Alumnae of Sweet Briar, whose board voted to shut down the 114-year-old women's college at the end of the summer, are brewing a fight.
On Sunday, however, they turned their attention to embracing the students.
With bunches of daisies and words of encouragement, hundreds of alumnae lined the main road into campus in a Sunday afternoon show of support for students recently told they'd have to find a new college.
"Your alumnae sisters are fighting for you," said Terry Evans, class of 1974, welcoming students back from spring break.
Sweet Briar College was founded in 1901 when Indiana Fletcher Williams left her entire estate, including the Sweet Briar Plantation, to found an institution in the name of her deceased daughter, Daisy. 114 years later, the school unexpectedly announced its closure – sending shockwaves through alumnae, academia, and Amherst County. Did the board act prudently, or did it move hastily?
A high level official in Richmond did something surprising this week. Superintendent of Schools Dana Bedden apologized for an incident that occurred even before he took the job.
The assembly at Huguenot High School began like a pep rally, but it quickly took on a serious tone as Superintendent Dana Bedden recalled how – in 2013 – all Hispanic students were summoned to the cafeteria. Jonthan Villatoro was one of them.
“In the past there had been several conflicts between the African-American students and the Hispanic students that ended in pretty bad fights.”
The news that Sweet Briar College would close after 114 years of educating women caught many by surprise. But to one veteran educator, it's the culmination of a financial disaster wrought by rising costs, changing tastes, and more affordable alternatives.