Sweet Briar Institute was made possible by the last will and testament of Indiana Fletcher Williams, which directed that her assets be used to create and operate a women’s college in Amherst County, Va., to be held in trust in perpetuity. Sweet Briar Institute (known and operated as Sweet Briar College) was incorporated as a non-stock corporation by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia approved Feb. 9, 1901, for the purpose of implementing the trust in the Williams will. The College has been operated continuously since that time as a private liberal arts women’s college.
Verda Colvin '87
Joined BOD | July 22, 2022
As a student at Sweet Briar, Verda double-majored in government and religion and held a variety of leadership positions, including as a resident advisor and a member of several student organizations. She earned her juris doctorate from the University Of Georgia School Of Law.
Verda’s career started at a civil rights law firm, but she found her true calling where she never expected it — as a prosecutor. From there, Verda went to work briefly as assistant general counsel for Clark-Atlanta University. She spent nearly six years as a Superior Court judge in the Macon Judicial Circuit, during which she served on the Council of Accountability Court Judges. As superior court judge in Macon-Bibb County, Ga., Verda had exclusive jurisdiction over felony cases, divorce, land and equity cases. She also became well known thanks to a viral video showing her lecture a group of troubled youth.
She was appointed to the Georgia Court of Appeals by Gov. Kemp in April 2020. Governor Kemp appointed her to the Georgia Supreme Court in July 2021. She is the first African-American female appointed by a Republican governor to the state’s high court.
She’s earned numerous awards and honors for her service and is a member of several organizations and boards in Georgia. You can read more about Verda on the Georgia Supreme Court website and on the Sweet Briar news site.
Michael Elliott, PharmD
H | Richmond, Va.
Joined BOD | May 7, 2021
Michael I. Elliott is senior vice president and chief operating officer at Virginia Commonwealth University Health System.
In this role, Elliott is responsible for integrating the academic health system’s organizational strategic plan with its operations. Elliott leads efforts to deliver equitable, high-quality, cost-effective and integrated care across the health system’s hospitals and clinics.
Prior to Virginia Commonwealth University Health System, Elliott served as senior vice president and chief transformation officer at Centra Health based in Lynchburg, Va.
Elliott completed a doctor of pharmacy and master of science in health administration at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Pharmacy and School of Health Professions.
Elliott is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, serves on the Sweet Briar College Board of Trustees, the American Hospital Association Community and Population Health Advisory Committee, and is an elder at his church “The Hope Company,” and is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.
Elliott has been married to his wife, Lashelle, for 21 years and they have three children named Christian, Donovan and Evan.
Marianne “Mimi” C. Fahs '71
H | New York, N.Y.
Joined BOD | July 2, 2015
Mimi Fahs is a health economist, with more than 30 years of experience. She holds a joint appointment in the City University of New York as a professor of health policy with the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy and professor of economics with the Graduate Center. She was the founding research director of the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging of Hunter College, and the founding director of the Health Policy Research Center at the New School in New York City. Prior to that, she directed the Health Economics Division at Mount Sinai Medical Center in NYC, where she pioneered the first cost-effectiveness analysis of cancer prevention strategies among older women in the US. She has authored numerous articles and consults regularly with the National Institutes of Health.
Mimi received her B.A. from Sweet Briar College in international relations, and her M.P.H. and Ph.D. from the School of Public Health, University of Michigan. Married, with one adult son, she divides her time between Manhattan and Orient Point, Long Island.
Kelley M. Fitzpatrick '85
H | Mountain Brook, Ala.
Joined BOD | July 2, 2015
A graduate of the Class of 1985, she has served on the board of directors since 2015. She has a background in the investment industry and the nonprofit sector.
She is the president of her family’s private foundation which supports education, the arts, environmental issues and the promotion of mental and spiritual wellbeing. Through the foundation, she and her husband, C.T., endowed the Value Investing Program, research library and trading room at the University of Alabama. The Manderson family endowed the graduate business school at the University of Alabama. She is the mother of two adult sons and lives with her husband in Birmingham, Alabama.
