A large crowd joined officials from the University of Virginia and its College at Wise on Monday to dedicate the newly renovated science facility in honor of Leonard W. Sandridge, a longtime supporter and friend of U.Va.-Wise.
The U.Va.-Wise Board approved the measure naming the facility the Leonard W. Sandridge Jr. Science Center last year. Sandridge, the University of Virginia’s former executive vice president and chief operating officer, retired in July 2011 after serving the University for nearly half a century. He joined the University’s internal audit staff in 1967 and worked his way up through the ranks. He continues to work as a special adviser to U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan.
“I consider this a huge honor by any measure,” Sandridge said during the ceremony, held in the atrium of the building that now bears his name. “I’m also humbled by this action.”
Sandridge recalled his many trips to the Wise campus over the decades, and said U.Va.-Wise is an important part of the University. The crowd laughed as he recalled the time a local coal company donated a limousine to the young college, and how Joseph Smiddy, the college’s first chancellor, managed to convince state legislators to pay for a swimming pool on campus.
“Along the way, we’ve had some fun,” he said. “It has been great fun to watch this college grow in enrollment and facilities.”
Sandridge said the dedication is not about him, but is about the students, faculty, donors and those who work each day to support the college and its mission. He pledged to bring his family to Wise to see the campus.
“I will explain to them how special it is, and I will tell them about this day,” he said.
Sullivan and U.Va. Rector Helen Dragas were among the University officials who attended the dedication. Several members of the Board of Visitors’ Committee on the College at Wise also attended.
“Leonard personifies the best qualities of our University family,” Sullivan said. “With his sharp intellect, his business acumen and his good humor, he has had a tremendous impact both in Charlottesville and here in Wise. All of us are grateful to him, and we’re delighted to see this wonderful building dedicated in his name.”
Dragas outlined Sandridge’s many contributions to the University and the College at Wise, including his role in helping the College at Wise raise more than $170 million during the last 12 years to improve the campus.
“The dedication of this facility to you, Leonard, demonstrates this College’s deep appreciation of all you have done and continue to do and stands as a testament to your extraordinary service to us all,” Dragas said.
Marcia Gilliam, chair of the U.Va.-Wise Board, said the dedication provides an opportunity to honor Sandridge and to acknowledge the importance of the building to the college’s present and future.
“You know, many people at the University can say that they have had Leonard’s ear over the years, but what we absolutely know at U.Va.-Wise is that we also have his heart,” Gilliam said. “He believes in our mission and our students. He believes in what we can do and will do. He believes that U.Va.-Wise contributes profoundly to the life and mission of our great University.”
The $13.4 million renovation of the building, which was originally built in 1965, created a new wing and provided laboratory spaces for courses in geology, software engineering and physics. The facility was awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s highest designation for sustainable design, LEED Platinum certification, in 2011, making it the second higher education construction project in Virginia and the first building in the history of the University of Virginia to achieve the rating.
Renovations to the facility were designed by VMDO Architects to meet the specific educational goals and teaching strategies of the science department. The renovated spaces serve the programs of botany, ecology, earth sciences, physics, science education and software engineering. With new classrooms, laboratories and equipment, the renovated building allows students to participate in collaborative learning, fully engaging the scientific process.