Winthrop Alumna Cynthia Roddey to be Honored as Local Hero

November 18, 2019


  • Each year, Freedom Walkway recognizes heroes of the past, present and future whose efforts helped to promote justice and equality
  • Rev. Cynthia Plair Roddey ’67 was the first African-American student to enroll at Winthrop
  • The 2019 Freedom Walkway Local Heroes Celebration will be held Tuesday, Nov. 19, 6-7:30 p.m. at The Freedom Center (Main Church Sanctuary), 215 E. Main Street

ROCK HILL, SOUTH CAROLINA – An alumna who shaped Winthrop University’s history as the first African-American student will once again be honored for her unwavering commitment to equality and education.

The Rev. Cynthia Plair Roddey ’67 will be honored Nov. 19 as an inductee into the Freedom Walkway during the 2019 Local Heroes Celebration. The annual observance recognizes the past and present work of local champions who promote freedom for all and who vigorously address injustice in their communities. Rev. Leroy Ellison Sr. and Rev. Henry F. Tevlin are also among the 2019 honorees.

Roddey began her work in breaking down barriers in the 1960s when she became Winthrop's first African-American woman to enroll at the university and the first African-American graduate student at Winthrop. She came to Winthrop in the summer of 1964 with two bachelor's degrees from Johnson C. Smith University. Roddey graduated from Winthrop with a Master of Arts in Teaching (library science) in August of 1967.

Roddey left a rich legacy at Winthrop. She was a member of the first Black Alumni Advisory Committee and a former advisor to the Xi Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; the chapter sponsors a scholarship bearing her name. She also shares in the honor of a university scholarship named for her and Delores Johnson Hurt, Arnetta Gladden Mackey, and Sue Frances Meriwether Steed - three other African-American women who enrolled in 1964. The scholarship was established in 2014 to honor the 50th anniversary of Winthrop's 1964 integration, and the fund provides scholarships to South Carolina residents who have financial need, with first preference given to minority students. The Roddey-McMillan Record, a monthly multicultural student newspaper, also bears her name.

“Cynthia Roddey is one of our great trailblazers who marked a pivotal moment in Winthrop’s rich history and laid the foundation for our commitment to diversity on this campus,” said President Dan Mahony. “Her recognition as a Freedom Walkway Local Hero is a fitting way to honor her legacy and salute the work she has done at Winthrop and in the community.”

After graduating from Winthrop, Roddey, who comes from a long line of school educators, worked for 55 years in education - every grade from Head Start through the college level - until her retirement in 2017. Clinton College recognized Roddey in 2017 for 23 years of service. During her tenure, she held 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.

“Cynthia Roddey has an uncompromising heart for service and education. As a result, it is not surprising that she has received numerous community and educational awards,” said Sherille Barber ’87, ‘99, president of the Rock Hill Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. “She has dedicated her life to service and education, and she has inspired countless others to do the same,” Barber added.

The Rock Hill native also earned a Doctor of Ministry from Mid-Atlantic Seminary in 1990 and along with her daughter, Oresa D. Roddey, co-founded Special Needs and Abilities Family Empowerment (SAFE), a non-profit advocacy agency for those on the autism spectrum and with other special needs. She is the CFO of the organization and the minister for Safe Harbor, the spiritual affiliation of the agency.

For more information on how to contribute to the Roddey, Johnson, Gladden, Meriwether Scholarship, please contact the Division of University Advancement at 803/323-2275 or go directly to

Button ArrowALL NEWS