Sally Mott Freeman '76
H | Bethesda, Md.
Joined BOD | April 14, 2018
Sally Mott Freeman, author of the bestselling book “The Jersey Brothers,” is an accomplished speechwriter, public relations executive and nonprofit leader of more than 30 years. Her book is a critically acclaimed Smithsonian top history book and an Amazon Best Book of the year in both the history and memoir categories. After penning speeches for an FCC commissioner and later its chairman, Mott became FCC’s spokesperson and news media division chief following the court-ordered breakup of AT&T. She was also vice president for telecommunications at FleishmanHillard, a global public relations firm, and was PR and Communications vice president for two technology trade associations. After four terms as chair of The Writer’s Center, the premier independent literary center in the Mid-Atlantic, Freeman is now board chair emerita. She has served on the boards of Washington Shakespeare Company, American Diabetes Association, The Washington Tennis Foundation, Saving Sweet Briar Inc., St. Anne’s-Belfield School and the Sweet Briar College Alumnae Alliance. She has recently been invited to the board of the Pentagon Memorial Fund as well.
Mott graduated from Charlottesville’s St. Anne’s-Belfield School, which honored her with its 2017 Distinguished Alumna Award, and from Sweet Briar College (English literature), which honored her with its 2016 Distinguished Alumna Award.
H | Roanoke, Va.
Joined BOD | March 27, 2020
Bob Goodlatte represented the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives for 26 years, the longest term of service of any representative of the district. He was a leader in national conversations on immigration, criminal justice, technology and the collection of personal data by the government. He served as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and Chairman of the House Republican Technology Working Group. He was Co-Chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus and the Congressional International Creativity and Theft-Prevention Caucus. He served two terms on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, and served on the Subcommittee on Higher Education. He was founder and Co-Chairman of the Congressional Independent Colleges Caucus and in 2019 the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities presented Bob its Award for Advocacy of Independent Higher Education.
Before going to Washington, DC, Bob founded his own private law practice in Roanoke then later was a partner in the law firm of Bird, Kinder and Huffman. He is a graduate of Washington and Lee University School of Law, with an undergraduate degree in Government from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.
He resides in Roanoke with his wife of over 45 years, Maryellen. They have two adult children, Jennifer and Bobby; a son-in-law, Matt Barblan; and two granddaughters.
Lendon Gray '71
H | Bedford, N.Y.
Joined BOD | April 12, 2019
Lendon Gray was in the Sweet Briar College Class of 1971, majoring in Greek and Latin. While at Sweet Briar, she was active in the riding program and taught riding there for 3 1/2 years after graduation. A few years after college, she started to specialize in dressage, made two Olympic teams and represented the U.S. internationally for many years. For over 45 years she ran successful training stables in Maine, New York and Florida. She became very active in the U.S. Dressage Federation, where she chaired many committees geared toward education, and was a founding examiner for Instructor Certification. She was on the board of directors of the U.S . Equestrian Federation and the U.S. Pony Clubs, also serving on various committees. She is now on the board of the USA Equestrian Trust, is secretary of The Dressage Foundation’s Board, and is president of Dressage4kids Inc., an organization she started 22 years ago, and which is now recognized internationally as a top program for educating young people in dressage. Gray has been inducted into Sweet Briar’s Athletics Hall of Fame, the Maine Sports Hall of Hall and the U.S. Dressage Federation Hall of Fame, was honored as the American Riding Instructor Association Master Instructor, a USPC Legend and an EquineAffaire Exceptional Equine Educator, and received a Pony Club Master Achievement Award.
Fred “Buzzy” Griffin
H | Houston, Tx.
