Michele Gargano, the vice president of development for a biotech company, says she is a realist. A 1988 graduate of Virginia’s Sweet Briar College, she knows the odds are stacked against the tiny, all-women’s liberal arts school, whose president shocked the tight-knit community when he announced the school would close because of “insurmountable financial challenges.”

But she holds onto hope that somehow, the cadre of women connected to the century-old school — who include engineers, former presidential advisers, economists and entrepreneurs — will find a way to save the college they love.

“I actually believe in this group of alumnae,” she said. “We’re going to keep fighting.”

AD

And it will take everything they’ve got. President James Jones says he needs an immediate infusion of $250 million just to keep the school afloat. (Some women are skeptical of that number, and wonder if there is another way).

In the aftermath of the announcement, an alliance of graduates and faculty pledged $3 million to the cause and hired an attorney. Smaller efforts also have emerged: A recent graduate said she will donate a portion of sales from her “Sweet Briar” line of handmade jewelry.

AD

Alumnae, including Gargano, packed a happy hour fundraiser at Mission in Dupont Circle on Friday night that featured “Save Sweet Briar Specials” like $4 Tecate and $5 Fireball. The happy hour included women of all ages and of a variety of walks of life, bonded by their school rings — worn on the pinky — and by their storybook experiences at the pastoral campus tucked away in rural Virginia. By about 9:30 p.m., they had raised about $1,700, said Kristen Andersen, a 2011 graduate who lives in Rosslyn and helped organize the event.

That’s a drop in the bucket, but it shows the spirit the Sweet Briar community wants to keep alive.

Andersen said she, too, has pondered the prospect of the college closing, and it devastates her. But she said the fight will go on.

“I know all of the alumnae will do everything they can,” she said.

AD
AD