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Cunninghams establish UCHS scholarship fund

Cunninghams establish UCHS scholarship fund
Cunninghams establish UCHS scholarship fund | Union City Schools Foundation, Marshall Cunningham scholarship

Special Features Editor
“We are all very appreciative of the education we received in Union City schools,” says Dan Cunningham in announcing a recent decision by his siblings to memorialize their brother, the late Marshall Cunningham, with a generous scholarship fund. “All seven of us graduated from Union City High School and we have all been successful in different areas. When we are together, we almost always discuss education and how grateful we are our parents made sure we came to Union City to school, even though we lived on a farm in what was the Highland area for some time. Marshall was so grateful for that. We thought it would be fitting to give money back to that school system, that it would be better spent here. This scholarship fund, we thought, is the best way to honor him.”
The late Marshall Cunningham, a 1939 UCHS graduate, was the oldest of seven children born to the late Mose and Zula (Easterwood) Cunningham. His siblings include Doris (Cunningham) Garrett of Union City (Class of 1940), Sarah Cunningham of New York (Class of 1943), Bill Cunningham of Raleigh, N.C. (Class of 1946), Woody Cunningham of Chevy Chase, Md. (Class of 1948), Don Cunningham of Union City (Class of 1952) and Dan Cunningham of Fresno, Calif. (Class of 1954).
When the family’s oldest child died Aug. 15, 2011, his siblings began to consider ways to memorialize him. A few weeks ago, they contacted UCHS principal Wes Kennedy and told him they had decided on a fitting program. They wished to establish a scholarship fund in his name, with an endowment of $175,000.
Three of his siblings, Don Cunningham, Dan Cunningham and Doris (Cunningham) Garrett, recently signed the official papers designating Union City Schools Foundation the organization to receive and put to good use the funding for the purpose of awarding the scholarship. The exact amount of the scholastic benefit each year will be determined annually by the foundation and may be awarded for a period of up to four years for each recipient.
The first honored student will be selected from the UCHS Class of 2012 over the next few days. A second scholarship will be awarded next year, with a new scholarship bestowed each year and with each recipient eligible to continue receiving the award for four years to help defray tuition expenses involved with a college education.
The Cunningham family has suggested their purpose will be best honored by the selection of students who reflect values and goals they were raised to honor and respect and circumstances similar to their own as they grew up. Among the guidelines they suggested are that recipients should exemplify honor and integrity, as demonstrated by their discipline and attendance records; that students should be above average academically but should not be valedictorians of their classes; that students should exhibit financial need to secure a college education; that students should have an exemplary work ethic; and that students should be able to articulate a vision and goal that includes a focus on a college major.
To be considered for a scholarship beyond the first year, UCHS alumni must maintain a 2.5 grade point average with no D’s or F’s, must submit a copy of all end-of-course grades and must communicate with both a member of the Cunningham family and the UCHS principal through a report on the academic year just completed and on the plans and goals for the next year.
Students applying for the scholarship will be reviewed by a committee made up of a member of the Cunningham family, the UCHS principal and vice principal, a UCHS senior English teacher and senior math teacher, a UCHS senior home room teacher and a UCHS guidance counselor. Students who best exemplify the character of Marshall Cunningham will be selected for the scholarship, according to the terms of the agreement.
To assist students in staying focused on these important matters of character, the recipients of the scholarship will receive a biography of Marshall Cunningham that will reflect facts and views about his life that his siblings believe will provide important encouragement and wisdom as the young people move toward acquiring degrees.
“It would be difficult to express just how much we appreciate the Cunningham family and this presentation,” UCHS principal Wes Kennedy says. “They have been so generous in choosing our school system to benefit young people. The story of how they all graduated from Union City High School and what that education has meant to them and how it has benefited them is so important. They are the kind of people we want to help produce — people who are above average and have a focus.”
“We are really exited about this and are ready to move on,” Dan Cunningham, the executor of his brother’s estate, said as he signed the commitment to establish the scholarship. The first recipient will be selected by mid-May.
In reflecting on the state of the world at the time their eldest brother received his diploma from UCHS — a world just noticing the drumbeat heralding World War II — his siblings noted, “There was a restlessness then that it’s hard for this generation to feel. The world seemed to be falling apart.”
Marshall Cunningham had been part of the local National Guard while still a student at UCHS and, upon his graduation, he served a year under that commitment and then went in to the U.S. Army Air Corps, where he worked on behalf of his country for 25 years. Following his retirement, he continued working with airline mechanics in the civilian world. He was living in Fresno at the time of his death.
“On behalf of the Union City Schools Foundation, I would like to express our gratitude to the Cunningham family for their generous contribution,” says Charles Kirkland, chairman of the Union City Schools Foundation. “We are very fortunate to have individuals such as the Cunninghams who are willing to give back to the community where they grew up. This scholarship will be a tremendous asset to our school system and we are very appreciative to the Cunningham family.”
“I am indeed grateful to the Cunningham family for their generosity,” Director of Schools Gary Houston adds. “Not only should this gift afford eligible Union City graduates the opportunity to further their education, but it should also be an inspiration to these scholarship recipients to one day give back to their community just as the Cunningham family is doing.”

Published in The Messenger 5.02.12

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