Sweet Briar College unveils portrait of former president Phil Stone

President Stone and Pres Woo
Former President Phil Stone and President Meredith Woo at the portrait unveiling

On Friday, Nov. 16, a group of alumnae, friends and donors to Sweet Briar College gathered to honor the hard work of former president Phil Stone at the unveiling of his official portrait.

Although Stone was only president of the College for two years, he had a lasting impact and is credited with laying the foundation for the College’s current success. Georgene Vairo ’72, chairwoman of the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors, said: “Once [the settlement board] saw Phil, wearing his pink and green tie, at our first meeting in July 2015, we had no doubt that he was as passionate as the alumnae were about the College and that he was the perfect person to lead us.”

Indeed, when Sweet Briar opened its doors to students in the fall of 2015, it was due in no small measure to the efforts of President Stone. Over the next two years, he laid the foundation on which the College would begin its next chapter — with engaged and united alumnae, faculty and staff joined in common purpose and a new generation of Sweet Briar women ready to take on the world.

“Your steady hand was key to resuscitating our college,” remarked Vairo. “You put us on a firm footing and you set the stage for Meredith Woo to come in here and made sure that we would not only survive, but thrive. We are a beacon of how a small, liberal arts college can be excellent, relevant, affordable and sustainable in the 21st century.”

Vairo portrait unveiling
Chair of the Board Georgene Vairo ’72 speaks to guests at the portrait unveiling on Friday night.

The work he did to secure the College’s future was done with warmth and compassion and those attributes have earned Stone the abiding affection of so many at Sweet Briar College. He’s still a valued member of the Sweet Briar family and President Woo noted that she still relies on Stone’s good counsel. “I can always call Phil when I need advice and he’s never been stingy with it. I can tell you he’s been a solace and a comfort in the last 18 months,” she said.

Stone thanked the speakers for their kind words and said he was grateful for the kindness and friendship of the College’s alumnae and supporters. “One of the joys of Sweet Briar is that I got to know some of your families and visit your homes,” he said. “I had such a great time getting acquainted with you. You were so kind to me and I do appreciate that very much.” In typically modest fashion, he downplayed his own contributions to thank the faculty and staff who supported the work to bring the College back to health and to acknowledge the students and families who put their faith in the College. “You reinvested,” he said of those families. “You put your trust in us again and you made this happen. You made it possible.”

Stone’s portrait was painted by Ying-He Liu, who received B.A. in fine arts from Stony Brook University, SUNY. She has devoted most of her career to portraiture and her subjects encompass heads of major corporations and institutes; leaders in academics, philanthropy, medicine, finance, government, religion and arts; and family members of domestic and international clientele.

The portrait will be on display in the Reading Room in Mary Helen Cochran Library.