Letters and Speeches

December 2022 Community Update

January 19, 2023

Dear Colleagues, Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were filled with cheer and companionship and that the sub-zero weather that blanketed the country did not wreak havoc with your plans. I enjoyed hosting you at Sweet Briar House for a holiday “Jingle and Mingle” before most of us scattered for the break. But not […]

November 2022 Community Update

January 10, 2023

Dear Colleagues, I hope you all had a happy and restful Thanksgiving. I know that like me, you are all extremely thankful that the campus water issues were successfully resolved and things are back to normal. I want to extend my gratitude once more to our community, who faced this challenge with grace and patience, […]

October 2022 Community Update

November 22, 2022

Dear Colleagues, We’re heading toward the home stretch of the fall semester. The nights are longer and cooler, and while many of the trees on campus have lost their leaves, others remain ablaze with autumn colors. The Sweet Briar Board of Directors held their fall meeting on campus on October 28 – 29. They spent […]

September 2022 at Sweet Briar

October 12, 2022

Dear Colleagues, We are midway through the 12-week term; fall break starts this Friday and academic advising for the spring semester begins the following week. One of the highlights of the term is our annual Founders’ Weekend celebration. It’s one of my favorite events in the academic calendar, not just for the pomp and majesty […]

August 2022 Community Update

September 9, 2022
Indie mascot welcomes prospective students to campus

The academic year is off to a fabulous start, and I want to thank all of you for making this happen! During Orientation, we welcomed 173 students (152 domestic and international first-years and 22 transfers) and over 500 family members to campus to engage them in social and educational programming that highlighted our campus resources, […]

July 2022 Community Update

August 9, 2022

Dear Colleagues, Sweet Briar is known, among other things, for its historic buildings designed by Ralph Adams Cram. To help preserve these structures, we received grants and gifts to conserve a selection of architectural drawings and blueprints by Cram and his firm. I’m delighted that the first batch of conserved works has just returned to […]

June 2022 Community Update

July 19, 2022

Dear Colleagues, I know you’re all busy preparing for the arrival our new and returning students and the start of the fall semester, but I also hope that you are enjoying mid-summer, which is a glorious time to be at Sweet Briar. The weather is good, the grounds are beautiful, and our visitors are enjoying […]

May 2022 Community Update

June 13, 2022

Dear Colleagues, We’ve hosted several major occasions in the last few weeks. On the heels of our spring Board meeting, we held our 113th Commencement on May 14. As the weather was uncooperative, the ceremony took place in the Fitness and Athletic Center. This was the first time in more than 30 years that it […]

Congratulations to Five Members of Our Faculty

May 17, 2022

Dear Sweet Briar Community Members, At the close of the academic year, we naturally think of congratulating Sweet Briar’s students for their many achievements. But it’s not just the students who have earned accolades. Five of our faculty members, Tracy Hamilton, Kimberly Morse Jones, Chris Penfield, Dwana Waugh, and Cheryl Warnock, have recently received marvelous […]

April 2022 Community Update

May 10, 2022

Dear Colleagues, The three-week spring semester session ended this week, to be followed by final exams, days honoring our seniors, and Commencement on Saturday, May 14. You are all busy with the preparations for these events, and look forward, as I do, to congratulating the Class of 2022 for their achievements. The Sweet Briar Board […]

March 2022 Community Update

April 7, 2022

Dear Colleagues, The spring semester continues. In late March, the students met with their advisors and registered for the fall. The last day of classes for the 12-week session is April 11, followed by a reading day, final exams, a break on the 18th and the start of the 3-week session on the 19th. Before […]

February 2022 Community Update

March 9, 2022

Dear Colleagues, The College seems quiet this week, other than the sounds of various construction projects. Most of the students are away on spring break and some of you are taking time off, too. Although the last few days have been cool and rainy, spring has nonetheless come early to central Virginia; the crocuses and […]

January 2022 Community Update

February 9, 2022

Dear Colleagues, I want to thank all of you for getting your booster shots and providing evidence of a negative COVID test before the start of the spring semester. I appreciate that our community continues to follow our protocols, so that we will keep each other safe while living and learning in txhe midst of […]

December 2021 Community Update

January 14, 2022

Dear Colleagues, I hope you all had a joyful holiday. I’m excited by the prospect of what we can accomplish together for Sweet Briar this year.  I am pleased to note at the outset that on January 1 the College’s contribution to employee retirement benefits went up from 2 to 4 percent. Be sure to […]

