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The Daily Tar Heel

In Memoriam: Letters to Wynn


The Morehead-Cain senior class designated the week of March 23 as Morehead-Cain Senior Week of Compassion in the memory of Wynn Burrus, a Morehead-Cain scholar who died last semester.  

It is an impossible task to fit the life of Wynn Burrus into one page, or any number of pages for that matter. However, we hope that these testimonies from her friends and family will paint a small portrait of the brilliant life that she lived. Our thoughts and prayers are with Wynn’s family, friends and anyone who was lucky enough to know her. If you would like to celebrate and honor Wynn’s life, there will be a candlelight vigil tonight at 8:00 p.m. on Polk Place. All are welcome.

“Wynn’s default state was kindness. Not the, 'oh, she’s a nice person'-type — but the warm and welcoming variety. To talk to Wynn was to be seen and heard in that moment. To have her full attention. She may have thought nothing of it, but her combination of compassion and brilliance is rare.”

“I had three back-to-back 'interview weekends' with Wynn. For the Park scholarship, we fell into a small cluster of friends and acquaintances. Instead of going to the scholarship-related event that night, we crashed a semi-formal dance that was happening in their union. It was a fun, kind of dumb thing to do but it felt Carpe diem. It’s a small thing, but it was part of that gray transition from high school to college and that tumult of meeting people. And she was genuinely interested in meeting me during that weekend, and that kind gesture stuck with me. My prayers go out to her friends and family.”

“To the girl who knew the true importance of selfless friendship, passion and illuminating/celebrating kindness for ALL — You are so incredibly loved and cherished. As much as we already miss you, we know that you are dancing with God up above. Thank you for always and forever watching over us. A standing angel who has now found a higher calling.” 

“Last night I sat in my apartment with my roommates trying to process the news of Wynn’s passing. All day we had been worrying about her and wanted to do something. I texted one of my roommates this:

Think about what Wynn would say about this... she would say to put your trust into the Lord and pray that He gives the doctors the ability to figure out what to do and that He gives her a new chance, but at the same time, we trust Him to do what is right in His mind, not ours.

I look back on this text, and still agree with it. And as I sat on my apartment floor, I pulled out my Bible, just as I believe Wynn would do in a situation like this, and opened it to a verse that has stuck with me since a funeral I went to my senior year of high school. This verse is 'I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith' 2 Timothy 4:7.

This verse comes from Paul’s letter to Timothy, near the end of his own life. Just as Paul did, I believe Wynn’s mind was on the Lord during her last days. Wynn fought the good fight, finished the race and kept her faith. People like Wynn are few and far between, but I feel blessed to have gotten to know her over this last year through KD and Greek Life. I know she is up there watching over us, experiencing the Lord’s greatest creation, surrounded by people who love her and went before us. Until we meet again.”

“Wynn was one of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve ever met and was a light in the life of everyone she interacted with. She will be missed dearly by everyone who knew her, but will live on in each of our hearts. 

We will all honor her legacy by trying to approach life with as much joy and positivity as she did.”

“It is hard to think of someone who was so positive and had so much energy to be weak or ill. She shined from the inside out, always touching everyone with love and encouragement. She was so bright, but always so humble. For a girl that was involved in so much, she always took time to stop and do the little things that will make someone’s day. I can’t count the number of little notes and letters she had left for me over the years. She had a way of making everyone in her path feel special. As I grieve during this time and find it hard to not be angry and confused as to why a girl with so much going for her could have her life cut so short, I know that’s not what Wynn would want. She would want us to feel peace in knowing that she is healed now and with her Father. She feels no pain; she is complete. The heartbreak is truly for her friends and family, not for Wynn. She is rejoicing in her eternal life. Truly an angel among us.”

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“I grew up alongside Wynn in Raleigh, and although we weren’t close until we got to UNC, there was never a time I passed her that she wouldn’t drop what she was doing to give me a hug and ask how I was doing in a way that showed she really did care. Lucky enough to have overlapping circles with her in college, we quickly became close and bonded through our shared love of Jesus, traveling and cheese plates. How lucky am I to say that I knew her, let alone able to explore the beauty of God’s creation with her across Europe during our semesters abroad. One distinct memory of our adventures that so clearly shows who Wynn was: we passed a British tourist in the Amalfi coast who snapped at us for asking him for directions, and when my immediate instinct was to retaliate in contempt, Wynn so gently stopped me, turned to him, and said 'I’m sorry that you are upset, and I hope you have a lovely day.' Through countless moments like this one, Wynn made me a better person and helped me treat people as she did modeling Christ: with unconditional love and service. While my heart is broken and has a hole that will remain empty on this earth, I rejoice knowing that my beautiful friend is free of pain and suffering in a place deserving of her spirit. Wynn, I cannot wait to see you again someday, and until then I will live every day doing my best to model the love and service you showed to every person you encountered.” 

“To say that Wynn was an incredible person does not give her justice. She was far more than that. She was the light of God in this broken world, she was a best friend to all, she was the biggest hug when you most needed it, and overall the MOST beautiful person inside and out. As difficult as it is, Wynn Burrus would not want us to grieve her passing, but to celebrate. I truly do not believe that I will ever come across someone as special as her ever again on earth, but her light will never be forgotten. Wynn was the type of person who touched every single person she talked to. My dad met her only one time at a football game and when I told him that she too was a KD he said to me, 'I’m beyond happy that you have someone like her to look up to throughout your college experience.' From one encounter, he saw all of the love and goodness in her. I feel so blessed to have had such an amazing and impactful role model in my life. Wynn, you were an angel on earth and it is hard to fathom that you are no longer here, but we will see you again someday.”

“Wynn was tremendously smart, and funny, and had a brilliant, infectious smile. She had a remarkably strong faith that she so beautifully shared, but never, ever imposed on others.

But what always stood out to me most about Wynn was her heart and compassion and love for those that so many others would overlook. Walking down Franklin street, Wynn was the type of person to stop, ask the name of, and genuinely care for every member of Chapel Hill’s homeless population—even as the de facto response for most students and administrators has always been to simply walk faster or ignore. In any social setting, Wynn’s instinct was to make sure that everyone was included and that everyone felt welcomed. If she noticed that someone seemed quiet or if someone was standing or sitting by themselves, it was Wynn’s instinct to, without any fanfare or recognition needed, strike up a conversation and make it better. She helped me feel included more than a few times when she absolutely didn’t have to. I know I was just one of thousands that she touched in this way.

Thank you, Wynn, for being one of the very best. And for giving me, and everyone who was fortunate enough to know you, such a bright and precious example of what it means to live and love well. 

We could certainly use some more Wynn Burrus's in this world.”

“Wynn was always the person to meet me wherever I was. On my happiest days, she was her happiest. On my worst days, she was her most supportive. I think back to the time Wynn texted me over the summer simply to tell me how amazing she thought I was, and I nearly laughed at the text because I never thought someone so incredible would think so highly of me too. As much as I wish I could express to Wynn and to the rest of the world the magnitude of her impact, I am comfortable knowing how lucky I have been to feel her effect first-hand. Having been touched by Wynn is one of my greatest treasures in life, and I hope I can start to shine some of her light in my own life. I am grateful for who she was and who she will continue to be in all of our lives, and I will always cherish her radiant smile and warm spirit.”

“I find it difficult to write about Wynn because I know if Wynn were to write about me, it would be the best thing anyone has ever said about anything. Because that’s what Wynn did, she made people feel good. Wynn was encouraging, positive, the most incredibly brilliant, kind, and selfless person I have ever had the joy of knowing. If you ever crossed paths with her, you know what I’m talking about. She possessed an untouchable ability to make people feel special and always took the time to make people feel  like they were important to her - and they were. Wynn cared for everyone she met and thought little of no one. The goodness inside of her was impossible. And she will be missed by the lives she touched. But her light remains on this earth in every warm ray of sunshine, every blooming flower, and in every bright smile. For to know Wynn was to know the warmth and love of a lifetime.”

“Wynn Burrus was one of the first smiles I saw my first day on campus. She made Carolina feel like home, made my freshmen year worries go away, and made me feel like I would always have a friend and role model. Wynn made everyone around her feel so special, and so loved. She was one of a kind, a true angel brought to this world to teach others what the definition of goodness really was. Her light will always shine through, as she made this world a better place and will continue to inspire us everyday with her kind nature and warm spirit. I thank her for making me feel so welcome and as calm. In a place where a lot of people are not willing to go out of their way to ask how others are, and where a lot of girls focus more on themselves than the needs of others, Wynn always took the time to make sure all people around her were ok. She was my favorite hug and her face could light up any room. I was so sad to see her leave last semester when she went abroad, but I am sure everyone who got the chance to meet her was touched by her warmth and goodness. Thank you sweet Wynn, for loving so well and teaching me how to live with peace and happiness. Your smile shines so bright and you will always hold a special place in my heart. I love you forever.”