Joined BOD | April 14, 2018
Buzzy Griffin, former chairman of Space Center Houston, is a successful real estate developer from Houston, Texas. He met his wife, Betsy Pearson Griffin ’62, at Sweet Briar College. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Washington & Lee University and went on to earn an MBA from the University of Texas. Thereafter, he was hired by the Friendswood Development Company, a subsidiary of Exxon, where he began his career in real estate. He played a key role in the purchase, planning and development of Kingwood, Woodlake, Greenspoint, Copperfield, Clear Lake City and other substantial projects throughout the greater Houston area. In 1980, Griffin left Exxon to form Griffin Partners, a full service real estate development company. Through the years, the company and its related affiliates have built or acquired projects encompassing approximately 11.2 million square feet of space with an aggregate value of $2 billion.
Griffin continues to serve on the board of directors for Space Center Houston as well as Houston Grand Opera, Central Houston and the Bay Area Economic Partnership.
H | Alexandria, Va.
Joined BOD | July 22, 2020
Martha Holland graduated from Sweet Briar College, with a BA in Physics, in 1972. She began her career working in the federal government for the Federal Energy Administration (now the Department of Energy) and then the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Martha then turned to a legal career, graduating from Georgetown University School of Law in 1980. She worked in the legal department of the Detroit Edison Company and served as a lawyer for ANR Pipeline Company in Detroit during that decade. Since then, Martha has served as a prolific volunteer and fundraiser.
For the last thirty years, Martha Holland has been a key supporter of Sweet Briar College. In addition to supporting the College with significant gifts, Martha serves as a member of the Class of ‘72’s prolific fundraising team. She served as Co-chair of the Class of ‘72’s 30th reunion, and as the Treasurer of the Sweet Briar Club of Washington, D.C. She, also, volunteered and raised funds for her children’s elementary and high schools: National Presbyterian School, National Cathedral School and Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School. She served as PTA President of National Presbyterian School and as an ex officio member of its Board of Directors.
H | Larkspur, Calif.
Joined BOD | April 14, 2018
Keenan Kelsey was a Sweet Briar legacy student, daughter of Howell Lykes Colton ’38. Although officially retired as a Presbyterian pastor, she was named pastor emerita at Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco, Calif., and continues to preach and teach as needed. She is a strong advocate of single-sex education — having graduated from both Sweet Briar College and Emma Willard School — women’s empowerment and the liberal arts. Before ordination, she worked for a forestry magazine, as a Head Start teacher, a team member for the first Earth Day, an environmental educator and, for more than a decade, as the owner and manager of a bird shop in San Francisco.
An active volunteer, Kelsey has served on the board of Peoples Gas and currently serves on the Board of the Lark Theater. Kelsey has been a resident of Larkspur, Calif., for 20 years and enjoys having her two children and three grandchildren nearby.
John L. Nau, III
H | Houston, Tx.
Joined BOD | December 31, 2020
John L. Nau, III is Chairman and CEO of Silver Eagle Beverages, one of the largest Anheuser-Busch distributors in the nation. Silver Eagle Beverages employs over 500 employees who service a territory that includes the greater San Antonio area in Bexar County and extends over 12 additional counties in southwest Texas. In addition, Silver Eagle Beverages distributes Grupo Modelo beers, a broad selection of national and local craft beers and several non-alcohol beverages and waters.
Nau’s commitment to service is apparent through a broad spectrum of participation in civic, community, and philanthropic organizations in Texas and throughout the country. His current involvement includes Chairman of the Texas Historical Commission, National Park Foundation Board of Directors, American Battlefield Trust Board of Directors, Andrew Jackson Foundation Board, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library Foundation Board of Directors, Baylor College of Medicine Board of Trustees, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Board of Trustees, University of Houston Board of Visitors, Honorary Trustee of Texas Heart Institute, Honorary State Trustee for the San Antonio Parks Foundation and Advisory Council member to the Center for Big Bend Studies. He also serves as a Board Member for Friends of Vicksburg National Military Park, Houston Police Foundation, San Antonio Zoo, and The Admiral Nimitz Foundation.
He is a graduate of the University of Virginia and previously served on the Board of Visitors, a position appointed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He is founder and President of The Nau Foundation.
