Board report on June 19 meeting

At its 18th and final meeting of the fiscal year on June 19, 2016, the Sweet Briar Board of Directors discussed various College matters and took actions including the following:

  • Fundraising — The board was informed that the College has raised approximately $9 million in gifts and pledges to be paid by June 30. This is in addition to the $12 million received a year ago from Saving Sweet Briar. The president and the development team will be actively working to raise the remaining $1 million in the next 10 days to successfully reach our fundraising goal of $10 million!
  • Enrollment — The board reviewed the report on enrollment provided by the administration indicating that the enrollment for this fall will be strong. The very positive information is to be spelled out in a public communication in a couple weeks, when the numbers are a little clearer.
  • Endowment spending — The president reported that the College still has not drawn any endowment funds! Even if an endowment draw should be needed in the closing days of the year, it is clear that it will be substantially less than the budgeted 5 percent, a fiscal result not seen at the College for more than 20 years!
  • FY16 budget — The College is under its expense budget and will finish the year more than $1 million under budget.
  • FY17 preliminary budget — The board had reviewed the administration’s proposed preliminary budget for the next fiscal year at length at its April meeting. After a few adjustments following the counsel of the Board Finance Committee, the revised preliminary budget was recommended by the administration, endorsed by the Finance Committee and unanimously approved by the board. The budget projects expenses of $33.2 million in FY 2017 compared to the current year’s budget of $31.1 million. A modest contribution to faculty-staff pensions will be made. This year the contributions had been eliminated. Fundraising will still play a critical role. The budget assumes $20 million in gifts next year.
  • Option on Roanoke property — The president reported that the city of Roanoke, which had previously been given an option to purchase property of less than one acre in the city, requested another option (the previous one expired several months ago) to purchase the unimproved property. The property was given to the College about 20 years ago and no other interest in purchasing it has been expressed. The board agreed to authorize granting the option.
  • Staffing — The following staffing updates were reported:
    • Bill Allen will start his duties as vice president for enrollment management July 1. In addition to his experience managing admissions operations, he has recruited at a women’s college and at an engineering and technology school. He has also had good experience in international recruiting. The campus community has reacted very positively to him and looks forward to his arrival.
    • Three years ago, mathematics professor Raina Robeva received an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia — the same award given to Dr. Jim Kirkwood this year. At the time of closing, Raina was quickly hired by another college. She has now agreed to return to Sweet Briar this fall.
  • Activities and events — The president reported on the following activities since the April board meeting:
    • Mary Pope Hutson, vice president for alumnae relations and development, and the president have been in North Carolina, New York City, San Francisco, Charleston, Atlanta and Philadelphia for alumnae and fundraising events. Information has previously been posted on the Devon Horse Show alumnae reception and the Silicon Valley trip.
    • Ellen Bowyer was presented the newly created Founder’s Medal, in absentia, at commencement. Just a couple of days before commencement, she found that she could not be present to receive the award in person. To make sure she received the recognition we intended, board chair Teresa Tomlinson ’87 still recognized her, read the entire resolution of appreciation, and invited the audience to give her a standing ovation. It was quite nice. Ellen came to the president’s office later to receive the award and expressed her appreciation for the recognition.
    • At the Amherst Chamber of Commerce dinner on campus last month, Sweet Briar was recognized as the Large Business of the Year in the community. The president was the speaker and Sweet Briar was feted the entire evening. This community loves having us back!
    • The Rachel Platten concert was a lot of fun. The president noted that his 11- and 13-year-old granddaughters attended. Since they thought he knew nothing about popular music more recent than Perry Como, they were thrilled that Rachel gave him a hug when he greeted her! They now think their granddad is cool!
    • All end-of-the-year events went well. Commencement activities went flawlessly. Leah Busque ’01 did a terrific job as the speaker. The weather cooperated — we had sunny skies for the outdoor commencement and luncheon, as well as the reception on the Sweet Briar House grounds after baccalaureate. Dozens of parents came to the president and others at commencement, some emotional, to thank us for keeping the College open so their daughters could graduate from the school they love. It was touching to hear these expressions of gratitude from people who risked returning to Sweet Briar before they could possibly know it was safe to do so. Their reactions alone would have justified our work to keep Sweet Briar alive!
    • Reunion was fabulous. More than 600 alumnae and guests attended. In spite of some thunder showers, the many activities all came off without a hitch. In contrast to the sense of mourning last year, this was a time for celebration and unbridled joy.
    • The board approved resolutions authorizing new staff members in the finance department to sign financial and bank documents.
    • The board approved a resolution of deep appreciation for longtime staff colleague Gail Payne for her selfless and faithful service to the College over many years, and especially for her willingness to postpone retirement to assist the College during the time of transition.

The board’s next meeting will take place on campus Aug. 18-20.