One year ago today:
The news spread and Sweet Briar alumnae all over the world reeled in shock and sadness. How could this have happened? “Insurmountable challenges” responded President Jones and the board. “No stone unturned,” to avoid the lamentable conclusion that Sweet Briar must close.
And, in a thousand ways, the leaders that Sweet Briar had been quietly producing in the Virginia countryside for the last century showed us all how to surmount great challenges.
A powerful social media campaign commenced. It was never viral – a small liberal arts women’s college closing is not sensational. The campaign was simply sustained by relentless effort, to the point that that became noteworthy. Major media outlets began to pick it up, and #savesweetbriar stayed in the news for months.
Months was all that was needed, because #savesweetbriar wasn’t just a hashtag:
3 months and 17 days later, the alumnae fought the closure all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court, and won a settlement that would prevent the closure and oust the president and much of the board. Legal battles are expensive, but it was only half the battle. The other half was to raise enough money to prove that the college was viable. Small schools (SBC averages about 500 students) don’t actually have that many alumnae, so this wasn’t easy. Worse, the settlement imposed strict deadlines – $12 million in 60 days or the deal was off. That’s a million every 5 days.
They delivered it early.
A year later, the school is revitalized and shows every sign of having a bright future.
A year later, we can be grateful to the gift given to us by former president Jones and the board – every Sweet Briar vixen alive knows they graduated from Sweet Briar College, the small liberal arts women’s college of kick-ass leadership.