The following communications are from the search committee to the Sweet Briar College community:

10/26/23 An Update on the Presidential Search from Board Chair Mason Rummel

Dear members of the Sweet Briar community,

I know everyone is eager to hear about the progress of the Presidential Search Committee, so I am writing this brief message to assure you that the process is proceeding as planned. At the outset, we stated that the search should be completed this fall, but no later than the end of the calendar year. We are confident that we will meet that timeline.

Our search committee has worked tirelessly with our consulting firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, putting in many hours of review, discussion, and deliberation to determine the best leader for Sweet Briar College.

We are grateful for the input from all stakeholders, the guidance of our search firm, and the thoughtful work of the committee, as we continue to move to a successful conclusion.

Thank you for your patience and support. I look forward to sharing an announcement in the very near future.

Mason Bennett Rummel ’83
Chair, Board of Directors

6/7/23 Important Updates from Mason Rummel, Chair of the Sweet Briar Board of Directors

Dear Sweet Briar Community,

I just came back from the Sweet Briar reunions. As chair of the Board of Directors, I was bringing greetings to the alumnae, but I was also returning for my 40th reunion. Throughout the weekend, I reveled in seeing my classmates again. The weather was beautiful and the attendance fulsome.

I promised that I would keep you updated about the presidential transition. So, I bring you important news. First, the presidential search, conducted by Ann Coyle and her associates at Russell Reynolds, has moved full steam ahead. The team has completed its due diligence, speaking in depth with our students, parents, alumnae, staff, faculty, and the board. The presidential profile, which is the result of this work, is now widely shared with prospective candidates nationwide, and our search consultants are in conversation with them. Then, after numerous interviews off and on campus and ensuing deliberations, we should be able to announce the 14th president of Sweet Briar no later than the end of this calendar year. I will continue to report on the progress.

Second, President Meredith Woo informed me that she is now ready to start her life post-Sweet Briar. It was at the end of last December that she had given me notice of her intention to step down, but we left the end date somewhat ambiguous, contingent on the progress of the transition. With the College on a positive trajectory in every way and the presidential search securely in place, Meredith feels that now is the appropriate time to devote herself to her scholarly projects. Her last day will be June 30 of this year.

President Woo did not graduate from Sweet Briar. However, one would not know it from her devotion and commitment to our college. A native of Korea, she has a joyful way of clapping her hands, saying “p’palli p’palli” (“get moving!” in English). No sooner than she stepped onto our campus, she compelled us to “p’palli p’palli,” creating with lightning speed one of the most comprehensive academic and financial restructurings experienced inside American liberal arts colleges. Looking back on the days of these heroic changes, I realize none of this could have been easy or joyful. Yet she bore the burden with grace and courage, and we are forever indebted to her for placing our college on a sustainable footing.

During COVID, when most colleges were mired in the confusing logistics of keeping the virus at bay, Meredith and her team were extracting the best virtue from the catastrophe: they built. They built a state-of-the-art health clinic (later reimbursed by the government), equestrian facilities, a turf field, vineyards that grace the hills of Sweet Briar, and a high-tech greenhouse to feed us healthily. Amid this, they also completed the decennial reaccreditation review, requiring thousands of pages of reports, and received the highest approval grade.

Through these years, the College has moved to receive clean financial audits, a balanced budget, and a “positive outlook,” according to S&P. The enrollment had doubled since 2017 when she started her presidency. The alumnae who rallied to save the College in 2015 have stayed with it, supporting the president who has led their beloved College so well. Meredith has kept us all together, and I am grateful for that too.

Third, I am pleased to announce that on July 1 Mary Pope Hutson, class of ’83 and currently the College’s Senior Vice President of Alumnae Relations and Development has been elected by the Board of Directors to serve in the interim role of President until Meredith’s successor is named and arrives on campus. Most of you know that Mary Pope led the initial fundraising efforts in Saving Sweet Briar. Subsequently, as Senior Vice President, she and her team have raised an unprecedented $132 million in cash and pledges from generous alumnae to support the transformation of the College led by Meredith Woo.

Over the last 32 years, Mary Pope served in various leadership roles in the public and private sectors as COO and EVP of national organizations, and in national leadership roles in government, preservation and conservation, most recently as an appointee serving as chair of the National Park System Advisory Board.

Mary Pope has engaged Sweet Briar’s constituencies across the country and abroad, serving alongside Meredith, and Phil Stone preceding her, representing Sweet Briar College with distinction, and remarkable steadfastness. With her deep understanding of the mission of the College, her skilled leadership, and the support of her colleagues, Mary Pope will guide Sweet Briar through this crucial transition.

We will miss Meredith Woo and her steady hand leading the College. But she will never be far from her beloved College – “only 58 minutes away!” she reminds me – and will be ready to support the interim and the new president if asked. Her husband, Dr. Neal Kassell, also hopes to be a frequent presence with his pink and green outfits.

I wish you a delightful summer.


Mason Bennett Rummel ’83
Chair, Board of Directors

5/1/23 Presidential Search Stakeholders Survey

The Presidential Search Committee is now wrapping up its meetings with stakeholder groups representing faculty, staff, students, alumnae and parents.

We’ve received valuable input from these groups and are now eager to obtain insights from as many members of the Sweet Briar community as possible—that is why we are asking you to please participate in the Presidential Search Stakeholders Survey.

This survey is available through the following link:*

The survey will only take you about 10 minutes to complete. It is anonymous and its results will only be shared with the members of the Presidential Search Committee.

