Before Chasity Clarke Miller ’04 even graduated from Sweet Briar with a degree in art history, she knew she wanted to give back to a college that had given her so much. Alumnae generosity had provided the scholarships that made her education possible, she says, and she wanted to make sure future generations of young women had the same opportunities she did. Today, Miller is the community engagement coordinator for the CarMax Foundation in Richmond and she uses her employer’s corporate matching to enhance the gifts she and her husband make each year to Sweet Briar. Here, she explains why it is so important to her to support her alma mater’s future.
How did you decide on Sweet Briar when you were a prospective student?
My mother encouraged me to be open-minded and explore an array of options for my education. She happily toured at least eight schools with me during Virginia Private College Week — we refer to this trip as the “whirlwind tour” — and we also visited a number of public schools. I could tell my mother had Sweet Briar at the top of her list, but I remained on the fence.
However, I knew early on in the visit that Sweet Briar would be my top choice, too. Everything just felt right from the beginning: from the beautiful campus and our great student guide, to the faculty and staff I met that day. It felt comfortable, like my home away from home.
How would you describe your time at Sweet Briar?
One word: Amazing! I made great friends and memories that will last a lifetime. I developed leadership skills through a number of clubs and my work with student government. I was fortunate to have outstanding faculty members who pushed me to dream big and achieve more than I thought I was capable of. I learned there were so many possibilities for my future, far more than I had ever imagined — the world simply expanded.
What is your favorite memory from your time here?
I made so many wonderful memories at Sweet Briar. One of my favorite experiences was Junior Week. On one of the days, my senior collaborated with a few others to recreate the cast of the Wizard of Oz, with me in the role of the Tin Man. I wrapped myself in tin foil from head to toe for the entire day and met up with the Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and the Scarecrow to skip down the “yellow brick road.” It was hilarious and a great bonding experience for all of us! It took a lot of help keeping my tin foil in check all day.
How did philanthropy impact your time as a student at Sweet Briar?
I was very fortunate to receive scholarships that made it possible for me to attend Sweet Briar. Scholarships allowed me to choose the college that was the best fit for me without placing a burden on my family, which included two younger siblings.
When did you realize it was important to give back as an alumna?
I remember being overjoyed when I learned money would not be an obstacle for me to attend Sweet Briar. From that day forward, I wanted to be as generous as I could so that another young woman would have the same opportunity to choose the college she felt would best support her personal and academic growth, regardless of her financial circumstances. I’m honored to be able to support the College and pay it forward as best I can.
What is the biggest misconception about a college’s need for private, philanthropic support?
I believe the biggest misconception is that tuition alone can keep a college running. As alumnae, we know how special our college experience was and the invaluable lessons learned thanks to the generosity of those who came before us. As a donor, it is such an honor to be a part of continuing this great legacy of educating generations of future women leaders.
How does corporate matching enhance your giving?
I feel fortunate to work for CarMax, which, through a generous matching gift program, supports the philanthropic passions of its employees. No matter how much I give, Sweet Briar benefits from triple the impact when my husband and I match the gift through our employers.
In addition, CarMax has a program that makes a monetary gift for each hour of service an employee provides to an organization. I love reconnecting with classmates as chair of the Class of 2004 Reunion Giving Committee, as well as through my work on the Friends of Art board. Knowing those volunteer hours also translate into additional gifts to support the College makes it even better!
How do you hope your gifts will benefit the next generation of Sweet Briar women?
I hope my gifts will help continue the amazing academic tradition at Sweet Briar by supporting students, faculty and other fiscal needs of the College. Most importantly, I hope to help remove financial barriers for other young women to attend Sweet Briar. I strongly believe that education is the key to a brighter future and all women, regardless of where they begin in life, deserve the opportunity to develop into people who will change the world.
Category: Alumnae and Development