Alumna grabs chance to underwrite history

| January 22, 2014

Carolyn Clarke’s love for history didn’t originate at Sweet Briar, but it took root and grew during her two years at the College.

“I had a teacher, Ms. Eva Sanford, who I was just crazy about,” Clarke recalls. “I thought I would major in history, but she kind of settled it for me. I just admired her so.”

Carolyn Clarke ’42

Clarke, Class of 1942, appreciated her time at the school and has remained engaged with other Houston-area alumnae since. She has contributed off and on to the Annual Fund, but when presented a new giving opportunity recently, Clarke seized it — promising $3,130 to underwrite the history department’s 2014 budget.

She is quick to note it is a modest amount. But sometimes that’s all it takes to make a big difference.

By designating her contribution for an expense that otherwise comes out of the College’s annual operating funds, Clarke gave what development officers call a “budget-relieving annual gift,” or BRAG. Its beauty is that is has a similar benefit to the organization as an unrestricted Annual Fund gift, while giving the donor a say in how the money is used.

That was enough for Clarke, whose motivation for donating was simple: Because the College needs it, she says. Underwriting the history department appealed to her because of the student-teacher relationship she enjoyed with Sanford.

Annual gifts, whether unrestricted or designated to support a specific area, like Clarke’s, make an immediate impact on the College and its students, says Heidi Hansen McCrory, vice president for development.

“Thanks to annual gifts, magic happens every day in our classrooms when an engaging faculty member inspires a student to think in a new way; on our athletic fields when student athletes work together toward a common goal; in a student’s room when she is building lifelong relationships with other students; and in many, many other ways,” McCrory says, citing a few areas supported by the Annual Fund.

Clarke always knew she would return to her home state to finish college. She earned her history degree from the University of Texas at Austin. After college, she worked while her husband was in the service, but soon settled into raising her family and supporting the Clarke Ranch, which her grandfather established with a state land grant. It is still in the family, and her son Stephen and daughter Elisabeth ’76 help run it.

Attending Sweet Briar had been a means to experience a different part of the country and meet interesting people from other places — which she did, she says.

There were other women’s colleges she knew of, but Sweet Briar was well known in the Houston area — and, geographically speaking, it suited her preferences.

“Virginia is a wonderful state. There’s a lot of history in Virginia!” she says, recalling renting a car with her mother during a break and visiting Williamsburg, Appomattox and other historic sites.

She remembers the fun she and two high school friends had during the two-day train rides to and from Sweet Briar. Still sharp at 93, she stays in touch with classmate Ann Reams of Lynchburg, who has kept her up to date on the College over the years. A Boxwood Circle member, Clarke is one of the Houston alumnae who funded the bistro in the Fitness and Athletics Center.

A fondness for history isn’t the only reason for her latest gift, she says.

“I consider it a privilege to be able to contribute to this beautiful school and place that means so much to so many people.”

Jennifer McManamay


Category: Alumnae and Development