November 2021 Community Update

January 14, 2022

Dear Colleagues, The excellent news of our reaccreditation by SACSCOC went public on the 7th and you can read the article about it on our website. This daunting and all-consuming process only happens every ten years and I’m gratified by our outcome, as I know you are, too. I want to thank all of you once more […]

October 2021 Community Update

November 10, 2021

Dear Colleagues, One sign of “normalcy” on campus is the return of in-person events. Our fall theatre production, Red Noses, a timely comedy about the bubonic plague sweeping across Europe in 1348, was presented over four shows to a live audience during the last weekend in October. While most of last year’s cultural events were “live,” […]

September 2021 Community Update

October 11, 2021

Dear Colleagues, I would like to tell you about a plan we’re working on that will guide Sweet Briar’s actions and investments for the next five years (from FY 2022-23 to FY 2027-28). Important preparatory work began in August when a number of faculty members met with the Cabinet for a series of discussions. I […]

August 2021 Campus Community Update

September 8, 2021

Dear Colleagues, This August was particularly rewarding. We welcomed 205 new students to Sweet Briar and more than 250 continuing students returned. The new students moved in on August 13 and 14 and participated in five days of fun and informative orientation events. Then the entire campus came together for Opening Convocation on Aug. 18, and […]

July 2021 Campus Community Update

August 9, 2021

Dear Colleagues, July has been a busy month. We hosted a flawless Reunion for nearly 300 alumnae from the anniversary classes of 1s and 6s and 0s and 5s (the latter were unable to have their on-campus Reunion last year due to the pandemic). Some of those alumnae stayed on through the following week, and […]

Sweet Briar alumna Sally Miller Gearhart ’52 remembered for activism

August 6, 2021

Dear Sweet Briar community, It is with sadness that I write to share the news with you that one of the College’s most eminent alumnae, Sally Miller Gearhart, Class of 1952, passed away on July 14, 2021. Although I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Gearhart, all that I’ve read about her indicates she possessed the […]

June 2021 Campus Community Update

July 19, 2021

Dear Colleagues, As those of us who work in academia know, June marks the beginning of summer but the end of the fiscal year. We are closing the books on FY 2020-2021, which turned out to be a good year all around. We successfully returned to on-campus, in-person living and learning, hosted a full calendar […]

May Community Update

June 8, 2021

Dear Colleagues, With Commencement for the Class of 2021 behind us, the campus has been rather quiet. But not for long: later this week, we will welcome members of the Class of 2020 back to the College for a belated in-person Senior Week celebration. They were unable to celebrate together last spring and their commencement […]

April Community Update

May 12, 2021

Dear Colleagues, I want to thank all of you for your patience and good humor as we endured last week’s 48-hour (!) power outage during one of the busiest times of the academic year. I also want to give a special salute to Campus Safety and Physical Plant for the help and support they gave […]

Great news for our NCEA team!

April 20, 2021

Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, In case you haven’t heard the thrilling news, I want everyone to know that the Sweet Briar College Vixens captured the first-ever National Collegiate Equestrian Association Single Discipline National Championship in Waco, Texas, on Saturday the 17th. You can read more about our team’s ride to victory on our […]

March Community Update

April 7, 2021

Dear Colleagues, Anyone walking or driving along Dairy Road last week would have seen the dramatic sights of creativity in action at the Ceramics Studio. The spring skies were lit up with flame and smoke as visual arts professor Shawn O’Connor and students in his ceramics courses conducted their first ceramics firing in our new […]

February Community Update

March 8, 2021

Dear Colleagues, After February’s snow and ice storms, spring weather has arrived and I’m sure you welcome it as much as I do. I’ve noticed that as soon as the temperature gets above 50 degrees, many community members (especially the students), start wearing their shorts and sandals. The sunny days mean that students can comfortably […]

January Community Update

February 9, 2021

Dear Colleagues, Winter is finally here! We received the year’s first major snowfall and perhaps our students enjoyed it the most. They went sledding in the Dell (joined by Dean Garrett!), and those without sleds checked out trays from Prothro to “trayboggan” down the slopes. I want to give a special thank you to those […]

Sweet Briar Year End Community Update

January 12, 2021

Happy New Year! I hope you and your families had a joyous, restful, and safe holiday season, and that you enjoyed your semester break. I want to give a special shout out to those of you who worked during the break in order to keep the college’s operations moving – many thanks to employees in […]

