‘Save our beloved Sweet Briar:’ More than 700 alumnae welcome students

Posted at 11:14 PM, Mar 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-15 22:58:49-04

SWEET BRIAR, Va. — More than 700 Sweet Briar College alumnae welcomed students returning from spring break Sunday in a show of solidarity.

Recently, the president of Sweet Briar College announced that the all women, liberal arts college will shut down at the end of the school year citing deteriorating finances and the lack of a large endowment as reasons for the closure.

CBS 6 News spoke with an alum and mother of a freshman there, Stacy Lukanuski, who said 800 people planned to rally Sunday in support for the students and faculty.

“It’s in attempt to support the students and faculty that are coming back from spring break that are of course devastated with the news,” Lukanuski said “All the alumnae of Sweet Briar College feel that this school has so much to offer.”

Ellen Pitera, who graduated from the school in 1993, and is one of seven Sweet Briar alumnae serving on the Board of Directors of Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., thanked those in attendance for rallying to save the college.

“I just want to thank you all for being here for this big moment in Sweet Briar’s history. I hope you’ve all been looking around today to see your love for this college in action. I am in awe yet never doubted Sweet Briar’s passion. On behalf of the Saving Sweet Briar board, as well as the alumnae, I want to say to the students, the faculty and staff, that we deeply admire your courage during this challenging time. We are working literally around the clock to reverse the current board’s decision and we will not stop fighting until we in fact have turned over every stone, boulder, and pebble in order to save our beloved Sweet Briar. Let’s lean on each other as the next days unfold and let’s all work diligently in this fight. The word is getting out and the possibilities to support our college are endless. We ask you to press on towards our common goal of saving our beloved Sweet Briar, not only for our current students, faculty and staff, but for future generations. As we look upon Daisy’s monument, let’s all take a moment to reflect on our past, our present and our exciting future. Together, we will save Sweet Briar College,” Pitera said.

Organizers said that the big welcome lasted for nearly two hours before alumnae and a number of students walked to Monument Hill.

A non-profit group, “Saving Sweet Briar,” has hired a prominent law firm — Troutman Sanders — to mount a legal challenge to the college’s decision.

So far, the organization says it has raised nearly $3 million of the $20 million goal. They are hoping to reach their goal by June 30.