President's Blog

Archive for the athletics Category

A Double-Win Saturday!

photoYesterday, on a perfectly crystalline afternoon, the Vixens won home games in both soccer and field hockey. Holla holla, Vixens!

The soccer team won its game against Christendom College 6 – 0, and the field hockey team won against Notre Dame (MD) 3 -1. As always, if you’re interested in more details about either contest you can find full reports on the Vixen Athletics web site. And, now, parents and grandparents and friends and former players and alumnae and anybody else who’s interested can watch Vixens games streaming live on-line! (You can even watch them on your iPhone while you’re actually standing at the field watching live, as I established yesterday.) If you can’t catch a game on-line live, you can also find videos on the Vixen Athletics YouTube channel so you can keep up with your favorite sport.

It’s always great to see our teams win, of course, but it’s greater by far to see them win by playing well.

Profs. John Morrissey and Kevin Honeycutt on the sidelines

Profs. John Morrissey and Kevin Honeycutt on the sidelines

Athletics is one of the most visible arenas in which students have an opportunity to develop — and to display — the essential quality Dean Amy called “grit” in her Convocation remarks. As she put it then,

“We want you, as young women going out into this world, to not just be confident, not just be articulate, not just be leaders, but to be women who have a strength of character that in the face of adversity knows how to be tenacious, knows how to stand strong and not give up when faced with a challenge.”

She then invited us to think about all the qualities “grit” could stand for: grace, resiliance, integrity, and tenacity in particular — but also such traits as generosity, resourcefulness, idealism, and thoughtfuness. She framed the ultimate value of an education in terms of the development of such qualities of both mind and character, essential as they are to success of every kind. Yesterday our Vixens showed us what grit looks like on the playing fields.

The view from Thayer Field during the hockey game

The view from Thayer Field during the hockey game



This weekend was Homecoming/Families Weekend here on campus, and a fine one it was indeed.

The weather was crystalline and mild; this picture taken by Dean Amy Jessen-Marshall gives you a sense of it. The schedule was packed with events, including soccer and field hockey games (which the Vixens played well, although alas didn’t win), a performance (to a packed Babcock) of the King and I, lectures by faculty members Eric Casey (on libraries and archives in the ancient world) and Padmini Coopamah (on China’s interests in Africa), the induction of four impressive alumna athletes into the Athletics and Riding Hall of Fame, a picnic (BBQ pork, macaroni and cheese, corn muffins), a Guion open house hosted by science faculty, a faculty-led “classroom crawl” through newly-renovated classrooms, a networking event hosted by the Black Pearls, the dedication of a refurbished Music Room, hunter trials on the old proving grounds, and probably lots of other things I’m forgetting to mention. Parent and Alumnae leadership volunteers received special updates and training, old friends reconnected, students enjoyed meeting alumnae and one another’s families. A fine time, indeed.

Reflecting on the weekend I found myself thinking about what really makes these occasions so very special. Clearly the beautiful setting and interesting events are important, but in themselves they don’t explain it. After all, on a gorgeous fall weekend in the Blue Ridge there are lots of opportunities to do interesting things in beautiful places.

What alumnae, family members, and students can only do HERE is celebrate connections —  connections forged in and through this place.

Any fine college strives to make its campus an idealistic place — a place where students can experience a bit of the world as they would have it be. Sweet Briar seeks to be a place where ideas are respected, engaged, and lived by; a place where individuals matter and can develop into their own best selves; a place where faculty and students call out the best in each other and in the college. Students who experience that kind of place during their undergraduate years will, I believe, be inspired to work to make the rest of world more like that after they graduate. . . and as the careers of our alumnae amply demonstrate, in fact they do.

When alumnae come back, when parents visit, they are reminded of those ideals. Spending even a short weekend in an environment where the life of the mind is evident, where individuals are valued for their talents and characters, where achievement is nurtured and recognized, where fair play and respect can be assumed — that is, I think, what really makes alumnae and parents most proud of their connection to Sweet Briar. It’s what makes coming home to Sweet Briar truly refreshing.



Holla Holla, 2012 Vixens!

Friday evening was the annual Athletics Award banquet. There was a great turnout, as you can see.