We ask that you please complete the survey on or before Monday, May 8, 2023.

We value your opinions and look forward to hearing from you!

Thank you so much for your participation,

Mason Bennett Rummel ’83
Chair, Board of Directors

*The original email to the Sweet Briar College community included a link to the survey.

4/13/23 Presidential Search Update

Dear members of the Sweet Briar community,

The search for Sweet Briar College’s new president is going well. I’m writing now, on behalf of the Presidential Search Committee, to share our progress with you and give you information on the timeline of the search.

During this entire process, the Presidential Search Committee will be working closely with Anne Coyle and Zach Messitte, our team from Russell Reynolds Associates.

The search committee is now in the midst of conducting meetings with stakeholder groups that represent faculty, staff, student leadership, and the broader Sweet Briar community such as alumnae and parents. Be on the lookout for a forthcoming survey that will ask community members to respond anonymously with their thoughts on what they are looking for in the next president.

The information gained from the stakeholder meetings and the survey will guide the committee as it crafts the position specification for the College’s next president.

We will begin recruiting for the position this spring and into the summer. The committee will conduct interviews with candidates in the fall.

We anticipate that we will be able to announce the name of the new president at the end of the fall semester.

This is an exciting time for the College and the Sweet Briar community. We will continue to send you updates on the progress of the search and will share the position specification with you once it is ready.

Thank you,

Mason Bennett Rummel ’83
Chair, Board of Directors

3/8/2023 Presidential Search Update: Selection of Search Firm  

Dear members of the Sweet Briar community,

I am excited to let you know that we have made a big step forward in our search for the next president of Sweet Briar College by selecting Russell Reynolds Associates as the firm that will guide the process.

After reviewing proposals submitted by seven search firms, narrowing the list to four, and conducting phone calls and interviews with them, Russell Reynolds emerged as our clear choice. They are a nationally recognized firm with stellar credentials and a most impressive track record that we feel best suits our college and our quest for our next leader.

Led by Anne Coyle and Zach Messitte, this team will guide us through stakeholder meetings, the crafting of a position specification, and the search itself that follows. Anne Coyle’s guidance will be particularly useful, for as the principal for Storbeck that led the search resulting in the appointment of President Woo, she knows Sweet Briar—who we are and what we do.

With our presidential search committee and our search firm in place, our work to find the next president of Sweet Briar College will now begin in earnest. We’ll be sending you additional updates and information about upcoming stakeholder meetings soon.

Thank you,

Mason Bennett Rummel ’83
Chair, Board of Directors

1/24/2023 Presidential Search Survey

Dear SBC Community,

Your input regarding the upcoming presidential search is greatly valued. It would be appreciated if you would complete this survey* as soon as possible, but no later than 12 p.m. on Thursday, January 26, so that feedback may be compiled prior to the Community Conversation at 4 p.m. that afternoon.


Dwana Waugh, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
*The original email to the Sweet Briar College community included a link to the survey.
1/23/2023 Announcement of Presidential Search Committee

Dear Sweet Briar Community,

The membership of the Search Committee for Sweet Briar’s 14th president has been confirmed and I would like to share their names with you.

The Committee Members are:

  • Mason Bennett Rummel ’83, Board and Committee Chair; President and CEO, James Graham Brown Foundation
  • The Honorable Verda Andrews Colvin ’87, Board Member; Justice, Supreme Court of Georgia
  • Michela English ’71, Emeriti Board Member; former Senior Executive, Discovery Communications; former Senior Vice President, National Geographic Society
  • Sally Mott Freeman ’76, Secretary of the Board; author, public relations executive, nonprofit leader
  • Michelle Gervasio, Assistant Professor Engineering
  • The Honorable Robert “Bob” Goodlatte, Board Member; former Member of the United States House of Representatives, Sixth Congressional District of Virginia
  • Fred Griffin, Vice Chair of the Board; Real Estate Developer; former Chairman, Space Center Houston
  • Elisabeth “Betsy” Muhlenfeld Wollan, former Sweet Briar President and Honorary Class Member, 1953
  • Kaitlin “Kat” Navarro ’24
  • Michelle O’Neill ’85, Board Member; Vice President of Global Government Affairs, Corning, Inc.
  • Steve Smiley, Board Member; Managing Partner, Madison Lane Partners LLC
  • Barb Watts, Director of Career Services
  • Dwana Waugh, Associate Professor of History
  • Kathryn Hagist Yunk ’91, Alumnae Alliance Representative; Director of Global Marketing Communications, GE Healthcare

I look forward to seeing you on Thursday, January 26, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in Mills Chapel for the community meeting about the search.


Mason Rummel ’83
Chair of the Board of Directors
Sweet Briar College


1/18/23 Sweet Briar College begins search for its next president 
Dear Sweet Briar Community,

Following the announcement of the presidential transition, the Board has been busy gearing up for the search for Sweet Briar’s 14th president. We are assembling a search committee and soliciting proposals from national search firms with experience placing presidents at institutions like ours. As the process unfolds, we will get you more information.

In the meantime, I and other board members will be on campus next week for the regularly scheduled board meeting and welcome the opportunity to hear your thoughts on the process, the state of the college, and the qualities you would like to see in the next president.

We will hold an open session for faculty, staff, and students on Thursday, January 26, from 4:00-5:00 p.m. in Mills Chapel. I hope you will join us!

If you are unable to attend next week, other opportunities to share your thoughts will be made available as the process unfolds.

I look forward to seeing you on campus next week!

Mason Rummel ’83
Chair of the Board of Directors
Sweet Briar College