Saving Sweet Briar Settlement Reached: Sweet Briar to Remain Open

by vixenSBC


Success of Saving Sweet Briar Fundraising Campaign and Legal Fight Results in Settlement that Will Save Sweet Briar College


Richmond, VA – Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., the non-profit group formed to save Sweet Briar College, celebrated today the announcement of a settlement agreement that will save Sweet Briar College.


A short time ago, Attorney General Mark Herring, Sweet Briar College; Ellen Bowyer, County Attorney for Amherst County; and Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. announced that the parties have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines a settlement agreement that will usher in new leadership for the College and provide the necessary funding to close the current financial gap so that the College can remain open.


“Today’s settlement is an answer to the prayers of many and a powerful validation of the value of fighting for what you believe in,” said Sarah Clement, Chair of Saving Sweet Briar (Sweet Briar College, AB 1975; University of Virginia School of Law, JD 1984).  “We first thank County Attorney Ellen Bowyer for her leadership in bringing the lawsuit to save Sweet Briar College.  Additionally, the $21 million in pledges generated by the alumnae community was pivotal in demonstrating that the College’s funding gap could be closed.  We are forever grateful to the thousands of alumnae who made this possible and call upon them to convert their pledges into donations quickly so we can deliver on the promise we have made.”


Clement said this agreement would not have been possible without the support and leadership of Attorney General Mark Herring. “We are grateful to the Attorney General for his leadership which helped facilitate this settlement through the mediation process and through his pledge to exercise his authority to grant access to unrestricted funds to help close funding gaps at the college.”


As part of today’s settlement agreement, Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. has agreed to deliver $12 million in donations for the ongoing operation of the College within the next 60 days, with $2.5 million to be made available by July 2. The Attorney General will consent to the release of restrictions on $16 million from the College’s endowment to augment alumnae funds for the ongoing operation of the College.


“Today’s settlement agreement represents a remarkable turnaround of a very difficult situation and we’re grateful to have helped our clients prevail in the goal shared by thousands of saving Sweet Briar College.”  said Ashley L. Taylor, Jr. co-chair of the Education Team at Troutman Sanders, the firm that represents Saving Sweet Briar and has served as Special Counsel to County Attorney Ellen Bowyer.


The settlement agreement provides for the appointment of a new Board of Directors and President of the College.  Members of the new Board will be nominated by Saving Sweet Briar and other plaintiffs in the litigation against the College pending before the Circuit Court of Amherst County.  It is anticipated that the new Board would appoint Phillip Stone, the former President of Bridgewater College and a prominent Virginia attorney, as president of the College. It is also expected that the new board would act to continue academic operations of the College to ensure a 2015-2016 academic year. The settlement provides the opportunity for a new leadership team to develop a plan to shore up the college’s finances and develop a long-term plan for sustained success.

Today’s settlement agreement will result in the dismissal of all the litigation challenging the College’s closure including the case brought by County Attorney Ellen Bowyer, the case brought by Sweet Briar alumna Jessica Campbell and the case brought by faculty, initiated by Sweet Briar Professor John Gregory Brown.

“This is a tremendous victory for those who have fought so hard to save Sweet Briar College,” said William H. Hurd, who co-chairs Troutman Sanders’ Education Team with Taylor. “We believe this resolution is in the best interest of all of the parties and, most importantly, in best interest of the College.”


In addition to collecting the $12 million in pledged funds, Saving Sweet Briar will now be accelerating its efforts to help a new leadership team at the college develop an effective plan to rebuild the college and position it for future success.


The Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. Board of Directors released the following statement upon today’s settlement. “The painful experience of nearly losing Sweet Briar has become a galvanizing moment that truly underscores the value of a Sweet Briar education in teaching us to stand up and fight for what we believe in with our full hearts and minds. Thousands of young women in high schools across the country who are making choices about where to go to college will come to know a new Sweet Briar – a college where women can get a great education and learn to be leaders that can solve our society’s greatest challenges.”


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Saving Sweet Briar Timeline

March 3, 2015 - Sweet Briar College announces Spring 2015 will be final semester, school will close on August 25, 2015.

March 3, 2015 - Sweet Briar College alumnae galvanize on Facebook, creating working groups to work to halt closure.

March 4, 2015 - launches in the early morning hours. Website begins accepting pledges midday.

March 6, 2015 - pledges exceed $1 million (with additional unconfirmed $1 million pledge that will later be confirmed).

March 6, 2015 - Troutman Sanders retained to fight closure. Read More

March 9, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. formally incorporated as a non-profit with seven alumnae appointed to serve as board members. Read More

March 11, 2015 - Virginia State Senator Chap Petersen sends letter to state Attorney General regarding the legality of closing the college. Read More

March 11, 2015 - Sweet Briar faculty join alumnae in fight to keep college open. Read More

March 18, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. begins accepting donations in the fight to save the college.

March 23, 2015 - Troutman Sanders sends letter requesting President and Board resign. Read More

March 26, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. hires Certified Fraud Examiner. Read More

March 30, 2015 - Amherst County Attorney, Ellen Bowyer, files suit against Sweet Briar College.

April 6, 2015 - Initial Financial Analysis concludes financial condition did not warrant closure Read More

April 12, 2015 - $5 million pledged to Saving Sweet Briar.

April 13, 2015 - Amherst Mayor sends letter opposing closure. Read More

April 15, 2015 - Judge Updike issues a 60 day injunction preventing the college from using funds solicited to operate the college to close it.

April 23, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. launches Alumnae Angels program to help students with financial concerns during transition and uncertainty.

April 29, 2015 - Judge Updike issues another injunction in one of the other legal cases preventing the college from selling assets for six months.

April 29, 2015 - Amherst County Attorney files Petition to Review with Virginia Supreme Court.

May 19, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. granted 501(c)(3) status, with tax exempt status applying to all donations made from the incorporation date of March 9, 2015.

June 9, 2015 - Virginia Supreme Court rules that Sweet Briar College can be a trust.

June 19, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. announces $21 million total pledged over 5 years.

June 20, 2015 - Settlement reached, keeping Sweet Briar College open. Settlement terms include 3 payments to college with the first $2.5 million due on July 2.

June 23, 2015 - Amherst CountyBoard of Supervisors names Sweet Briar Day.

June 30, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. delivers $5 million ahead of schedule to Sweet Briar College.

July 2, 2015 - President Stone assumes new position, new Board of Directors appointed.

September 2, 2015 - Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. delivers final settlement payment to Sweet Briar College, exceeding $12 million total.