One of the highlights of each spring, this banquet is when Sweet Briar honors its athletes for they ways they represent the values of Sweet  Briar and of NCAA Division III.

Here’s a brief excerpt from my opening remarks:

2012 Student Athlete Advisory Committee

Certainly, both academics and athletics teach you to be unafraid to compete – to put your performance out there on the line and to accept that sometimes you will succeed and sometimes you won’t. And at those times when you don’t succeed, both athletics and academics teach resilience; you learn to bounce back, to stay in the game, to regain your composure and focus. Both athletics and academics demand patience with yourself: skills simply don’t develop in a day and it can take quite some time for training or study to pay off. Both require foresight and planning, strategizing how you’ll play a match or negotiate a meet, looking a few steps ahead for where an argument or a data point might take you. And both require a sense of honor and teamwork: respecting the rules, building on the contributions of others, putting fair play and success for the endeavor above ego or impulse.

Perhaps the most uplifting aspect of the evening was watching the student athletes interact with each other. As award winners were called forward, as teams posed for group pictures, the powerful affection, respect, and mutual support Sweet Briar women develop with their teammates and fellow athletes were evident, and inspiring. Holla Holla, Vixen athletes and alumnae!

Sweet Briar, keeping women on the move!

Photo by Jill Nance, courtesy Lynchburg News Advance

Yesterday the Lynchburg newspaper ran an article about the fitness class I’ve been leading on campus. You can find it here if you’re interested.

It’s part of a series of articles on fitness and health initiatives in greater Lynchburg. Last year, the Lynchburg area was found to have a high rate of obesity. In response, the mayor has encouraged a number of activities intended to help improve health and wellness in our community.

Sweet Briar too has increased its focus on wellness this year. One example is a program offered to all employees: those who undergo a basic health assessment receive an informative health status summary, tips for improving any areas of potential concern, access to a health educator, and best of all reduced health insurance premiums. Others have included things like hosting events for Girls on the Run and Special Olympics.

The classes I offer are just one small contribution to a increased focus on wellness and activity for people of all fitness and ability levels across the campus. Healthy activity allows people to experience themselves as strong, agile, flexible, mobile — qualities that enhance not only physical health but also academic and professional success. And in a culture that still places greater emphasis on sports and physical activity for boys than for girls, I believe it’s especially important for girls and women to have this experience. So, to my mind, fitness at Sweet Briar is and should be central to our mission.

Which doesn’t mean that everyone can or should be an athlete. It simply means that everyone can benefit by experiencing the joy of movement in whatever way they can. I know I do. . .

Brave In The Attempt

Gathering before the first match

This morning we had an inspiring event in the field house. As part of a national NCAA initiative, our conference — the Old Dominion Athletic Conference — partnered with the Special Olympics to create a regional event. Sweet Briar was very proud to be the first host site.

Skills drill

Athletes from all ODAC member schools arrived at the FAC early this morning to join Special Olympians from across greater Lynchburg for a morning of volleyball. Three volleyball courts were set up in the Upchurch Field House. Matches and skills instruction took place on each court, music was booming, players were in brightly colored T-shirts, and all in all it made for a lively scene. Before the Special Olympians arrived, Sweet Briar athletes — tennis players, swimmers, field hockey players — got a crash course in volleyball rules and techniques, so they could help with officiating and, hopefully, keep up with their more-experienced teammates for the day.

I had the pleasure of welcoming the guests, thanking the student volunteers, and opening the morning’s activities. To start the day, we all repeated the Special Olympics oath:

“Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

I had never heard that saying before, but it’s one that I’ll remember. On and off the field or court, an utterly admirable attitude.



Families Weekend Victory!

Vixen logoVixens field hockey today, on the newly-dedicated Thayer Field, 3 – 1 over Transylvania.  Go Sweet!


SBC v. Mary Baldwin, September 1

SBC v. Mary Baldwin, September 1

The Vixens won their season opener against Mary Baldwin, 8 – 2.

This weekend the soccer team is headed to my alma mater, Bryn Mawr, for a tournament in which they’ll take on Neumann and Cedar Crest.  Wish ’em luck, everybody.