Meet The Trustees is a series of profiles of members on University of Richmond's board of trustees.
Fifty-five years after first stepping onto the University of Richmond campus, Leonard Sandridge has come a long way from what originally brought him to the school -- his part-time job as a school bus driver.
After graduating from Richmond in 1964 and completing a 44-year-long career at the University of Virginia, Sandridge applies his higher education experience to his role as vice rector of the University of Richmond’s Board of Trustees.
Sandridge found himself as an undergraduate at the University of Richmond in 1960 under some uncommon circumstances.
Growing up in the small town of Crozet, Virginia, Sandridge said he had had the goal of becoming a first-generation college student. While driving local school buses for Albemarle County in high school in order to save up money, Sandridge got to know the school district’s assistant superintendent, a man he called Mr. Walton, who happened to be a Richmond alumnus.
Walton brought Sandridge and two other high school classmates to visit the Richmond campus and had them take an exam. The visit was followed by an acceptance for Sandridge as well as a financial aid package that impressed him, he said.
“Probably more than anything else, the people that I knew who had gone to University of Richmond were good people,” Sandridge said, “and they were respected in the community and they were the kind of people that I could see as role models.”
At Richmond, Sandridge studied accounting and was part of the ROTC program. He also continued his part-time job driving school buses for Henrico County in order to pay his way through college. Richmond even let him park his bus on campus, he said.
Looking back on his years as an undergraduate, Sandridge said his best memories involved the people that he had interacted with. The school was small enough that he was able to get to know both the students and faculty very well, he said.
Following a short stint in the military after graduation, Sandridge used his accounting degree to answer an ad in the Richmond Times Dispatch for a job in the internal audit office at U. Va.
Over the course of his career, Sandridge worked his way up from an entry-level clerical job to eventually becoming vice president and chief operating officer, running all non-academic parts of U Va..
Sandridge’s return to Richmond as a member of the Board of Trustees in 2011 originally sprang from working closely with Edward Ayers, former president of University of Richmond, while they were both on the faculty senate at U Va.
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While working with Sandridge at U Va., Ayers said he had a chance to see what an effective, humane and constructive presence Sandridge was in every setting and how much good he was able to accomplish.
“When I came to UR, I knew that Mr. Sandridge—the very model of what we hope our graduates become—would be a wonderful asset for the board,” Ayers said, “and he has been all that we could have hoped for.”
Today Sandridge and his wife, Jerry, live within five miles of where he was born. “With the exception of my time at the University of Richmond, and my time in the Army, I’ve lived my entire life here,” Sandridge said, “I live in the house now that we built when I went to work for the University of Virginia in 1967.”
Throughout his four years on the board, Sandridge has had the opportunity to serve on some of the board’s key committees, working closely with the president as well as other members of the administration and faculty.
While helping to design the University Faculty Senate in 2013-14, Sandridge brought his wisdom and compassion to the complex job of strengthening the system that allows members from different areas of the university community to work together, said Eric Yellin, professor of history.
“Leonard's passion for higher education is palpable,” Yellin said, “and his sincerity and generosity helped to enhance the trust and sense of shared mission between the faculty and the Board.”
Looking toward his next few years on the Board of Trustees, Sandridge said he is looking forward to President Ronald Crutcher’s leadership and dedication in showing the world what an amazing institution Richmond is.
“We had extraordinary leadership under Dr. Ayers,” Sandridge said, “and we’re going to have -- we do have -- the same quality of leadership under Dr. Crutcher.”
Sandridge echoes Crutcher’s belief that Richmond is a better institution than most people know, and he is hoping to continue to move the school in the same positive direction in order to attract the best students.
“I smile when I say this,” Sandridge said, “I’ve never known whether you have to have good students to attract the best faculty, or whether you have to have the best faculty to attract really good students, but I know they’re related.
“This is not an institution that is broken and needs to change direction, this is an institution that has the good fortune of being headed in a very strong and good direction, and we simply want to make sure that we do it as a best-in-class place.”
Contact managing editor Brooke Harty at email@example.com.
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