Furman to honor Sarah Reese, Lillian Brock Flemming
August 12, 2022
Dear Campus Community,
I am pleased to share with you that Furman University will recognize the lifelong achievements of Sarah Reese ’71 H’14 and Lillian Brock Flemming ’71 M’75 H’14 with separate namings in their honor and by displaying their portraits prominently on campus. Through these honors, we invite all who come to Furman to be inspired by their remarkable contributions – lives shaped by creativity, courage and a love for community.
Following the work of the Task Force on Slavery and Justice and its “Seeking Abraham” report, the Board of Trustees in 2018 approved recommendations from its Special Committee to honor Sarah and Lillian in recognition of their immense contributions to Furman and the broader community. This past year, a separate committee developed the specific honors we are announcing today.
Sarah and Lillian were among the first Black students to enroll at Furman after the university desegregated in 1965. At that time, Sarah, Lillian and Joseph Vaughn ’68, the first Black undergraduate student at Furman, formed a close friendship. They pursued their degrees while fighting for racial equality in historic moments, such as the protest of the Orangeburg Massacre, and the everyday instances of racism they experienced on Furman’s campus and in Greenville in the late 1960s and early ’70s.
Sarah became a world-renowned opera singer, traveling the world and performing with the greatest orchestras and conductors of the time. We will name the Furman Lyric Theatre, which stages full opera and musical productions on campus, the Sarah Reese Lyric Theatre, so it may serve as a public recognition of her immeasurable gifts and influence. The university also will commission a portrait of Sarah to display in the Music Library along with a plaque containing a biographical sketch.
Lillian has committed her life to educating, leading and uniting her beloved Greenville community. She has done so as a Greenville City Council member and through her service to public education, a variety of civic organizations and her alma mater. The university will commission a portrait of Lillian to be displayed in a prominent place on campus, accompanied by a biographical sketch of her life and accomplishments. We are also creating the Lillian Brock Flemming Award, which will be presented at fall Convocation each year, beginning in 2023, to a member of the Furman student body, faculty, staff or alumni in recognition of work that fosters thriving communities.
Please join me in celebrating the courageous, brilliant lives of Sarah Reese and Lillian Brock Flemming. And read more in our news story here.
Through the hard work and dedication of the Task Force, committees and many members of our community, our campus increasingly reflects our commitment to truth, accuracy and inclusivity by telling a more complete history of the university. These latest honors continue this progress.