Sweet Briar College Holds 107th Commencement Ceremony
A college in Amherst County says it has made the impossible just another problem to solve. Sweet Briar College held its 107th commencement ceremony Saturday.
AMHERST COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A college in Amherst County says it has made the impossible just another problem to solve.
Sweet Briar College (SBC) held its 107th commencement ceremony Saturday.
"The Sweet Briar Board of Trustees congratulates the class of 2016 as the first class to graduate from the college after the heroic rescue, for their critical role in the rescue, for their fervent loyalty to their school in the face of traumatic circumstances," announced SBC Board of Directors Chair Teresa Pike Tomlinson.
Eighty-one SBC graduates reveled in a commencement that many weren't sure would happen.
"Honestly, I feel like I went through a long journey just to get to college and live out my dream in dance. I really sacrificed a lot. So, this literally is everything," said graduate Comora Littlejohn.
"This is the graduation that wasn't supposed to happen. So, for students and for us, we're just so thankful that we got to come back and have such a monumental year," said graduate Madeline Artibee.
The college’s former board of directors and president announced on March 3, 2015, that the all-women's liberal arts college would close due to "insurmountable financial challenges."
Students, faculty, staff, and alumnae rallied soon afterward, creating Saving Sweet Briar (SSB). Their efforts raised millions of dollars within a few months. On June 2, 2015, a Bedford County judge approved a settlement that would keep the college open with $12 million in funds raised by SSB and $16 million from the college's endowment.
"I think one of the reasons why the alumni rose up was not out of nostalgia for what had happened when we were here. It was because of these young women we knew were so tremendously valuable in our world today," Tomlinson said.
One of the people who helped support Sweet Briar was Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer, who the college's new board recognized Saturday with the inaugural founder's medal.
"Well, we made history today. We are a renewed college. We're a college that a little over a year ago people thought would not be around," Tomlinson said.
"I'm sure that it will stay open for many more years and there will be more women like me giving more testimonies of how this place has changed their life," Littlejohn said.
The SBC Board of Directors says it's made remarkable progress recruiting students.
Sweet Briar College hopes to double the number of graduates next year. The college is already planning for an influx of transfer students, many of whom were forced to relocate during last year's legal battles.