Appomattox native and Student Government Association President Caroline Thomas is the recipient of the 2019 Presidential Medal, the highest honor a Sweet Briar student can attain. The award was announced during the Academic Recognition Dinner for Dean’s List and First-year Honors List students in Prothro on Wednesday night.
“My first reaction was an emotional one,” said Thomas, a business major and journalism, new media and communications minor, the morning after the big event. “When President Woo mentioned me speaking for the SCHEV council last May, I broke into tears. I’d been shaking and I could feel my heart beating so fast, waiting to find out. I am so honored to be recognized among some of the most outstanding Sweet Briar women. It was a great feeling to be recognized by my college for my hard work in supporting them and encouraging class and school spirit for the last four years — and I can’t believe that I only have six-and-a-half weeks left!”
While the Presidential Medal rewards intellectual achievement, honorees must also have shown distinction in a combination of areas, including community service; the arts; global awareness; fitness and athletic achievement; and leadership, civility and integrity of character.
A three-year varsity swimmer and four-year soccer player, Thomas is known across campus for her extensive and enthusiastic involvement in and outside of class. A former Class of 2019 president and vice president, she has served as an admissions ambassador for three years, was vice chairwoman of the program her junior year and is chairwoman her senior year. She has held a Presidential Scholarship all four years and is the recipient of multiple honors and awards, including the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges Award (2017-19), the Mary Mackintosh Sherer Award (2017), the Rickards Award (2016) and the Jean Pschirrer First-year Award (2016). She is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and Alpha Lambda Delta, serving as president in 2016.
Among her athletic achievements are two Old Dominion Athletic Conference All-Academic Team awards (2015-17) and an ODAC Sportsmanship Award (2016-17). Outside of Sweet Briar, Thomas has served as head coach for Appomattox County High School’s girls’ junior varsity soccer team since 2016.
But there is more to this Presidential Medalist, as her nominators remind us.
“A bold woman of intelligence, strong character, superb performance, courage and humility, [Caroline] came to Sweet Briar College four years ago in August of 2015 with a deep faith and belief … Instead of running from the storm, she was one of the very few who turned into the storm and its aftermath,” a nomination from the admissions office reads. At Opening Convocation that fall, it continues, Thomas was chosen as “Keeper of the Story” by current Dean of Students Marcia Thom-Kaley. “[Caroline] embraced the charge entrusted to her and courageously became an integral part of the process of healing, rebuilding, strengthening and helping to lead the College with boldness into an era of innovation and excellence that is now rated first among equals.” During her four years, the nomination continues, Thomas showcased all of the hallmarks of a true leader: “Not only did she write her own story, but she helped write Sweet Briar’s story.”
Thom-Kaley agrees, praising Thomas’s natural leadership skills and writing in her nomination that she credits the SGA president, with whom she meets weekly, with “steering the student body towards a place of stability and encouraging every member to thrive.”
Jason Capps, head soccer coach, couldn’t agree more. Thomas, he notes, “embraces the wise notion that real leadership risks popularity. Miss Thomas is a team-first, steady, strong example of quality leadership and by leading in such a confident, passionate manner, she creates a positive and meaningful impact on those around her.” Thomas, Capps’s nomination continues, “epitomizes what it means to be a Sweet Briar woman. Part of the mission of Sweet Briar College … is to grow future leaders and Miss Thomas is already miles ahead, leading the way for other Vixens to follow.”
“With a booming voice that needs no microphone, unwavering strength that stands in the face of intimidation and unwavering faith in Sweet Briar College, Caroline Thomas is the obvious choice for this year’s Presidential Medalist,” the admissions office writes.