Sweet Briar 9

President of Sweet Briar College Meredith Woo makes a brief speech to address the progress of the college in the last year during an agricultural visit in honor of Founders' Day on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.

A $5 million gift from an anonymous donor will enable Sweet Briar College to significantly expand its Presidential Scholars Program, the college’s highest scholarship award, the school announced Monday. 

The award, one of a number of significant recent investments in Sweet Briar, demonstrates the commitment of Sweet Briar’s alumnae and friends to President Meredith Woo’s vision for the college, which focuses on Presidential Scholarships, academic innovation and the stewardship of the college’s built and natural environment, according to a news release. 

Presidential Scholarships offer full and partial tuition scholarships to Sweet Briar’s top student candidates based on quantifiable academic achievements and a rigorous on-campus, invitation-only interview process. Currently, the college offers scholarships to 30 students. The gift allows expanding the number of participants by 40%.

“These scholarships will help make Sweet Briar the college of choice for some of the nation’s brightest young women,” Sweet Briar President Meredith Woo said in a statement. “I am deeply grateful to our donor and I look forward to meeting the amazing students who will, thanks to her help, become Sweet Briar women.”

Woo anticipates within 15 years Presidential Scholars will make up 10 to 12% of the student body.

In addition to increasing the number of students awarded the scholarships, the program’s expansion will allow for the enhancement of the scholars’ experiences through the addition of on- and off-campus academic and professional enrichment activities.

Sweet Briar, located on 3,250 acres in Amherst County, was named as one of the nation’s most innovative colleges by U.S. News and World Report for 2019 and is increasingly recognized for its curricular emphasis on women’s leadership.

The college in July announced it received gifts and pledges totaling $18.5 million during fiscal year 2019. Since 2015, when a previous administration unsuccessfully tried to close the college following a flood of support and a legal settlement, it has raised the $63.9 million, the college has said prior to announcing the most recent donation. 

The college’s stabilization measures in the past few years have included a tuition reset in 2018, reduction of operating expenses and implementation of a multi-year financial plan by the college’s board and administration. 

“We are so grateful to the generous alumnae of this College,” Woo said in the college's announcement. “Sweet Briar is a place where every gift can make a huge difference in the lives of future women leaders.”

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Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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