November Community Update

December 9, 2020

Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, With the Commonwealth of Virginia reporting over 4,000 new COVID-19 cases today, the health crisis is closer to home. Jodi Canfield informed me early this morning of another positive case, for a total of two positive cases within the staff. As we wish them swift recovery, we want […]

Crossing the Finish Line

November 23, 2020

Dear Colleagues, As you wrap up the fall semester, I want to take a moment to thank you for getting our students across the finish line. None of us – or anyone else in the country for that matter – had any experience of the pandemic, let alone of fulfilling our obligation to students in […]

“Leadership for Diverse Communities”: A conversation with Dean Ian Solomon of the UVA Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

November 12, 2020

On Monday, Nov. 16, Ian Solomon, Dean of the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy will be a guest speaker at a community Zoom webinar on leadership in diverse communities. Good leaders must be aware of and respond to the needs of the diverse communities they serve and there is no better person […]

Kamala Harris, Vice President-Elect

November 9, 2020

Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, This weekend, an extraordinary event occurred in our nation’s history. Although the election results are not yet officially certified, Kamala Harris is on course to become the first woman to serve as the Vice President of the United States. Occurring in the one hundredth anniversary of the ratification […]

October Community Update

November 6, 2020

Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, We have been holding virtual fora to discuss political diversity. The issue we face everywhere in the country is deeper than reflected in Rodney King’s “Can we all get along?” plea. Political divisiveness today makes it difficult to imagine why people hold the different political beliefs that they […]

Trusting Your Wisdom, Election 2020

November 2, 2020

Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, I write you today with two simple messages. First, please vote tomorrow, if you have not already done so. This election is likely to be one of the most consequential in our lifetime, and it is critical that you exercise your citizenly rights and duties through this simple […]

The Latest Surge of Coronavirus Infection

October 21, 2020

Dear Sweet Briar Women,  The week has started with the grave news that the third, and possibly the deadliest, surge of coronavirus pandemic has firmly taken hold in the country. Many infectious diseases experts agree that the next six to twelve weeks will be the most difficult period in the pandemic. By the end of […]

September Community Update

October 13, 2020

Dear Colleagues, The fall semester opened on an optimistic note. Despite the pandemic, the College hit all its targets in enrollment, retention, and fundraising. With great alacrity and foresight, it also raised additional financial resources to protect our students from COVID-19 and keep the campus open and, above all, safe. I am pleased to report […]

Remembering Ruth Bader Ginsburg

September 21, 2020

Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, Sweet Briar College’s mission is to educate women who can lead and improve the lives of others. You take pride in knowing that Sweet Briar women of every generation have challenged and surmounted obstacles to humankind’s progress. That is why I know, regardless of your political persuasion, you […]

Letter to the Community – August Update

September 8, 2020

Labor Day marks the end of summer and return of students to school. However, many of the colleges and universities in Virginia are closing no sooner than they open: JMU is a case among larger universities and Roanoke College among smaller ones. Others have yet to start classes, like the University of Virginia. But as […]

Letter to Students – Labor Day Weekend

September 4, 2020

Dear Sweet Briar Women, I doff my hat to you for completing the first week of the twelve-week term. From my office on the second floor of Fletcher, I see you sauntering off in twos and threes, always with your masks on. I am most grateful to you for the vigilance with which you have […]

Letter to students – August 25, 2020

August 25, 2020

Dear Sweet Briar Women, For the first time since you began arriving on August 5, our campus reported no active case of COVID-19 among the students, and there were no active cases among employees. You have kept your word. I am enormously proud of you, as are other members of the college community. But it […]

Appeal to Sweet Briar Women

August 19, 2020

Dear Sweet Briar Women, I write you today from an extraordinary place in time. At the moment of my writing, we have a handful of individuals who are in isolation on and off-campus, but no student is in isolation as the result of testing positive for COVID-19; and no student is in quarantine on campus […]

Re-Positioning the study-abroad program in France

August 19, 2020

Dear alumnae and friends, I write to let you know that the College has decided to discontinue the Junior Year in France (JYF) in its current form. JYF is a French non-profit study-abroad operator that sponsors orientation and cultural activities, and places students with home-stay families. Typically, the students are enrolled at the University of […]

Letter to the Community: July Update

August 13, 2020

Dear Colleagues, New students began moving in last Wednesday and classes started on August 11. The phased move-in and the new student orientation went smoothly. The success was in no small measure owing to the remarkable campus-wide integration of all stakeholders. It also showcased a novel practice invented by our students, called “COVID Captains.” Along […]

