On Friday, May 6, Sweet Briar College dedicated the Kelley and C. T. Fitzpatrick Center for Creativity, Design and the Arts.
When President Meredith Woo joined the Sweet Briar community in 2017, one of the first things she did was charge the faculty to create innovative programming around the College’s strengths. The faculty responded by developing the Center for Creativity, Design and the Arts to leverage the College’s excellence in creative endeavors and heighten its role as the region’s cultural pillar.
Meanwhile, Kelley and C.T. Fitzpatrick’s visionary support of Sweet Briar laid a strong foundation for the College’s resurgence. Kelley was instrumental in the effort to save the College from closure by providing critical funding. The couple’s most recent gifts have been pivotal components of the College’s recent enrollment growth by providing funding for prospective students to travel to campus to see for themselves the life-altering beauty of the College. They have also provided necessary resources for marketing Sweet Briar in Virginia and beyond.
In addition to giving, Kelley ’85 is an active volunteer, serving on the Sweet Briar Board of Directors since 2015. “Kelley and C.T. have been our close and invaluable partners in rebuilding the College and raising it to national distinction,” noted President Woo. “It is therefore eminently fitting to name the center in their honor.”
The Center for Creativity, Design and the Arts is an interdisciplinary center that strives to cultivate creativity through the fine and performing arts and provide opportunities for collaboration among artists, educators and students across academic disciplines and global boundaries. Under the able leadership of Professor Carrie Brown, the center has supported a central element of the Sweet Briar Women’s Leadership Core Curriculum, helping students appreciate beauty and increasing their capacity for creative thinking and empathetic understanding.
The center seeks to raise awareness of the Piedmont region’s importance to Virginia. The resultant educational, cultural, artistic, culinary and outdoor programming will attract visitors from around the nation and the world and broaden the cultural horizons for Sweet Briar’s students, community and neighbors.
The center has also deepened the College’s relationship with the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Together, Sweet Briar and VCCA have sponsored visiting fellows who have taught the Fellows Studio course, which is part of the College’s leadership curriculum. Other fellows regularly participate in Sweet Briar’s arts classes and have discussed their work with the Sweet Briar community and the public in our salon series. This partnership also fosters international experiences for our students and faculty.
The center’s programming, which showcases work by women, is vital to the College’s mission to challenge and inspire students. They will be uplifted by women’s cultural achievements as they cultivate their own creativity and prepare to take leadership positions in the art world or in other endeavors.
The goal of inspiring women leaders resonates with the Fitzpatricks. Kelley has served on the boards of several arts organizations, including the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Through her work with the YWCA of Central Alabama and with GirlSpring, Kelley has also worked to broaden the horizons and prospects of many, particularly young people, as has her husband. In addition to their other interests, the Fitzpatricks have been leading supporters of the University of Alabama, founding and endowing the Fitzpatrick Center for Value Investing. In 2020 they were named Outstanding Philanthropists of the year by the Alabama chapter of Fundraising Professionals.
The Fitzpatricks’ family foundation focuses primarily on higher education and the arts. “We believe education is the best way to lift families out of poverty and to empower individuals to direct their own destiny,” Kelley explained. “We support the arts because it is a touchstone of our humanity and makes life worth living.”
“To have the Center for Creativity, Design and the Arts named for C.T. and me is perfect because we believe that creativity is vital for innovation and problem-solving in every field,” Kelley said. “A Sweet Briar education teaches young women how to think for themselves in a constantly changing, chaotic world. The kind of empathetic leadership we need in this world is impossible without creativity.”
The Fitzpatricks are proud of the College’s recent growth and are gratified that they have been able to be a part of it. “C.T. and I made an investment in Sweet Briar, and we have seen a return on our investment including increasing enrollment, an innovative curriculum, a refreshed campus and a reputation for excellence in higher education,” Kelley observed. “The return on our investment is that self-directed young women will continue to have the Sweet Briar experience. Future generations of women will reach their innate leadership potential, and the world is better for it.”