Less than one year after the failed attempt to close Sweet Briar College, board members and President Phil Stone concluded their sixth on-campus board meeting and celebrated a year of achievement beyond their original expectations — as well as new opportunities and next steps.
“We were all hopeful of the possibilities,” Chairwoman Teresa Pike Tomlinson ’87 said. “We knew Sweet Briar had a strong foundation and a lot to offer young women in today’s world, but few expected we would come this far this fast.”
President Phil Stone agreed, recalling his first full day on campus.
“From the day I walked into dark, lonely campus buildings to this day of a celebration of a spring semester, with a jam-packed board meeting and the student’s Spring Fling event tonight, ours has been a remarkable journey of human exceptionalism and perseverance.”
The board and president provided a sampling of accomplishments so far:
- Meeting the court-ordered settlement terms ahead of deadlines and concluding the litigation process that followed the announcement to close
- Opening the College for fall semester on time and without incident for nearly 250 students who returned to campus with only a few weeks notice
- Re-establishing its sports and signature equestrian and junior year abroad programs
- Becoming the first women’s college to be affiliated with BRAID (Building Recruiting and Inclusion for Diversity), which is a consortium of colleges and universities from across the nation working to increase the percentage of women and students of color in computer sciences
- Adopting the most fiscally responsible budget in the last 20 years
- Predicting that it will end the 2016 fiscal year (FY) on June 30 without having to access the $16 million in restricted funds freed by the state attorney general
- Funding the College’s operation through May 15 without having to access a penny of its endowment fund
- Announcing that it is on course to raise the first $10 million of its $30 million Next is Now campaign by June 30 as the College to date has:
- Raised more than $6 million of its $10 million FY2016 goal;
- Raised over $500,000 in one “day of giving,” followed one week later by raising over $600,000 in another day of giving; and
- Broken the College’s all-time giving record in this fiscal year.
- Engaging our alumnae from across the country to attend more than 500 college fairs for prospective students and implementing state-of-the-art recruitment techniques to yield the:
- Largest number of applications (nearly 1,400) in the College’s history; and
- Highest number of acceptances in recent College history.
- Forging an alliance with The National Center for Sustainable Development (NCSD) to attract exemplary young Chinese women leaders to the Class of 2020 and beyond
- Being named to both Forbes 2016 lists of Best Value Schools and Best Value Private Colleges
- Transitioning from interim executive staff positions to permanent administrative leadership in departments and divisions throughout the College
- The passage of new board by-laws that affirm a belief in both best governance practices and the fiscal stability of the College in perpetuity
As Sweet Briar looks forward to its future, the board and president will assess a land management plan as part of the long-range vision for the College. The board also will appoint a selection committee and hire a search firm to begin the succession process for the next permanent president to take the helm of Sweet Briar College on July 1, 2017.
Stone assumed the presidency in July 2015 to help steer the College to stability over the first couple of years following the conclusion of court proceedings. He will be instrumental in the search and transition process.
“We could not have had a better leader to cut this path for us and set the stage for our future success,” Tomlinson said. “The fact that Phil Stone committed two years of his otherwise full life and professional practice to come be a part of Sweet Briar history has been a godsend. We are now thankful to have his expertise as we transition to our next chapter and, fortunately, we have over a year’s time in which to do it.”
Stone added, “This next year will be one of our busiest ever. After this extraordinary past year, I cannot wait to see what our future holds.”