President's Blog

Giving Thanks!

This afternoon the campus is emptying out for the holiday. Since late last week, conversations have tended to focus on the confluence of food and memory, on the things we make because our mothers and grandmothers always did or the things we’re planning to make because our mothers and grandmothers never would! Rick and I are planning two Thanksgiving dinners — one “American” (turkey, cornbread/sausage stuffing, green bean casserole) and one “Lebanese” (roast lamb, coucous, loobiyah) to give due honor to all of our grandmothers.

Each year as Thanksgiving rolls around I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all things Sweet Briar. For the faculty, that wonderful group of imaginative and dedicated scholars; for the students, whose energy and curiosity make every day an adventure; for the staff, who support the work of the faculty and students, generally from behind the scenes; for the alumnae whose remarkable achievements illustrate why Sweet Briar matters.

Today, I am thinking with particular gratitude of our donors. These are some of the things Sweet Briar has today that it didn’t have a year ago, because of generous and wise gifts received since last Thanksgiving:

  • The Barton Laing Chair in Art History, given to honor two revered former faculty members — Eleanor Barton and Ninie Laing.
  • Seven updated classrooms, given to honor classmates, mothers, daughters, sisters, friends, or teachers.
  • The endowed Fund for Faculty Excellence and Innovation, which will support and honor faculty leaders who are developing more effective ways to engage today’s students.
  • A renovated music room, given by a group of former students to honor Professor Rebecca McCord.
  • A Senior Class gift so enthusiastically supported that the dollar goal was met on kick-off night! (They’re still working on their participation goal, and I’m quite confident they’ll get there well before graduation.)


Other gifts have established or enhanced scholarships, swelled the Annual Fund, and supported internships. Yet others have provided equipment to the theater shop, books to the library, uniforms to athletics teams, or fencing for the Riding Center. Every single one of those gifts made a difference and every single one is in use today.

Each fall I invite new students over for Pizza with Parker, and each fall I ask them to fill out comment cards to let me know how things are going in their first weeks on campus. This fall, I received one pink index card that made my heart soar: it said, simply, “THANK YOU FOR THIS COLLEGE.” To everyone who has made a gift to Sweet Briar this year, of any size or nature, I am honored to say with her, on behalf of all our students, “thank you for this college.’

Happy Thanksgiving!

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