When UNC-Wilmington officials embarked in fall 2014 on a search for a new campus leader, there were a few key qualities they had in mind: integrity, passion and a winning personality, among them.
Michael Shivar, chair of the UNCW Board of Trustees, believes they saw all that – and then some – in Dr. Zito Sartarelli.
“We can proudly say we found the right person in you,” Shivar told Sartarelli during the latest UNCW chancellor’s formal installation Thursday on the lawn of Hanover Hall.
Although Sartarelli has been officially at the helm since last summer, the ceremony is a symbolic event, of sorts, that represents the balance a chancellor must strike between maintaining tradition and moving forward.
Or, more simply put, it’s a “bridge between history and the future,” UNC Board of Governors chair Louis Bissette Jr. said.
“This is a very special occasion,” Bissette said. “It’s an opportunity to remember UNCW’s long history of leadership in higher education and to welcome a new leader.”
Since faculty, staff and students have already had nine months to get to know their new leader, they had much to share about Sartarelli, UNCW’s ninth leader and sixth chancellor.
Dawn Brown, an alumna, employee and chair of the UNCW Staff Senate, remembers her first meeting with Sartarelli last year, and the first piece of advice he gave her: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”
It’s a bit of wisdom that actually belongs to Dwight D. Eisenhower, but Brown said she has seen firsthand that the quote is more than just words to Sartarelli, noting his hands-on attitude and willingness to seek guidance from those who deal in the day-to-day has inspired employees to tackle tasks with engagement and enthusiasm.
“He leads by example, never asking others to do more than he is already doing himself,” she said.
UNCW senior Daniel McCord, president of the Student Government Association, said Sartarelli has embraced the varied and unique paths his peers take to graduation.
“Every student has his own dreams, his own passions, his own potential to succeed,” he said. “I believe Chancellor Sartarelli understands and appreciates that.”
Sartarelli would likely agree.
Using the words of another of his heroes, Albert Einstein, the chancellor told an audience of professors, alumni, students and local officials that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
“‘For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand,'” he continued. “‘While imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’”
It’s that global approach – and igniting students’ interests through applied learning – Sartarelli has made a priority since stepping into the top campus seat.
While at the podium Thursday, he reiterated his commitment to growing diversity, among both faculty and students, and expanding UNCW’s international studies program by sending more students abroad and accepting more from beyond the U.S.
A long procession of students carrying flags of their home country at the start of the installation ceremony represented the multiculturalism already present on campus.
It’s a welcome sight for Sartarelli, who believes that few things change a person’s life more than stepping outside of comfort zones to enter unknown territory.
“My life has been built by diversified change,” Sartarelli said. “I went from country to city, Brazil to the U.S., international business to higher education.”
With a nod to history, the new chancellor was presented with a university medallion, a well-established symbol of elite membership. The ceremony concluded with the ringing of a lone bell nine times, once for each of UNCW’s nine leaders over the university’s 70 years.
Three of those former leaders – James Leutze, his successor Rosemary DePaolo and William Sederburg, who served as interim chancellor until Sartarelli’s arrival – were in attendance, as was the family of William Wagoner. Wagoner, for whom the campus dining hall is named, had the distinct honor of serving in 1968 as both the last president of then-Wilmington College and the first chancellor for the renamed UNCW.
Hilary Snow is a reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.