President’s report from the April 21-23 board meeting

Although several items from last week’s board meeting have already been made public and posted on our website, there are a few other items that may be of interest to the Sweet Briar community. The board held committee meetings Thursday and met for business sessions all day Friday and Saturday until noon. The agenda was full.

  • Following the practice established previously by the board to engage with the local community, officers of the board met with officials from the town of Amherst and Amherst County to discuss general matters of interest to all parties.
  • A new board member orientation was provided for our newest trustees.
  • Lynn Rainville, an expert on the history of Sweet Briar, made a presentation attended by several board members and other members of the campus community.
  • The board’s by-laws, under discussion and development for several months under the leadership of vice chair Georgene Vairo ’72, were passed. The by-laws are posted on the board’s website.
  • Sarah Flanagan, vice president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Washington, D.C., presented to the board on the challenges and conditions faced by independent colleges. This was part of the continuing education program established earlier by the board to help members become more knowledgeable about higher education issues.
  • The board received an enrollment report which confirmed that applications for next year are now approaching 1,400. The administration indicated that it still expects a strong class this fall.
  • A report on fundraising indicated that the Next Is Now campaign is progressing well. The College has cash and pledges payable by June 30 totaling more than $6 million. We remain confident that we will reach the target of $10 million.
  • The board voted to establish the Founder’s Medal which would be awarded only for special services to the College that significantly advance the interests of the College and help assure its survival in perpetuity. The inaugural medal will be presented at commencement. The board chose the first recipient, whose identity will be disclosed soon.
  • The board hosted the Class of 2016 for dinner. It was a great evening. The seniors are clearly celebrating not only their successes in earning their degrees, but their role in making history at the College.
  • The board passed a resolution congratulating the seniors for their historic role in preserving the College and for their courageous decision to return to campus this year.
  • A resolution was approved commending the faculty and staff for their devotion to the College and for their role in helping to preserve the College after the announcement of closing.
  • A resolution was approved commending the student body for its almost unanimous participation in the Next is Now campaign.
  • The board and faculty met to discuss shared governance concepts. It was an excellent time for a thoughtful and mature exchange of ideas. The board indicated that the conversations would continue.
  • The administration reported that even at this late date (only 60 days from the end of the fiscal year), the College has not taken a penny from its endowment! While a draw from the endowment will be needed before the end of the year, it seems certain that the College will live within a prescribed 5 percent limit. That has not been achieved for many years.
  • Tim Klocko, our new chief financial officer, attending his first meeting of the board, presented preliminary information for the development of next year’s budget. The board will look at the proposed budget at a special conference call in May. The board also received preliminary information about projected revenue and expenses for the next several years.
  • I announced to the board that I expect to hand off the leadership role next summer. Making the announcement now gives the board an opportunity to conduct a thorough, national search and have my successor selected by June 30, 2017. I acknowledge that it was very hard for me to think about leaving Sweet Briar, since I have come to love it as alumnae, faculty, staff and students have done over so many years. Still, this is the time to celebrate our victories and to prepare for an envisioning process to take us into the future. New leadership would be appropriate for that transition. The press release is also posted.
  • Linda Fink, our distinguished Dorys McConnell Duberg Professor of Ecology, conducted a tour for several trustees who were able to participate to see some of the important trees, timber tracts and other special properties of the College.
  • The board adopted a schedule of meetings for the coming year and a pattern for scheduling meetings in the future.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the board is the evening of June 19, a telephone conference call. The next on-campus meeting is scheduled for August 18-20.