Accord Keeps Century-Old Sweet Briar Women’s College Open

Updated on

The 114-year-old private school for women known as Sweet Briar College will remain open after a Virginia judge approved a deal between school officials and alumnae that raised $12 million in donations to save the institution.

Judge James Updike Jr. approved the deal Monday allowing the school to survive for at least one more academic year. The agreement resolves several lawsuits over the closing announced in March, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said.

“The future of Sweet Briar belongs to the school and the community,” Herring, a Democrat, said in an e-mailed statement. “They’re the ones who will have to do the hard work of implementing this plan.”

The accord calls for 10 of the college’s 23 board members to resign and requires a $12 million donation from an alumnae group, Saving Sweet Briar Inc., to provide a cash infusion. Another $16 million in operating funds for the coming year will be released from the school’s endowment under the deal.

With additional funding, the board “decided new leadership should be allowed the opportunity to operate the college for another year with the hope it will be able to find long-term solutions for ongoing sustainability,” Christy Jackson, Sweet Briar’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

The Lynchburg, Virginia-based school, whose former students include Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’s mother and Colleen Bell, the current U.S. ambassador to Hungary, announced it was closing in March because of deteriorating finances and shrinking enrollment.

The college was sued by the Amherst County attorney who claimed the closing violated the terms of the will of Indiana Fletcher Williams, the institution’s founder.

The suit challenged the rationale for closing the school, saying annual operating deficits were offset by investment gains in its $85 million endowment.

The case is Virginia v. Sweet Briar, 15009373, Amherst County Circuit Court, Amherst, Virginia (Lynchburg).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE