Sweet Briar College honors visionary donors

Donor DinnerBetween 2015 and 2018, Sweet Briar alumnae and friends contributed $53.7 million dollars in support of the College. About a quarter of that total came from a group of 90 remarkable and visionary donors, including several who made gifts of $1 million or more. Their donations supported faculty, academic programs, scholarships and the College’s natural and built environment.

On Thursday, Nov. 15, the College honored these extraordinary families, whose generosity not only ensured Sweet Briar will continue to educate women of consequence, but also laid a foundation for the College’s future innovation and leadership among liberal arts colleges.

Kelley Manderson Fitzpatrick ’85, a member of the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors and of the search committee that hired President Meredith Woo, is one of the individuals honored on Thursday. She said she knew that if she didn’t make her best gift in 2015, she might not get another opportunity. “This was a unique situation, and the College needed my gift right away,” Fitzpatrick said. “I had to put everything I had into it and I had to do it with no strings attached. I knew I would regret it if I didn’t.”

Speaking at the event in Mary Helen Cochran Library, Mary Pope Maybank Hutson ’83, vice president for alumnae relations and development, expressed her gratitude. “When I look around the room, I see friends, colleagues and believers in what this institution stands for: courage, excellence and undeniable resilience,” she said. “I see dedicated individuals and families who were undaunted by the odds or the naysayers. I cannot say this enough: Thank you for your deep love and commitment to this college.”

President Woo acknowledged the difficulty of the work the College and its supporters did over the last three years. “The work the College did to raise unrestricted support was almost unthinkable in higher education,” she said. “Sweet Briar’s passionate alumnae and supporters were responsible for preserving a great American legacy. Thanks to all of you for making this miracle happen.”

Woo went on to talk about her vision for Sweet Briar’s future, including innovation in academics, doing right by the College’s architectural inheritance and natural environment, and nurturing a can-do spirit of leadership in its students. “Sweet Briar is a small college that delivers an excellent liberal arts education in an environment that is simply exquisite,” she said. “We can be a destination as a place that delivers a fine education for women with strengths in the arts and engineering. We can take that legacy and create a signature educational program that is intentional about what it means to be a leader. I think we are very much on our way to making it happen.”