Michelle O’Neill '85
H | Washington, D.C.
Joined BOD | March 27, 2020
Until recently, Michelle O’Neill was the Executive Vice President and Chief External Affairs at Alcoa Corp., based in Washington D.C. In April 2020, Michelle assumed the role of vice president of global government affairs for Corning, Inc. At Alcoa, Michelle was accountable for global government affairs, community relations, and communications, in addition to driving sustainability across the company. She also oversaw the Alcoa Foundation, one of the oldest corporate foundations in the US with an endowment of $130 million, and $6.5 million in annual grantmaking. Prior to joining Alcoa, Michelle served in the US Government for 25 years, culminating in her role as Deputy Under Secretary for International Trade at the US Department of Commerce.
Michelle graduated from Sweet Briar College in 1985 with degrees in international affairs and Spanish. She earned her master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas at Austin.
Senator J. Chapman “Chap” Petersen
H | Fairfax, Va.
Joined BOD | July 15, 2021
John Chapman “Chap” Petersen is licensed to practice law in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. He and his wife Sharon Kim Petersen live in Fairfax City with their four children where they own a law firm specializing in business law, commercial litigation and property rights. Senator Petersen has served as a Virginia State Senator since 2007, representing central and western Fairfax. As a State Senator, he is a senior member of the Senate Democratic Caucus and chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Senator Petersen’s grandmother, Mary Walton (McCandlish) Livingston graduated from Sweet Briar College in 1935, as did her sister a year later. In 2016, he was the first state official to publicly oppose the decision to close Sweet Briar. He wrote letters to the Attorney General and made multiple public statements questioning the legal rationale and advocating for a reversal of the initial decision.
Senator Petersen is a graduate of Fairfax High School, Williams College and the University of Virginia Law School.
Holly Prothro Philbin '95
Executive Committee Member at Large
H | Dallas, Tx.
Joined BOD | August 10, 2018
A Sweet Briar College legacy student, Holly Philbin graduated cum laude in 1995 with a B.A. in environmental studies. Her grandmother Elizabeth Perkins Prothro, aunt Kay Yeager and cousins Elizabeth Yeager and Linda Yeager all attended Sweet Briar. Her aunt also served on the Sweet Briar College Board of Directors, as did her father, Mark Prothro, as well her grandfather Charles Prothro.
Following graduation from Sweet Briar, Philbin had a successful career in marketing. She is currently an active volunteer in her sons’ schools, having served as PTA president for their pre-schools and elementary schools. Following six years as a co-chair of the Mad for Plaid Campaign for the Highland Park ISD, she now serves as vice president for development of the Highland Park Education Foundation. Philbin is a board member of the Perkins Prothro Foundation in Wichita Falls, Texas. She has served on numerous boards and committees in her community, including Highland Park UMC and Southern Methodist University.
Philbin lives in Dallas with her husband, Phillip, and their three boys. In her free time, she enjoys travel, reading and photography.
Mason Bennett Rummel '83
Chair of the Board
H | Louisville, Ky.
Joined BOD | October 13, 2015
Mason Rummel is the president and CEO of the James Graham Brown Foundation in Louisville, Kentucky. She joined the staff of the foundation in 1989 after moving to Louisville from Washington, D.C., where she was a political appointee for the Reagan administration from 1983 to 1988.
Active in regional and national work in philanthropy, she serves on the Southeastern Council of Foundations Public Policy Committee, the Public Policy Committee of the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, the Public Policy Working Group of the Philanthropy Roundtable and also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Council on Foundations.
In Louisville, Mason was the founder of Grantmakers of Kentucky, serves on the boards of The Greater Louisville Project, the executive board of Evolve502, and the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Mason holds a master of arts in philanthropic studies at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and a master of arts in professional writing at Spalding University. She received her B.A. in English from Sweet Briar College. She is married with three grown children.
Stephen P. Smiley
H | Dallas, Tx.
