Virginia Supreme Court Rules that Sweet Briar College Can Be a Trust

by vixenSBC


Richmond, VA – Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., the non-profit group formed to save Sweet Briar College, expressed jubilation today after the Virginia Supreme Court extended the length of the existing injunction, ruled that Sweet Briar College can be a trust, and remanded the matter back to the Amherst County Circuit Court for further action.

“Today’s Virginia Supreme Court ruling is a major legal victory for the students, faculty, staff and alumnae of Sweet Briar College, for women’s colleges and for the sanctity of charitable bequests made in this country,” said Sarah Clement, Chair of Saving Sweet Briar (Sweet Briar College, AB 1975; University of Virginia School of Law, JD 1984). “We are grateful that the Virginia Supreme Court has accepted the arguments of County Attorney Ellen Bowyer that Sweet Briar College can be both a trust and a non-stock corporation.”

Today’s ruling sets the stage for what Saving Sweet Briar hopes will be even more sweeping action by the Bedford County Circuit Court to effectively stop the closure of Sweet Briar College.

“With the trust issue now resolved by the Virginia Supreme Court, we will move to seek the appointment of a special fiduciary to assess the college’s true finances and determine what is needed to close the current funding gap to ensure the College can remain open,” said Clement. “This fiduciary can then take a deeper look, working with all stakeholders, at what changes are warranted and appropriate to help reshape the college to ensure its long-term success as one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher learning.”

Clement said the tremendous efforts of thousands of Sweet Briar alumnae and supporters who have generated more than $16 million in pledges demonstrate that the short term funding gap can be closed while a longer term plan is developed.

“Our fight to save Sweet Briar has truly shown the values and spirit instilled in us during our years at Sweet Briar College,” added Clement. “We have fought with every ounce of energy and today our efforts have been rewarded. We will use the experience of nearly losing Sweet Briar as a galvanizing moment that can help us ensure that the College will emerge from this struggle as an even stronger institution that will serve many generations of students to come.”

Click HERE to read the Virginia Supreme Court Ruling.

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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.