“To know Wynn is to love Wynn, and be loved by Wynn. I remember freshmen year after I joined KD, I was feeling so many things. Excitement, but also fear and 'what have I really gotten myself into.' I was in a new state, around all these new people in this sorority and I was timid. I’d already started to look up to Wynn and had so many sweet conversations with her. My parents and I walked up to the house on parents’ weekend so I could give them a little tour. Wynn was sitting outside doing work and when she saw us. She jumped right up and ran over. She made not only me, but my parents, feel so welcome and loved. After 30 mins of chatting, we urged her to go back to work and my dad said, 'Wow. What an amazing girl. I don’t even really know her, but you need to hold her close.' He was so right. It was such a small gesture to her. Actually, it wasn’t even a gesture. It was Wynn and what she does. Everyone in the world needed to hold Wynn close. She is so much of the love, goodness, and selflessness in this world. I hope one day to be a fraction of her.”

“Thinking of how to capture a light like Wynns into words is something I’ve been struggling with. Words don’t do her justice. Pictures don’t fully show her beautiful smile and luminous glow. To know her was to feel truly loved. Someone told me once that friendship is the most profound form of true love. It is love without bounds or rules. To be Wynn’s best friend for 18 years has been the greatest honor of my life. From endless playground hangouts to late night swims in AB to the most awkward middle school photos imaginable, you have been there through it all. If I calculated all the days we have spent together over the years I think it would be thousands. Her home has always been like a second home, “mi casa es su casa” as my mom used to always say. With you, I made a flawed youtube channel, endless home movies that should never be revisited, so many peanut butter cookies, and worm more silly costumes than you could ever imagine. All of these things I share with you. I know you’re up there listening to Destiny’s Child and watching some fabulous Hallmark movies. Trying to capture years of memories into one paragraph is fruitless but I cling to the fact that you have made my life so full, so bright, so happy, so complete. I will miss you forever Wynnie.”

“Wynn was simply vibrant. She quickly developed into one of the most foundational parts of my experience at Carolina. On my first day of freshman year, she sent me a message saying 'I hope you have the best day! Be yourself and give others a chance.' She was a constant reminder to put others first, and to go the extra mile to make someone else smile. She was kind, she was authentic, but most of all, she was able  to make everyone feel genuinely important and heard. She knew what to say, when to say it, and always followed conversations with a smile and hug that were just warm. She is one of the people that made Carolina feel like home, and I am going to miss her so much. There will never be someone like you, Wynn, but everyone should strive to try.”

“Here’s to Wynn our beautiful blonde 

She was kind and smart and of her we were all fond 

I remember the day at the Carolina Inn when I first met her here 

We were seniors and nervous, with a slight twinge of fear 

I approached her with confidence because I had seen her pic

My stepmom was obsessed with her, she had a reputation that was quite sick 

I heard of her success, from tennis to IB 

Without the Morehead maybe she would’ve gone to an Ivey 

We quickly became friends as the weekend carried on 

That night we talked on the football field almost till dawn 

We lived together two years in a row, one after the other 

We shared so many memories, she was truly like no other 

She was opinionated, and hated stickers like it was her job 

But she was always there whether for a laugh or a sob 

I know it feels funny to write a poem right now 

But this is me processing, even when things are foul 

This is for us to all think about Wynnie B

The one who was always so sweet and who also loved the tea 

I don’t know what’s happening or what the future holds

But it’s so important that we lean on each other as this grief unfolds 

Let’s remember to be thoughtful and intentional at best 

We are all going thru shit and our hearts need a rest 


“'How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.' – Winnie the Pooh

A gentle reminder to always hold your friends tighter, to lean on them, and to support them just as Wynn would do. In this time of grief and mourning take care of yourselves and know that it will get better. Live every day how she would have wanted you to, and most importantly, be kind.”

“I texted Wynn one day in passing just to ask if she had any recommendations for places to eat in Vienna. I was there last summer and I knew she had spent a semester in the city before. All I expected was a couple names and 'enjoy!' But clearly I didn’t know Wynn well enough yet. She quickly responded with an entire blog of not only restaurants, but also cultural experiences, bars, clubs, parks, the best place for a run, the freshest groceries, the cutest boutiques and on and on. This interaction exemplifies who Wynn’s is and will continue to be. She is the kind of unselfish person who is always eager to share experiences and make sure you have the best time in whatever way she can. She is above and beyond in all aspects of life and love and friendship. thank you, Wynn — (I never told you but Das Loft was my favorite).”

“It is my job to advise, question, and get to know students. Every time I spoke with Wynn, she had this disarming way of turning my questions back on me. She always asked about my day, my week, my family, things I was looking forward to. She remembered those details and asked me about them the next time I saw her. To Wynn, that was just how you treat people. To me, it was a joy and delight to be around her.”