Joined BOD | April 12, 2019
Steve Smiley is the managing partner of Madison Lane Partners LLC, a private advisory firm in Dallas, Texas.
From 1996 to 2010, Smiley was president of Hunt Private Equity Group Inc., the private investment group associated with the Ray L. Hunt family of Dallas. Prior to joining Hunt, Smiley was president of Cypress Capital Corporation, a private equity firm he co-founded in 1991. Smiley started his professional career working for Citicorp/Citigroup for 15 years in New York and Dallas in various corporate lending and private equity capacities. Smiley is the former chairman of the board of managers of the Alumni Association at the University of Virginia and formerly a member of the board of directors of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation.
He is currently a member of the Arts Council at the university and on the board of trustees of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1971 with a B.A. in English literature. Following college, Smiley served as a weapons officer in the U.S. Navy aboard a guided missile cruiser. He received an MBA from the College of William & Mary in 1976.
Smiley is married to the former Clara MacKenzie of Portsmouth. They have two married children and four grandchildren. His hobbies include golf, hunting, fishing and collecting outsider art. Steve’s sister-in-law, Sophie MacKenzie Belouet ’68, attended JYF and has lived in Paris for over 50 years.
Norma Valentine '93
H | Aiken, S.C., Wellington, Fla.
Joined BOD | July 15, 2021
Norma was born in Richmond, Va., and attended Sweet Briar with her twin sister, Nancy, Class of 1993. She has been on Sweet Briar’s Alumnae Alliance for five years and is the co-chair of operations. Norma also ran the Sweet Briar Silent Auction for three years. Norma has over 20 years of experience in real estate and began her real estate career in Richmond then moved to Wellington, Fla. She owns a horse farm in Aiken, S.C., and shows in the amateur hunter division as well as owns a few polo ponies and a donkey, Eeyore. She splits her time between Aiken and Beaufort, S.C., and Wellington, Fla.
Claude Becker Wasserstein '82
H | New York, N.Y.
Joined BOD | February 23, 2018
Claude Becker Wasserstein ’82 is the founder and CEO of Fine Day Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm investing in innovative and impactful technology, specifically fintech, medtech, aerospace, cybersecurity, AI and energy.
Born in France, Wasserstein is a graduate of Sweet Briar College and attended graduate school at the Sorbonne and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris. Prior to her investment career, Wasserstein was a producer for CBS News, where she worked in the network’s Dubai, Belfast, London and Paris bureaus. During her time at CBS News, she won an Emmy for an investigative series. Wasserstein began her career as a journalist for Newsweek, working out of the publication’s Paris bureau.
Wasserstein is a trustee of the King Hussein Cancer Center Foundation and the American Hospital in Paris Foundation, a member of the Metropolitan Museum International Council and the Brookings Institution, and a life trustee at WNET Channel 13. She is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and was recently awarded France’s Insignia Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
She resides in New York City with her two sons and her niece Lucy, Sweet Briar College Class of 2022.
President of the College
H | Sweet Briar, Va.
Joined BOD | May 15, 2017
Meredith Woo is president of Sweet Briar College. Formerly, she was director of the Global Higher Education Program for the Open Society Foundations, based in London, where her program supported more than 50 colleges and universities over the past 20 years, mostly in the former Soviet bloc countries.
Woo previously served as the University of Virginia’s dean of the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences; held appointments at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Northwestern University; and consulted with the World Bank, the U.S. Trade Representative, Asian Development Bank and the MacArthur Foundation.
An expert on international political economy and East Asian politics, Woo has written and edited seven books, and was the executive producer of an award-winning documentary film, “Koryo Saram: The Unreliable People,” about Joseph Stalin’s ethnic cleansing of Koreans living in Far Eastern Russia during the Great Terror.
A native of Seoul who was educated in Seoul and Tokyo through high school, Woo came to the United States to study at Bowdoin College in Maine. She completed her master’s and doctoral degrees in international affairs, Latin American studies and political science at Columbia University.