Field of Science

Sweet Briar College closing

TPP read this news item with a bit of nostalgic sadness. Sweet Briar was called one of the southern seven sisters; a women's college for young ladies of good breeding. This does not mean TPP has any direct connection to Sweet Briar, and everything about it was learned mostly in a two day period 40 years ago on what was one of a young botanist's first job interviews. After giving a presentation at a national meeting, this young PhD (26 at the time) was approached by the Chair of Biology at Sweet Briar and asked if I would like to visit for a job interview.  The application had been made a long time before, and you figure it's just a matter of time before you get the thank you very much for applying letter, but not you is our decision. Apparently they liked to get a look at the applicant first. Perhaps you may wonder about the wisdom of a newly minted, 20 something PhD thinking about taking a job at a women's college, and it was a concern, but it was a job. At any rate Sweet Briar was a handsome place although young women in riding habits on horse back was a different sort of scene. As were the pearl necklaces and white gloves of the young women who escorted this bewildered fellow around campus. While many of the students were rich, and entitled, they also had a lot of academic talent if you could get through the southern veneer and get them actively involved in science. Guess they thought the New Yorker attitude & personality might be able to do it, but TPP was a bit more ambitious so other opportunities seemed better. Still it's too bad that such a bastion of the old south, as it seemed, has found itself facing intolerable changes leaving closing up shop as the only viable option rather than fading away in a futile struggle. TPP taught for a semester at one such place, and it was truly a sad thing to witness. Times are being tough on all small, liberal arts colleges as people foolishly denigrate such degrees, and rural women's schools particularly; a lot of them won't survive.   

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