Campus and Amherst communities honor Sweet Briar’s president at farewell festival

Phil Stone and Del. Ben Cline at podium
On Saturday, Del. Ben Cline (right) read a joint house resolution introduced during the last session of the Virginia General Assembly honoring President Phil Stone.

Sweet Briar’s president had about an hour to wonder what was in store for him during Saturday’s Phil Stone Farewell Food Truck Festival in his honor. He knew something was up. You couldn’t miss the pink-shrouded stand next to the podium in Upchurch Field House.

Sure enough, Chairwoman Teresa Tomlinson stepped to the mic to announce that the board of directors had been looking for ways to honor President Stone for his two years of service at the helm of the College. The idea for this one — there will be others to come, she said — came from the board’s vice chair, Georgene Vairo.

First, Vairo suggested a proclamation, Tomlinson recounted.

“That wasn’t good enough,” Tomlinson said. “She said, ‘Let’s go get [Julia Jackson Nichols Professor of English] John Gregory Brown and his wife, [Banister Writer-in-Residence] Carrie Brown, to write something special.’”

With that, Tomlinson read “In Appreciation of the Inestimable President Phil Stone,” written by the Browns and presented April 22, 2017, by Tomlinson on behalf of the trustees, faculty, staff and students of Sweet Briar College.

It began: “By now the tale is almost apocryphal. Even so, it never gets old.”

Tomlinson read the piece in its entirety. Near the end, the authors observe: “The Sweet Briar community owes its birth to Indiana Fletcher Williams, who believed in the power and necessity of a woman’s education. The college owes its rebirth to Phillip Stone, who, like the great American statesman he so admires, understood what Lincoln understood, that ‘the best way to predict the future is to create it.’”

Phil Stone and Teresa Tomlinson shake hands
At Saturday’s farewell event, Teresa Tomlinson presented a special plaque to President Phil Stone, who retires May 15.

Tomlinson removed the cover from the stand, revealing a plaque containing the full text (click here to read online).

That wasn’t the end of the presentations, however. Tomlinson also called to the podium Del. Ben Cline, who represents Sweet Briar’s and Amherst’s legislative district.

Acknowledging the rainy weather outside, but noting “it’s lively and bright and beautiful in here,” Cline said it was great to be back on campus. The news of the closing two years ago was a shock, he recalled, but it mobilized both the campus and its neighbors to save the College.

“Amherst wouldn’t be Amherst without Sweet Briar, and so it was my pleasure to introduce a joint resolution this past General Assembly session, which ended last month, honoring Phil Stone on his retirement.”

Cline read House Joint Resolution No. 948, which is available online here.

For his part, President Stone graciously accepted the accolades, but not without noting that the Browns are writers of fiction.

Becoming serious, he said the victories of the previous two years were all about “the team that is called Sweet Briar.” He listed the players: the students and parents who didn’t give up on the College, faculty and staff who decided to take their chances here, Amherst County and town leaders, and the unwavering support of the alumnae.

“So I salute you as members of the team that made it happen and tell you what a joy it’s been to be one of you. I’ll never forget you. Thank you.”

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