President Woo’s Remarks at the Opening Convocation: Charge for the Academic Year

August 10, 2020

Dear Women of Sweet Briar,  This is a brilliant day that displays without much modesty the stunning beauty of the Virginian Piedmont. I am glad we are holding the fall convocation for 2020 here on the dell. From here you will behold the campus created by the great American architect, Ralph Adams Cram, as it […]

Letter to the Community: June Update

July 14, 2020

Dear Colleagues, FY2020 ended in a good place. We met our target of 150 new students for the fall, in a year when most colleges are reporting a drop in enrollment. We also met our fundraising target of $6 million for unrestricted annual funds and $500,000 in restricted funds, again in the context of a […]

Letter to the Community: May Update

June 12, 2020

Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, I will always remember this May for the hard work preparing our campus for the Fall opening – and also for reflections, in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, on racial relations in our country and at Sweet Briar. In other ways, life on campus continued […]

“Facts of the Matter” – Diversity at Sweet Briar

June 9, 2020

Dear members of the Sweet Briar community, In response to the requests by our students and recent alumnae, I write to let you know that I have formed the Presidential Working Group on Diversity and Inclusion. There are a number of groups already on campus, comprised of both students and faculty/staff, that focus on diversity, […]

A statement from President Meredith Woo on recent events

June 3, 2020

Dear Sweet Briar Family, As the protests over the death of George Floyd roll over the nation, I have been exchanging emails with anguished students. The horrific killing of Mr. Floyd, coming on the heels of the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, has shocked them, as it has all of us. Most of […]

Letter to the Community: April Update

May 13, 2020

Dear Colleagues, The Sweet Briar Board of Directors held a virtual meeting on May 1. Of the many issues discussed, two stood out: the preparations for fall opening, and the financial impact of COVID-19. The logistics to allow the College to resume residential instruction are mind-boggling, involving variables that are knowable and unknowable. The College […]

Letter to the Community: March Update

April 8, 2020

April 8, 2020 Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, First, let me express the hope that you and your loved ones continue to be safe and in good health. I also want to thank you, whether you are working on campus or remotely from home, for your dedication and effort to carrying on and […]

Letter to the Community: February Update

February 21, 2020

February 12, 2020 Dear Colleagues, I received good feedback from you on my last update on the College. So, as I write you another one, let me share with you some splendid news about our indomitable class of 2020. Karlynn McCarthy will be joining the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, and Isabelle Joyner, Boeing. […]

Letter: Sweet Briar “Ladies” at Mount Vernon

January 31, 2020
Front view of Washington's Mount Vernon Home

I first met Gay Hart Gaines, Class of 1959, in Palm Beach. A woman of uncommon intelligence and energy – with beauty to match it – she was born in Canada of American parents, and raised in Bombay, Sydney and Paris. She had travelled the four corners of the world before her father, who headed global operations for Colgate-Palmolive, sent her “home,” saying that she now needed to become an American.

Letter to the Community: January Update

January 16, 2020

January 16, 2020 Dear members of the Sweet Briar community, Every month I write a brief memo to the Board of Directors on a few essential areas of the College’s operations: academics, admissions, finance and operations, and development. The viability of Sweet Briar depends in part on how these areas work seamlessly together and perform […]

Letter to the Community: December Update

January 16, 2020

December, 2019 Dear Alumnae and members of the Sweet Briar community, An extraordinarily successful semester at Sweet Briar is coming to a close. Tomorrow is the last day of classes of the twelve-week term and the students are busy finishing their projects and papers. Next week, they will take their final exams and then head […]

Letter to the Community: October Update

January 16, 2020

October, 2019 Dear members of the Sweet Briar community, The Board of Directors of Sweet Briar College met on campus two weeks ago, bookended by two other significant events — Founders’ Day and Families’ Weekend. This past weekend, we hosted the first Fall Open House, welcoming 28 prospective students and their families. Our college community extended […]

Letter to the Community: Statement on SACSCOC Removal of Warning

June 14, 2019

June 14, 2019 Today, we received word that SACSCOC has removed Sweet Briar College from warning status. Sweet Briar is gratified with this vote of confidence from our accrediting body. The College has diligently addressed and implemented a sound financial recovery plan, seeking and diversifying resources to deliver its mission. This includes managing its budget […]

Letter to the Community: Announcing Teresa Garrett as Dean of the College at Sweet Briar

