After Furman's desegregation in 1965, Sarah Reese and Lillian Brock Flemming paved the way for black women at the university. In their time at Furman, both Reece and Flemming worked in the Furman and Greenville communities to fight inequalities and pave the way for future Furman students of color.
Following her graduation from Furman in 1971, Reese moved to New York where she quickly became a soprano opera sensation, earning recognition from the New York Times and many other news sources. Her performance on the record, "Prayers of Kierkegaard," in 1993 earned her a Grammy award, and in 1995, Reese debuted as a performer in Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra. Furman recognized Reese's achievements 30 years ago by awarding her the Distinguished Alumni Award, and Greenville recognized her success in 2008 through the Cultural Exchange Center's "Women Making History," award. Yale also acknowledged Reese's accomplishments and named her a Distinguished Music Educator in 2013.
Reese's peer, Lillian Brock Flemming, is also being honored for her post-Furman achievements. Flemming received both her bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics education from Furman University and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2014. Prior to her retirement in 2017, Flemming was an influential part of Greenville County school district for 46 years. After 10 years of teaching high school math, she served on the Greenville City Council for 36 years as an advocate for public education and as a former president of the Municipal Association of South Carolina and the Greenville Blue Star Mothers organization. In addition to her multitude of leadership roles, Flemming also served as board and charter members in other organizations within the Greenville area.
Flemming was also a recipient of the Gordon L. Blackwell Alumni Service Award, the Richard Furman Baptist Heritage Award, and the United Negro College Fund's Outstanding Service Award. To top it off, Flemming appeared on the list of the Upstate's 100 most influential people, as well as appearing three separate times on Greenville's 50 most influential people.
While Reese and Flemming have long graduated from Furman, the university will forever honor their achievements and share their stories with students of the future. Furman will permanently rename Furman Lyric Theatre to Sarah Reese Music Theatre. Additionally, a portrait of Reese along with a plaque about her will reside in the Music Library.
The university has created and will distribute the Lillian Brock Flemming Award at convocation every August to a student body, faculty, staff, or alumni who embodies Flemming's service and community-based mindset. Like Reese, Flemming will also have a portrait and plaque commissioned to immortalize her achievements. While it is undetermined where these pieces will be placed, a statement from Furman said it will be in a "prominent place on campus."