Sweet Briar Unveils Presidential Portrait of Meredith Woo

Former Sweet Briar College President Meredith Woo (right) with portrait artist Joshua LaRock.
Former Sweet Briar College President Meredith Woo (right) with portrait artist Joshua LaRock.
Former Sweet Briar College President Meredith Woo (right) with portrait artist Joshua LaRock.

Posted on January 31, 2024 by John Dudley

Former Sweet Briar College President Meredith Woo recently gathered on campus with family, friends, faculty, staff, students, and members of the Board of Directors for the unveiling of her official presidential portrait. The work was completed by noted figurative painter Joshua LaRock and will hang in the Reading Room of Sweet Briar’s Mary Helen Cochran Library with the portraits of Woo’s predecessors.

At the unveiling, Mason Rummel ’83, chair of the Board of Directors, recounted many of Meredith’s accomplishments as president, bringing particular attention to Meredith’s vision for a distinctive curriculum for the College. “Meredith worked collaboratively with the College’s faculty to develop a reinvigorated curriculum centered on educating and inspiring women to be ethical leaders who can create a better world for all of us. The resultant Women’s Leadership Core has been a defining element in repositioning Sweet Briar as a college of national distinction. The Leadership Core is a key reason why Sweet Briar has been named three times since 2019 by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s most innovative colleges.”

As she saw the portrait for the first time, Meredith told those assembled, “A Sweet Briar woman is not something that happens by virtue of race, ethnicity, provenance, even by a degree you hold. It’s something that happens through acculturation, through commitment, and through love. And I will be so pleased if this portrait conveys that ‘Here is a Sweet Briar woman.’ So that when students come here decades later, even centuries later, they can look at this portrait and say ‘Here is a portrait that conveys strength, that conveys joy, and that conveys gentleness. And that’s what being a Sweet Briar woman is all about.’”

Meredith Woo served as president of Sweet Briar College from 2017-2023. Among her many accomplishments at the College, she is credited with restructuring the academic program and implementing the aforementioned distinctive Women’s Leadership Core Curriculum. Meredith presided over a repositioning of the College’s business model that significantly reduced Sweet Briar’s tuition rate and launched a series of agricultural enterprises, including planting 17 acres of vineyards and constructing a 26,000-square foot greenhouse. During her tenure, the College successfully completed its ten-year reaccreditation by SACSCOC, developed a strategic plan, and raised significant funds toward its initiatives.

About the Artist
Joshua LaRock is internationally recognized as a preeminent figurative artist. His exquisite paintings are an ode to the past filtered through a contemporary life. LaRock’s portraits and figurative pieces alike are memorable for both their emotive quality and for evoking an eerily present feeling. Inspired by Bouguereau and other masters of the past, Joshua imbues a shade of the timeless, drawing the viewer deeper into his personal interpretation of how the world ought to be. Among Joshua’s most striking works are those of his wife, Laura. In 2012, “Portrait of the Artist’s Wife” was hailed as ‘deserving special attention’ during the historic America China Oil Painting Artists League exhibit at the Beijing World Art Museum. While “Laura in Black” was part of the prestigious BP Portrait Award 2016 exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London and is the subject of his premier instructional video “The Layers of Portrait Painting”. He has participated in exhibitions throughout the US, Europe and China, is recognized as an Art Renewal Center Living Master, and is much sought after as a workshop instructor.