“I first met Wynn when I was a senior in high school at the Morehead-Cain finalist weekend. Coming from out-of-state and fully knowing that decisions were to be made about me as a prospective scholarship recipient, I was extremely nervous. As soon as I met Wynn, she made me feel so at ease and embraced me with her big, infectious smile. Wynn treated everyone she met as if they were family, and when she asked me to get coffee and breakfast one morning during an interview day, I was so touched by her inclusivity and openness. This was my first experience with the 'Wynn way', and although a small example, this kind of interaction was the norm for Wynn Burrus. She made it her business to make others feel loved. Her warmth, friendliness, and kindness brightened everyone’s day, and I hope I can honor her by replicating these characteristics in all of my future interactions with others.”

“I was first introduced to Wynn after I pledged Kappa Delta at UNC and I was immediately met with the biggest smile and brightest eyes. She made me feel welcomed and loved instantaneously. She radiated beauty and embodied the body of Christ. She loved Jesus and loved everyone around her and it was infectious. The kind of love that makes you giddy and gets you excited to get out and love more people. I am truly thankful to have known her as a dear friend. She will be dearly missed and I hope that I can honor her legacy by continuing to love others contagiously.”

“Everyone has those days as a freshman. You're overwhelmed, scared, and nervous that college isn't going to be what you thought.

I remember having one of those particular days when I walked into the KD house two years ago. But then I went to my box and found a note. It read:

'Dear friend, I am so happy you are here in KD! I can't wait to see how you shine here! Love, Wynn'

I will never forget the feeling I had reading that letter. I felt loved and radiant. That is what Wynn would do to people — show up right when you needed it and bring you so much joy.

She is one of the greatest people I have ever met, and the closest you could get to perfect. I am so lucky to have known her, and deeply, deeply miss her. We have all gained one of the greatest guardian angels.”

“Wynn Burrus was someone that everyone wanted to know, and if you did know her you wanted to be her best friend. She was one of a kind in that her caring and warm spirit was incredibly incomparable. Last year, I was a new member in KD and one of my favorite memories from my first year in the chapter was helping decorate the house for the holiday season. Among the small group of girls that had gathered to hang lights and trim the tree, was Wynn. As we all hung ornaments, I distinctly remember thinking 'wow, this girl really is special.' She almost seemed to float around the house, complimenting others work and assisting in any task she could. Wynn encompassed all the qualities that define the holidays; joy, cheer, love, and peace. She was a calm soul that lit up every room with her effortless kindness. I will be forever grateful that I was able to know and love Wynn, and will strive to love and live as passionately as she did.”

“'Oh I believe there are angels among us,

Sent down to us, from somewhere up above

They come to you and me, in our darkest hours

To show us how to live, to teach us how to give

To guide us with the light of love.' (“Angels Among Us”, by Alabama)

Wynn was just that. An angel among us, sent to teach us how to love more, love better. We were lucky to have her, to know her, to learn from her, and to love her, while she was with us. The Earthly world is a lot less bright without her, but we should all feel lucky to have such a beautiful guardian angel protecting us.” 

Caroline Bass, UNC Class of 2019: 

“I felt like I already knew her the first time I met her. She looked at me and said: 'Caroline! How are you? I’m so glad you’re in my rush group!' We’d never officially met in person, but the presence of mutual friends mixed with her warm, effervescent spirit decided we were already friends.

She was an encourager, during sorority rush, a brutal process that seems to determine self worth. Wynn reminded me that it didn’t. Wynn, my new friend, told me that our worth is dependent on the kind of person we are and that the only approval we should seek is from the Lord.

She was an encourager in every single college interaction. She was the type of person who would stop you on the street corner to ask you about your life, not the 'Hey — How are you? — Goodbye!' type of interaction so many of us have grown accustomed to in our busy, preoccupied society.

She was an encourager and role model to me, even if I was just a bit older. Getting adjusted to my new job with the Foundation, I had the pleasure of getting to spend time with her as we kicked off the year with new events. She complimented my tan and said she 'supported me and my dreams' when I told her it wasn’t real, it was from a bottle.

This is one of the last times I saw her. With all the Moreheads. Overjoyed at the idea that my job allowed me to spend time with a friend like her.

We said we’d catch up and get together after the first few weeks of the semester slowed down. I can’t express how much it hurts to know I won’t be able to have that talk now.

While there is nothing we can ever do or say to make this unexplainable loss and hurt any better, we can honor her by embodying, as best we can, the traits we loved in her so much. Contagious joy, constant kindness, unwavering support. She was a listener with a servant’s heart. She was a friend to all and a stranger to no one.

We love you, Wynn. You were quite literally the whole package. Know you’re making heaven more beautiful as we speak.”