Horses, medicine and music lead Sweet Briar’s 2012 Presidential Medalist to England

Posted on September 03, 2018 by Janika Carey

Commencement 2012 Alex St. Pierre Alex St. Pierre practices her commencement speech before the ceremony in 2012.

“What a whirlwind!” Alex St. Pierre wrote when we asked her how she was doing six years after graduating from Sweet Briar. And you’d probably say the same thing, had you just touched down in England to start your dream job at one of the world’s most renowned equine hospitals.

It seems like just yesterday when the 2012 Presidential Medalist graduated from Sweet Briar with a major in classical languages and minors in biology and vocal music. Her commencement speech rallied classmates and punctuated a perfect undergraduate career that culminated in her acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania’s school of veterinary medicine.

Alex St. Pierre at UGA After earning her doctorate, St. Pierre interned at the University of Georgia.

But St. Pierre needed a little break. She took a year off to travel to Italy, compete her two event horses in Aiken, S.C., and do “some odd little things” she had always wanted to do — like growing a pumpkin patch (“It got completely out of control!”) and teaching herself how to use a sewing machine.

Then she got back in the game: In 2017, St. Pierre finished veterinary school at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a yearlong internship as a large-animal veterinarian at the University of Georgia.

Now she’s an equine veterinary intern at Newmarket Equine Hospital — the largest equine hospital in Europe. The internship will last for two years — about the same time as her fiancé’s job assignment there.

“For someone who grew up inexplicably in love with these magnificent creatures, to be living and working in the birthplace of thoroughbred racing is a tremendous experience,” St. Pierre says.

Her love of horses was only one reason Sweet Briar appealed to the girl from Massachusetts. At first, “the school wasn’t anywhere on my radar,” she admits.

Thailand trip St. Pierre and her fiancé on a recent trip to Thailand

“I had looked at one of the women’s colleges near home and was utterly disappointed, to be quite frank — the sophomores I was staying with were studying from the same biology textbook I was using as a senior in high school,” St. Pierre remembers. “A friend of the family happened to give my name to [former admissions counselor] Grace Loughhead [’04]— Grace Farnsworth at the time — who was unlike anyone I had met up to that point.”

St. Pierre’s private prep school college advisor, who didn’t think much of Sweet Briar, had never met anyone like Grace, either. “I’ll never forget the shocked looked on her face as Grace, dressed impeccably in pink and green, leaning forward slightly as she sat opposite us, completely and methodically, without ever being rude, took apart the thinly veiled disparages my counselor had launched against the college,” St. Pierre recalls. “In that moment, I knew that was the type of woman I wanted to be.”

And she was dead-on. Everything about Sweet Briar turned out to be perfectly suited for her.

“My Sweet Briar experience was entirely fulfilling,” St. Pierre remembers. “I was surrounded by women who were, in some sense, fundamentally like-minded — choosing a women’s college in rural Virginia is ultimately a very deliberate choice — while being surprisingly diverse. Sweet Briar was the first time in my life that I felt connected to individuals my own age. I still can’t place exactly what it is about a Sweet Briar woman that knits us together so closely, but it must have something to do with Sweet Briar’s ability to attract genuinely caring individuals.”

St. Pierre field hockey St. Pierre (left) was part of the varsity field hockey team all four years.

“There’s nowhere in this world that I have traveled and no endeavor I’ve set out on that some Sweet Briar woman somewhere in the world has not helped me with in some way,” she adds. “Sweet Briar women have and continue to support me no matter how far I stray from Virginia.”

In her courses, she was always challenged, which was a new experience. “I was used to being near the top of my class, so I was mostly left alone in high school,” St. Pierre recalls. “At Sweet Briar, I was fortunate enough to have professors with the time, energy and willingness to challenge me to best myself. Especially now as a veterinarian, the development of this drive to do my personal best despite all extenuating circumstances has proved invaluable.”

Alex St. Pierre recital St. Pierre before her junior recital

St. Pierre’s drive didn’t stop in the classroom. She was on the varsity field hockey team, sang with the Sweet Tones and was a member of Tau Phi. She performed in junior- and senior-year opera recitals and had leads in the musicals “Baby” and “The Fantasticks,” as well as the opera “Too Many Sopranos.”

“I consistently credit Sweet Briar with who and where I am today,” St. Pierre says. “It allowed me a safe space where I could focus on who I wanted to be as a person and as a professional. I was challenged academically, while being nurtured personally.”

Sweet Briar has shaped her life in many ways, St. Pierre says, but naming just a single impact would be too difficult. Instead, she has two examples: “The first is that it provided me with my very best friends — women who will be dearest to me our whole lives. The second is that it proved that kindness is not incompatible with excellence. Wherever I have gone — PennVet, UGa and now, Newmarket — treating those who work with, for and above me with common decency and kindness, no matter the circumstance, has proven to be one of the cornerstones of my success.”

Those memories and life lessons will stay with her wherever she goes — as will her Sweet Briar friends. It’s how the sisterhood works.

St. Pierre and family St. Pierre and her family at her vet school graduation in 2017

St. Pierre says the initial homesickness she felt is still there, but it’s getting better: “It turns out you can be both homesick and reveling in your new country all at the same time!” she writes. Yes, you can. And there’s a lot to love about living in the UK, she admits.

“I’m most looking forward to getting to use our new location to visit more of the world — without having to cross the entirety of the Atlantic Ocean.”

What makes her most nervous right now?

“Driving on the left-hand side of road, but it’s getting less strange with time.”

We love checking in with our recent grads to see what they’re up to! This is the second in a series of profiles featuring Sweet Briar’s young alumnae across various disciplines and job fields.