Andrew Dys

Scholarships maintain legacy of beloved Winthrop professor who died in crash

Winthrop music student Tyler Lewis, recipient of a $2,500 scholarship from the foundation that honors late professor Cynthia Furr.
Winthrop music student Tyler Lewis, recipient of a $2,500 scholarship from the foundation that honors late professor Cynthia Furr. Andrew Dys

The newest recipient of a scholarship named for a rural Chester County girl who grew into a beloved Winthrop University professor was called a ‘Cindy’ on Friday – and it was the biggest and best compliment on campus.

Tyler Lewis, 21, who grew up on a beef cattle farm in Chester County and is studying music at Winthrop, was awarded a $2,500 grant Friday by the CindyMackie Foundation. The foundation was created after the 2009 car crash in Charlotte that claimed the lives of Winthrop professor Cynthia Furr, 45, her toddler daughter Mackie, and teenager Hunter Holt from Clover. Two adults who later served prison time were racing at close to 90 mph when the crash happened on N.C 49 near the Buster Boyd Bridge.

An awful day continued to be awful through criminal trials and civil lawsuits that ended with the two drivers in prison and the state of North Carolina and those drivers liable for the crash. But Friday again showed that from such trauma, a teacher’s legacy cannot perish.

The nonprofit foundation raises money and gives it all to students and groups studying music, the arts and literature – subjects that Cynthia Furr, whose family is also from rural Chester County where they too have a beef farm, studied and taught in both high schools and at Winthrop. Her sister, Sharon, and her parents wanted Cynthia’s legacy to march on through young people striving to dare to be great.

“This is a special day – a day where what Cindy loved is given back again to students who will find inspiration and pass it along to the next generation,” Sharon Furr said Friday when she surprised Tyler Lewis with the scholarship. “You are a ‘Cindy.’ 

For any Winthrop music student who wants to teach, there is no higher compliment than to be called a ‘Cindy.’

Lewis, studying voice, piano and organ as well as serving as a campus leader in scholastic and music groups, is leaning toward a career in church musicianship – just like Cynthia Furr. Before she died, and even on the day she died, Cynthia Furr was working at her church, where she was music minister.

“I am honored to receive this – it means so much,” Lewis said.

His parents, Rhonda and John Lewis, took time away from those beef cattle in Chester to be in on the surprise, too. The scholarship will help pay his tuition.

With other awards given out this weekend in both Carolinas that totaled more than $15,000, the CindyMackie Foundation passed the $100,000 mark for six years of helping future teachers, scholar, artists, and musicians. The tether that binds all of them is the lifelong love of learning, with a must of being willing to share it with students of all ages.

This year the foundation gave out awards to:

▪ The Academy for Teaching and Learning in Chester. The center already has the CindyMackie Literacy and Performing Arts Center named for Cynthia Furr and her daughter after grants from the foundation. The center features a book room and stageand is dedicated solely to children. This year’s grant will allow the center to add to the book inventory and continue the center’s growth.

▪ First Baptist Church Youth program in Chester will develop a youth literature section.

▪ Piedmont Music Academy in Rock Hill that works with home-schooled children in music received a grant to continue classes for kids who don’t have access to music at home.

▪ Lillianna Sirmon of Boone, N.C., a previous winner, received a grant to pursue leadership skills.

Want to know more?

Visit the foundation’s Web site at