Campus Recreation at the University of Utah as the coordinator of intramural sports.
From 1974 to '76, Fletcher was at Radford University as assistant men's basketball coach and an area coordinator in the housing division.
Fletcher was an active member of the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association, serving as the Region II vice president, and was honored with the Region II Award of Merit. He also served on the NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors.
At U.Va., he chaired the Safety and Security Committee and served on the Facilities Management Advisory Board, Arboretum Committee, Reunions Weekend Committee, Graduation Committee and the Parking and Transportation Committee.
A native of Crestline, Ohio, Fletcher earned his bachelor's degree in psychology and education from Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, in 1973, where he captained the basketball team his senior year. In 1974, he received a master's degree in college student personnel from Bowling Green State University.
He is survived by his wife, Gina, and three children, Kristi, Lori and Scott.
On Friday from 6 to 8 p.m, a reception will be held to meet the family at Aldersgate United Methodist Church at 1500 E. Rio Road. A memorial service will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at Aldersgate, with a reception afterwards at the church.
Contributions of food for the reception can be delivered to the church beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Flowers can be sent to Hill and Wood Funeral Service, which will deliver them to the church. Fletcher's obituary will appear in Thursday's Daily Progress with information about memorial donations.