Well-known philanthropist Richard C. Colton Jr. has given $1 million to Sweet Briar College to support the renovation of the College’s stables, which will be named the Howell Lykes Colton ’38 Stables in honor of his mother.
Sweet Briar started its formal riding program around 1920, making it one of the oldest and most distinguished programs in the United States. For the last two years, the riding team has been very successful. In 2018, it competed in the National Collegiate Equestrian Association Championship for the first time. Also that year, Makayla Benjamin ’18 won the prestigious USEF/Cacchione Cup, which recognizes the nation’s best collegiate rider each year. In April 2019, the team made history by competing beyond the opening round of the NCEA National Championship for the first time. In November 2019, the Sweet Briar team was ranked ninth over fences in the initial NCEA Rankings, alongside powerhouse schools like the Auburn University, the University of Georgia, Baylor University, Texas A&M, and Texas Christian University.
“At Sweet Briar,” said the College’s president Meredith Woo, “one third of our students identify as riders, whether for competition or recreation. Their participation in the program helps them learn lessons of perseverance, discipline and teamwork. We are committed to supporting the excellence of our riding program and I thank Dick Colton for his tremendous generosity, which is an important part of that commitment.” Mimi Wroten, director of the College’s program added, “I am extremely grateful for this gift. The renovation of our stables will allow us to continue the legacy of providing exceptional horse care and a superior experience for riders of all levels.”
From the program’s earliest days, its student riders have also excelled as student leaders, as demonstrated by the accomplishments of Colton’s mother, Howell Lykes Colton, a member of the Sweet Briar Class of 1938. Howell was a member of a number of clubs and organizations on campus, and also served as the student head of riding. As a student and an alumna, she exemplified the traits of leadership, confidence and service that Sweet Briar has always sought to instill in its students. “My mom was a very intelligent woman and Sweet Briar was a great asset to her life.” Colton told us. “She was wise beyond her years. I think she would have excelled in the school even in today’s generation.”
Colton’s donation will enhance Sweet Briar’s ability to cultivate scholar-athletes who are accomplished leaders and supportive team members — and to maintain a nationally-ranked program that attracts top riders, instructors and trainers. The renovations should be complete by September 2020.
Colton is glad to be able to support the school his mother loved so much. “To this day, my mother’s life and what she did with Sweet Briar has definitely impacted us,” Colton said. “We really admired Sweet Briar. Being part of its comeback is honoring my mother and has been a wonderful part of my life. Also, Sweet Briar is really well-known for its riding and I want to help keep it up. I’m satisfied to be able to help.”
In fact, Sweet Briar has become something of a tradition for the Colton family. Although Colton wasn’t able to follow his mother to Sweet Briar — he graduated from Washington & Lee in 1960 — his sister, Keenan Kelsey ’66 did attend the College and both have been generous to Sweet Briar. In fact, Keenan is a current, dedicated member of the Sweet Briar Board of Trustees. “My mother was very happy that my sister went to Sweet Briar and had a good career there,” Colton told us. “She would be proud that her son and daughter have supported the College.”
Colton is the author of a recently published book, “No More. No Less.: An Artful Cancer Journey. A Remarkable Community. A Rediscovered Purpose.” The inspirational memoir tells the story of Colton’s decades-long fight against cancer and the lessons it taught him. The book is available at Amazon in print and electronic formats and will soon be available as an audio book. For more on Richard Colton, his cancer journey and the roots of his philanthropy and rediscovered purpose, visit richardcolton.com.