For Cady Thomas ’98, giving back to her alma mater is a no-brainer.
“I want Sweet Briar to remain an option for young women everywhere,” she says. “I want it to continue growing and excelling so that it stands out not just among women’s colleges, but all colleges. We need strong single-sex options for future generations, and I know SBC has been that, and I want it to continue forever!”
Coming from the small coastal town of Edenton in North Carolina, Thomas didn’t always have Sweet Briar on her radar.
“Being part of a small college was not what I thought I wanted,” she says. “However, while on a college tour with my mom, she surprised me with a visit to SBC, where an interview and tour were prearranged. Once on campus, I saw all the benefits of a small school and fell in love with the atmosphere and beauty of campus. … It felt comfortable and welcoming.”
Her parents always supported her in anything she put her mind to, and encouraged her to look beyond the horizon. “They always said, ‘We are going to show you the world, and if you choose to come back, that is fine — at least you are making an informed decision,’ ” Thomas remembers.
Thomas took that to heart, traveling to Spain during January-term her freshman year and to Mexico the next.
“The best trip, though, was traveling cross-country with [my parents] my J-term senior year,” she says.
Growing up as an only child, Thomas tried her hand at virtually everything — golf, violin, guitar, piano, soccer, ballet and tennis.
“I also was the first girl in my high school to letter in wrestling,” she says. “No, not what you think — I was the score keeper! I started a trend and when I left, at least three other girls had lettered.”
Thomas recalls another highlight: acting. She loved being on stage and participated in every musical and play her high school produced. She was also part of the concert choir and performed at various venues in Washington, D.C., including the Navy Memorial and the Kennedy Center, her senior year.
In addition, she was chair of the junior/senior prom and editor of the yearbook.
Being involved in so many things, Thomas couldn’t have found a better college than Sweet Briar. A government major who minored in economics and earned a business management certificate, she also worked on the yearbook, played on the tennis team, was an Earphone and served as senior class treasurer. But many of her favorite moments happened in between activities.
“The best times I remember at SBC are those spent with my favorite people,” she says today. “Having two-hour dinners in Prothro with my friends because we would just sit and talk and laugh. Meeting with Professor Bragaw about life and our lessons. Debates in our government classes with passionate students, no matter how naive we were. Tennis team trips. Dell parties and late-night food runs. Every Junior Banquet while I was there!”
There’s also a holiday tradition Thomas hasn’t forgotten about.
“Each year, my roommate Bronwyn Beard and I would wrap our Christmas presents while watching ‘Christmas Vacation’ and ‘Airplane.’ ”
Thomas made the most of Sweet Briar, and life after graduation was a pretty straight line for her — at least figuratively speaking. First, she moved to Washington, D.C. to work in the U.S. Senate — initially as a staff assistant, then as a legislative correspondent for Republican Sen. Jesse Helms. After two years on Capitol Hill, she returned to school and received her J.D. and M.B.A from American University. Then it was time to go home. Thomas moved back to North Carolina and began working as an attorney in capital markets and corporate law at Kilpatrick Stockton, an international law firm in Raleigh.
“While there, I did a pro bono project that had me lobbying the state general assembly,” Thomas says. “This rekindled my love of policy and politics, and I became the director of regulatory affairs for the North Carolina Association of Realtors. Two years later, I was promoted to director of government affairs, the job I hold today.”
Knowing where it all started, and wanting others to have that same experience, has Thomas coming back to Sweet Briar often. And even when she’s not on campus, the College is always right there with her — she’s the class president, organizes local alumnae activities and serves as the chair of regionals on the Alumnae Board.
For Thomas, there’s always that extra mile.
“[I] talk about Sweet Briar to every possible college-bound girl I know and every pregnant woman that may be having a girl!”