May 22, 2019

May 22, 2019 Dear Colleagues: I am most pleased to share with you that Teresa Garrett will begin on Aug. 1 as vice president of academic affairs and dean of the College. She comes to us from Vassar College, ranked number 11 among national liberal arts colleges, where she began as an assistant professor of […]

Letter to the Community: April Update

April 26, 2019

April 25, 2019 Dear members of the Sweet Briar community, Last Friday, I was walking on campus with a job candidate — a fine economist, currently a postdoctoral fellow at Rice University — when I noticed Nathan Kluger, our director of agricultural enterprises, on his hands and knees, digging into the earth at the roundabout […]

Letter to the Community: March Update

March 4, 2019

March 4, 2019 In many cultures and religions, the month of March, which begins the spring, also begins the new year. It was so in the very old Roman calendar as well, with the name itself deriving from the Roman god of war, Mars; after the winter months, the idea goes, war again resumes. In […]

Speech to the Women’s Club

January 14, 2019

President Woo spoke to the Women’s Club in Richmond about the history of the Korean War, offering her insights as an expert in international politics and a native of South Korea. Monday Program · MONDAY JAN 14 2018 Meredith Woo

Letter to the Community: Our Eyes on the Prize

December 11, 2018

December 10, 2018 Dear members of the Sweet Briar community, As we enter the final stretch before the holiday break, the students are focused on more than final examinations. In the last few days they have participated in tree lighting both in Sweet Briar House and in the Quad, concerts, holiday open houses, Christmas Pops […]

Letter to the Community: End of Year Report

August 21, 2018

August 20, 2018 Dear members of the Sweet Briar community, As our students arrive on campus for a new academic year, I wanted to give you an update on the year that has just ended. It was also my first year as president of Sweet Briar College. In spite of the challenges before us, we […]

Letter to the Community: Dean and Associate Dean of the College

July 17, 2018

July 13, 2018 Dear Faculty, Staff and Students of Sweet Briar, In order to ensure stability and maximum success in our academic realignment in the new academic year and beyond, I have decided to appoint Lynn Rainville as the next Dean of the College. Rainville, as most of you know, has served as acting dean […]

Letter to the community: SACS Announcement

June 15, 2018

June 15, 2018 Dear Sweet Briar Community and Stakeholders, I write today to share that after reviewing Sweet Briar College’s financials in the first two years after the near-closure in 2015 [ending with fiscal year 2017 financials, the year ending June 30, 2017]*, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS) placed the […]

Letter to the Community: Mid-winter Update From Campus

March 13, 2018

March 13, 2018 Dear Sweet Briar Community, Our students, having escaped the nor’easter in the nick of time as the spring break began, have returned to campus. And what fun they missed! As all of central Virginia was plunged into the Dark Ages, some of the students who stayed behind chose to sleep on air […]

Letter to the Community: Update on Curricular Realignment and Core

December 19, 2017

December 15, 2017 Dear Members of the Sweet Briar Community, We have successfully completed the fall term, as we have done year after year, for over one hundred years. This was also my first semester at Sweet Briar, bookended by two meaningful sets of events. The fall started with an announcement of academic restructuring, including […]

Letter to the Community: Follow-up on Curriculum Communications

December 19, 2017

December 19, 2017 Dear Sweet Briar Community, As we approach the holidays I hope you are reveling in the company of loved ones. I write today in the hope of providing greater clarity on the current curricular restructuring. This process, as part of the ongoing efforts to position Sweet Briar among the nation’s leading liberal […]

Letter to the Community: Directors Named for Centers of Excellence

October 18, 2017

October 17, 2017 Dear faculty and staff, A month ago, the Sweet Briar community announced its intention to create three “centers of excellence” on which to further its academic distinction over the next five to 10 years. The centers are based on existing advantages that are unique to Sweet Briar. One is a center on […]

President Woo’s Inauguration Speech

September 22, 2017

September 22, 2017 Dear Trustees, Students, Faculty, Alumnae, Friends — and Alice Dixon who commandeered every aspect of this day, including the Heavens for the glorious sunshine: This day belongs to you, as much as it does to Sweet Briar College, and to this president who is now called upon to lead it. The campus […]

Letter to the Community

August 28, 2017

August 28, 2017 Dear Sweet Briar Community: Under a clear sky embracing the green dells we love, our College launched the new academic year last week — just as it has done year after year, for the last 112 years. For the new students crisscrossing the Quad in excitement, history was in the here and […]