Remembering Cynthia (Cindy) Thomas, a legacy of love

Cindy Thomas passed away earlier this month, but the Canisius community will always remember her loving spirit. She had a huge impact on so many people’s lives. Rest in peace, Ms. Cindy.

Cindy Thomas with President Hurley, presenting her the Employee of Distinction award. She was nominated by several other coworkers in Nov. 2018. (Photo Mary Braun, The Dome)

Many students and faculty probably remember Cynthia Thomas, one of the housekeepers for Facilities Management, as she would make rounds in the library cleaning study rooms, taking out the trash and making everything clean for students. Many knew her as Ms. Cindy or 24, which was her radio number. She was a warm, welcoming presence on campus, and she will be truly missed.

Tragically, Thomas passed away on Jan. 2. The news of Thomas’s passing was a shock to the facilities team and the Canisius community.

Thomas worked as a housekeeper at Canisius for almost 16 years. Years ago, there wasn’t a team of housekeepers, it was only Thomas. She would answer all the calls herself, which caused her to get close with lots of different people on campus, especially facilities.

Building Engineer Mark Chrehan worked with Thomas for 11 years and considered her a close friend.

“She was really a wonderful person and a loyal friend,” Chrehan said. “She’d do anything for you.”

She was well known for buying people Christmas gifts every year.

One year, when Chrehan and his wife got a new comforter for their bed, they gave Thomas their old quilt and pillow set.

“She was so thrilled and redid her old bedroom, then she put my wife on her Christmas shopping list for the rest of her life.”

She got many of her friends small, thoughtful gifts that made people feel remembered and loved. Housekeeper for Facilities Management Eric Schneider still has the steering wheel cover Thomas gifted him, as well as a glass mug.

Schneider considered Thomas a mentor and friend. They both worked in the library, and they would often carpool to work together before Thomas had a car. 

“I will always remember Cindy as one of my dear friends, a best friend,” Schneider said. “She basically taught me how things are done in the library. She really guided me through working in the library. She was like my mentor. She did her job so well. She literally made everybody feel welcome. She had a great heart.”

Thomas also connected well with students, always smiling and wishing them luck on their work. Specifically, she had a special bond with Griffin alumna Caitlin McHugh ‘17.

“Ms. Cindy came into my life at a very dark time. There came a point where I was ready to be done at Canisius and give it all up to move home. 

One evening, I was on campus later than usual. I was the only one working in the basement [of the library], and I hit my breaking point with frustration. I had a full on meltdown in the library, and Ms. Cindy, not even knowing my name or anything about me, noticed me and came over to comfort me.

She simply sat down by me and waited for me to talk. I remember wondering what on earth she was doing, but I was so relieved that she was there. For some reason, I started to open up to her and just told her my whole life story. She listened, and I will never forget what she asked me that day: ‘If you leave Canisius, will it fix your problems?’ I had to think about this for a minute, because of course I wanted to say, ‘YES,’ but the more I pondered that question, the more I realized the wisdom behind it.

That talk with her and the question she posed really resonated with me, and it was enough to keep me at Canisius for long enough to graduate with my Bachelor’s Degree in journalism, which would not have been achieved without her helping me that night in the library.”

This experience inspired McHugh to start the Familiar Faces column in The Griffin where different faculty members are featured.

McHugh wrote in the article, “Thomas’ hard work and passion for her job does not go unrecognized on campus,” where Thomas was quoted as saying, “‘When I leave here every day, I want to leave with a good conscience that everything that needed to be done was done.’”

Thomas was recognized for her hard work and dedication to the school in Nov. 2018 with the Employee of Distinction award. She was nominated by Schneider and several other coworkers.

Cindy Thomas with President Hurley, presenting her the Employee of Distinction award. She was nominated by several other coworkers in Nov. 2018. (Photo Mary Braun, The Dome)

It is clear that Thomas was extremely loved and respected at Canisius. The entire facilities team echoed what Schneider and Chrehan said, emphasizing her amazing, loving spirit.

Starting the new semester without Thomas has been hard and sad for those who knew her, but her legacy of being happy, kind and caring lives on.

“Ms. Cindy was a special person, McHugh said. “She had a way of finding the good in others and in life. She cared for everyone and showed love and kindness to all. I cannot think of someone who exemplifies the Canisius values of being one for others as much as Ms. Cindy. She loved her job, and most importantly, she loved all of the students. I am a better and stronger person because I had the chance to get to know her in my time at Canisius. This world is a better place because of Ms. Cindy’s impact.”

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