When they sold their company in June of this year, entrepreneurs Ann Stuart McKie Kling ’74 and husband, Bill Kling, knew the time was right to realize a long-held goal: making a lasting gift to Sweet Briar. In addition to donating $10,000 to the 2013 Annual Fund, the couple gave $100,000 to establish the Ann Stuart McKie Kling ’74 and Bill Kling Endowed Scholarship, which will provide merit- and need-based aid to Sweet Briar students.
“It’s a vehicle we can keep adding to,” Ann Stuart said via phone from their home in Dallas, where her husband founded the medical skin care company Swiss American Products in 1988.
Swiss American sells a broad range of drugs and medical devices, but is best known for its product line EltaMd. Bill, who has an MBA in marketing but no pharmaceutical training, created the original formula for the skin care products. In 2011, Swiss American generated $25 million. The Klings’ decision to sell the business after 24 years was motivated largely by external factors, including the looming fiscal cliff, which could result in a greater tax liability after 2012.
But there was another reason, too.
“Bill was itching to start a new business,” Ann Stuart said.
Still in its developmental stage, Vibrant Ventures will “use frequencies and vibrations for various applications.”
Bill’s new laboratory and office are housed in a ranch north of Dallas, which they purchased in 2011.
As business owners, the Klings are always looking for a good investment — an entrepreneurial spirit that is evident in their philanthropy, as well.
When the couple approached planned giving director Margie Lippard about the endowment, they didn’t have a particular purpose in mind — but they wanted to make sure that their gift would be used well.
“Whenever we would give a donation to Sweet Briar, it would go to the College’s greatest needs, and we talked about that with Margie,” Ann Stuart explained.
Lippard, Ann Stuart said, steered them toward financial aid, which has been a critical element in Sweet Briar’s efforts to increase enrollment. The Klings’ scholarship will ensure that more students with financial needs are able to attend. Bill also believes it will help to attract more competitive students.
While scholarships are a major factor for many prospective students, the Klings know that there are many other aspects that make Sweet Briar appealing.
For Ann Stuart, it was the College’s Junior Year in France program that caught her attention more than 40 years ago.
“I knew I wanted to be a French major,” she said, adding that study-abroad opportunities ranked high on her priority list. “Sweet Briar College’s JYF program was and continues to be the best.”
Ann Stuart was born in Norfolk, Va., but grew up in Dallas. Most of her favorite memories of Sweet Briar have to do with the campus itself: the beauty and expanse of it, and “feeling like there were just a lot of things to do.”
In many ways, giving to Sweet Briar keeps that experience alive for future generations. On a broader scale, it also helps to sustain, as Ann Stuart put it, “the legacy that was started so long ago by Indiana Fletcher … to maintain the singular spot that Sweet Briar has — remaining a women’s college, and bringing it into the twenty-first century.”
To help support that vision, Ann Stuart has been involved in a number of alumnae events and organizations over the years. A member of the Boxwood Society and the Boxwood Circle Committee, she has been a part of Sweet Briar Day events, Homecoming, Reunion, the Reunion and Annual Fund committees, and several Dallas-area events and the Dallas Regional Planning Committee. She has also served as a national Reunion Giving chair and on the Alumnae Board as a Region IX chair. Ann Stuart makes the extra effort, she says, because it’s important to her to let people know about Sweet Briar and what it offers.