AMHERST COUNTY (WSLS10) - "It's going to be a legendary year," is a quote hanging at the drive-up to Sweet Briar College's campus as students move in for the semester that almost never was.
The roadway was lined with bright signs Thursday and Friday, welcoming back the entire Sweet Briar family.
The man who laid out the warm welcome is the new president, Phillip Stone.
"This is the time when we are making history when we are moving from this deep hole that was dug," Stone said.
The struggle to save Sweet Briar has gained national attention. Six months ago when the announcement of the closure was made no one thought students would be returning.
"But they've made it clear. This is their home and they want to come home," Stone said.
Stone is aiming to make Sweet Briar his new home too. He was previously the president at Bridgewater College as well as a successful attorney in a family law firm. Many members of his family are Bridgewater graduates, including his four children.
He says he wouldn't have given that up for just anything.
"This is not just a matter of trying to stay alive for only a year," Stone said. "Frankly I had better things to do than come to run this place for a year or as I've said, 'I'm not into piloting sinking ships'."
He says the college's reopening would not be possible without the help of alumnae group Saving Sweet Briar and says the story of Sweet Briar's reopening is the school's best marketing campaign yet.
"Telling this story probably is the best marketing we can do. It's hard to contrive any marketing gimmick better than ours," Stone said.
Stone believes even more students will enroll in the spring. So his first order of business was fully staffing the campus, bringing back everyone previously terminated except for prior administration.
"So that was a dramatic step. I've never hired 150 people with a punch of an email," he laughingly said.
You won't find Stone in the Presidential Suite Office. Instead he opted for a small, quaint spot that's easier for students and faculty to find him on the ground level. He is located in the former Dean of Students Office.
He says his door is always open and he plans to be very visible and accessible on campus. He says he aims to be a leader that's working side-by-side others because it's going to take a community effort to stay vixen strong.
"We are not out of the woods. We have a lot of challenges," Stone said. "We are going to be okay. We are going to make it. We are going to do it, but wishing it to be true doesn't make it true. So we still have a lot of hard work and we are going to do it together."
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