Cynthia Plair Roddey

April 6, 1940 - Present

2014: Cynthia Plair RoddeyCynthia Plair Roddey ’67 was Winthrop’s first African-American graduate student, and she is widely acknowledged as the first African-American woman to enroll at the university. She came to Winthrop in the summer of 1964 with two bachelor’s degrees from Johnson C. Smith University, where she worked as an assistant in the library. Her connections to Winthrop run deep: Her grandfather helped build the university. Dr. Roddey, a married teacher with two children at the time of her enrollment, went on to earn her M.A.T. in library science at Winthrop.

Dr. Roddey, the daughter of two educators, later earned a doctorate in ministry. She worked in education — every grade from Head Start through the college level — for 55 years, retiring in 2017. Clinton College recognized Roddey for her years of service, which included holding the positions of Professor, College Librarian, Director of Information Services, Head of Faculty, Chair of the English Department and Head of the Community Technology Outreach to senior citizens.

1994: Cynthia Plair Roddey speaking at Winthrop UniversityThe Catawba, S.C., native’s legacy lives on at her alma mater. She is the former advisor to the Xi Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and she served previously on Winthrop’s first Black Alumni Advisory Committee. The Roddey-McMillan Record, a monthly multicultural student newspaper, bears her name.

A lifetime member of the National Teachers Association and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., she is the recipient of numerous educational and community awards. Roddey has served area churches and the Order of the Eastern Star South Carolina District 3 as a musician for more than 40 years.

Dr. Roddey has continued to give her time to Winthrop. She has participated in various panels to discuss her Winthrop experience and integration, and to offer advice and words of wisdom to current students.

In 2017, Roddey, along with her fellow trailblazers, were bestowed the Winthrop Alumni Association's Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes a Winthrop alumna/us who significantly contributes to the quality of life in his or her community, the development of values and morals within others and serves as an outstanding citizen. In 2021, the four were also recognized by the S.C. House of Representatives with a resolution praising their efforts during school integration at Winthrop University. 

Roddey is also an honoree on Rock Hill's Freedom Walkway. Freedom Walkway celebrates the efforts of the people of Rock Hill and the entire United States of America to achieve the promise of Liberty and Justice for All.