Sweet Briar College in Virginia will remain open next year after Bedford County Circuit Court Judge James W. Updike Jr. approved a settlement on June 21.
On March 3, the Sweet Briar President James F. Jones Jr. announced that the college had insurmountable financial challenges and would close on Aug. 25. However, the alumnae didn’t take the decision lightly—as a result of the announcement a group formed the Saving Sweet Briar campaign and launched a fundraising effort to save the college.
Three lawsuits were filed challenging the decision to close the college, and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring facilitated the mediation. As part of the settlement, Save Sweet Briar will provide $12 million in funds for operation of the college, with the remaining $16 million needed to keep the college open coming from the college’s endowment. The college will appoint a new president.
Though plans for the school’s riding program are still in the works, director of the program Mimi Wroten said, “We are still waiting for the change in administration to happen, which will happen in the next week or so, and then I think everything will be finalized. The administration has spoken with me and said that we have a riding program, and it will still be one of our big, key pieces of what makes Sweet Briar Sweet Briar.”
The school will continue to use the Harriet Howell Rodgers Riding Center for their program and is planning a co-op with nearby Lynchburg College (Va.), so that both schools will benefit from the center. When the situation appeared dire for Sweet Briar, Lynchburg offered their assistance by leasing some of the horses and the facility while the college was still being held under the injunction.
Though many offered homes for the college’s horses, none had been placed under the terms of the injunction. Wroten said the program will continue to retire the horses as necessary, but for now the stock will remain with the school.
“They have lots of wonderful homes available when we get to that point again and everything is signed on the dotted lines; we’ll move forward that way,” she said. “The key teachers, the horses, will be here for Sweet Briar students and for the Lynchburg students to use and keep going with the wonderful program we have here.”
While both colleges will have their own coaches, Wroten will oversee the operation of the center and both programs, while lending leadership and teaching services to both schools.
“I think it really will be a good thing. I think it’s a win-win for everyone,” she said.
Sweet Briar, a private women’s college known for its equestrian and engineering programs has been operating since 1901. The Harriet Howell Rodgers Riding Center is a 130-acre facility on campus that hosts a number of riding teams, including an Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Team and an Affiliated National Riding Commission team. While the college does not offer a degree in equine studies, students can earn certificates in training or equine management.