Professor Leo-Rhynie retired from The UWI in September 2007 as
Pro Vice-Chancellor and Principal of The UWI Mona Campus. She was the first woman to be appointed to head a UWI campus and the first woman to have served as both Deputy Principal and Principal. She was also the first Professor and Regional Coordinator of Gender and Development Studies at The UWI and played a leadership role in the establishment of the Centre (now Institute) for Gender and Development Studies.
A number of educational and other institutions and initiatives have also benefitted from Professor Leo-Rhynie's leadership and involvement. She chaired the Dudley Grant Memorial Trust, which advocates on behalf of early childhood education in Jamaica, for over 25 years; and she has served as a member of Council of the Caribbean Examinations Council, The University of Technology, Jamaica, as well as the governing Boards of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, the University Hospital of the West Indies, the University Council of Jamaica, the United Way of Jamaica and the ICWI Group Foundation.
She was a member of the Privy Council of Jamaica from 1996 to 2006. She was Chair of the GraceKennedy Foundation since 2008 and recently demited office. She remains a member of the Board of the
St. Andrew High School Foundation.
She has been the recipient of a number of honours and awards, including the Pelican Awards of The UWI Alumni Association in 2002, the national honour of Officer of Distinction (Commander Class) in 2000 and the Order of Jamaica in 2015. In 2013, she was honoured by The UWI Mona Campus with the naming of a new Hall of Residence as the Elsa Leo-Rhynie Hall, and in 2016 she was the honouree at The UWI Mona Commemoration celebrations when she delivered the Commemoration Lecture "Change and transformation at UWI 1992–2007: Back on the periphery, looking back."