In September of 1985, I was a freshman at Sweet Briar College (SBC). I was not the "average" student, as I had been out of high school for 10 years, was married with two young children (5 & 8 yrs old at the time). My husband worked at a factory that made iron castings for cars. We had less than $100 in our savings account; owned a recently purchased truck that didn't run; a well that had caved in so we had no running water for six weeks; my daughter, who had just started 1st grade, ended up in the hospital for almost a week with a severe joint infection the day before my freshman orientation; and my husband's work had been reduced to working only three days a week. Only a school like Sweet Briar would have bent over backwards to help me press on.
Five years later (yes, it took me 5 years), I graduated Magna Cum Laude with High Honors in Psychology and received a prestigious award for community service. My student loans totaled $10,000, which I paid back in full within 10 years of graduating. I landed a job in local government and have been with the City for 24 years.
When I walked onto campus for the first time as a 27 year old freshman, I really didn't understand the impact of what my SBC education would do for me. The professors and even the staff at Sweet Briar individually encouraged me to do my best, to excel, and even to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. My fellow students also encouraged me as I did them. Going to an all women's college, we didn't have to compete with men in the classroom or in extra curricular activities, so we had ample opportunities to get involved in leadership on campus. We worked hard and took our education seriously. We also took our fun seriously and enjoyed participating in long standing traditions as well as making new ones.
While I was a student at Sweet Briar and probably up until six or seven years ago, Sweet Briar was managed very well, financially, educationally, etc. As an alumna I have given back to the college over the years. Yet, until March 3, 2015, I (along with over 7000 living alumnae), had no idea the school was in financial trouble to the extent the (then interim) President eluded to in his bombshell of a message--to close our 114 year old institution.
You see, I live next door to SBC. My land and SBC land connects. I'm on campus often taking photos for families and couples (I have a part-time photography business in addition to my government career). I have watched new buildings go up over the years, and most recently an $8+ million dollar state of the art library. Why in the world would I even begin to consider SBC was in financial trouble when all I could see was a thriving liberal arts school still graduating amazing young women who can change the world!
As an alumna who understands the unique opportunity Sweet Briar College provides young women, I want to help perpetuate what started 114 years ago. I want to see more young women have the opportunity I did to attend the college of their dreams. I want more young women to understand that there is no obstacle that can stand in their way if they work hard and are persistent in pursuing their goals. I want more young women to experience the amazing fellowship and support that thousands of alumnae can provide graduates as they venture out into the world.
And I will be damned if I stand by and let a handful of people close the gates on my beloved alma mater without fighting for the opportunity to help bring this college back to a full and better life for future generations of students.
And just so you know, there are thousands of us who are this passionate about saving Sweet Briar College.
To borrow a quote from Margaret Meade---Never doubt that small group of thoughtful, committed Sweet Briar Girls can change the world. Indeed, we can!And we will!
You can help us Save Sweet Briar! Visit www.savingsweetbriar.com to learn more about our efforts and to make a pledge or donation. Any amount is helpful!
EPILOGUE: WE WON!