Cunningham, John Rood

John Rood Cunningham

Cunningham, John Rood

(b. 1891 d. 1980) Reverend John Rood Cunningham, D.D., LL.D. was fifty years old when he accepted the presidency of Davidson College in 1941. A native of Williamsburg, Missouri, Cunningham obtained his B.A. degree from Westminister (Presbyterian) College in 1914 and his D.D. from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary in 1917. He was later honored with doctor’s degrees from Westminister, King, Duke, Wake Forest, the University of North Carolina, and, on his retirement, Davidson. Prior to becoming president of Davidson College, Cunningham served as the pastor of several large churches and as president of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The years of Cunningham’s administration were an era of prosperity and progress for the college. The permanent endowment expanded from one to five million dollars. The teaching faculty rose from forty-seven in 1941 to eighty-six in 1957. In response, the student body rose from a meager 162 students in 1945 to a total of 971 students. Five major buildings were constructed under Dr. Cunningham’s presidency, increasing the total value of the campus from $1,500,000 to $5,400,000.

In addition to being president of Davidson, Cunningham was, also, elected moderator of the Southern Presbyterian Church in 1947, delegate of the denomination at the organizational meeting of the World Council of Churches in Amsterdam in 1948, and president of the Association of American Colleges in 1953. On his retirement from Davidson, Cunningham was appointed Executive Director of the Southern Presbyterian Foundation, serving until 1964.

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Presidents – Works Cited

Robert Hall Morrison, Samuel Williamson, Drury Lacy, John Lycan Kirkpatrick, George Wilson McPhail, John Rennie Blake, Andrew Dousa Hepburn, Luther McKinnon, John Bunyan Shearer, Henry Louis Smith, William Joseph Martin, Jr., Walter Lee Lingle, John Rood Cunningham, David Grier Martin, Samuel Reid Spencer, Jr., John Wells Kuykendall, Robert Fredrick Vagt, Thomas Warren Ross, Sr.

Beaty, Mary D. A History of Davidson College. Davidson, N.C.: Briarpatch, 1988.

Beaty, Mary D. and Sarah Merritt. “Davidson College Time Line and the Evolution of Chambers.” Davidson Journal 1 (1987): 12-13.

Cromartie, Caroline King. The Physical Development of Davidson, North Carolina: An Historical Analysis. Davidson College Honors Thesis, 1978.

“Davidson Apoints Thomas W. Ross, Sr., As College’s Next President.” Davidson College Press Release, 29 March 2007, on the World Wide Web at: <>

Davidson, Chalmers Gaston. “Davidson Celebrates.” Davidson Journal 1 (1987): 2-7.

Davidson, Chalmers Gaston. Mid-Point for ’28. Davidson, N.C.: Davidson College, 1953.

Fischer, Karl W. The Mystics and Beta Theta Pi. Germantown, PA: Beta Theta Pi, 1940.

Giduz, Bill. “President Vagt Announces His Plans to Retire.” Davidson College. 8 June 2006. Found on the World Wide Web at <>.

“An Honored Career .” Davidson College Press Release, 29 March 2007, on the World Wide Web at: <>

Kelley, Robert Lincoln. Davidson College: A Diagnosis and a Prescription. Lancaster, PA: Council of Church Boards of Education in the U.S.A., 1926.

Lingle, Walter L. Memories of Davidson College. Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1947.

Logan, Van Lear. “Growing Up in Davidson.” Davidson Journal 1 (1987): 20-23.

“Presidential Biography. ” Davidson College Press Release, 29 March 2007, on the World Wide Web at: <>

Ramsey, Robert Wilson. Milestones Backward Run: The Story of Beta Theta Pi at Davidson,1858-1940. Davidson, NC: The Phi Alpha Chapter of Beta Theta Pi, 1940.

Ratliff, Charles E. Economics at Davidson: A Sesquicentennial History. Davidson, NC: Davidson College, 1987.

Scherer, John P. A Code of Civility: Antiwar Dissent at Davidson College During the Vietnam Era. Davidson College Honors Thesis, 1989.

Shames, Steven A. A Good Faith Effort: Integration at Davidson College. Davidson College Honors Thesis, 1996.

Shaw, Cornelia Rebekah. Davidson College. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1923.

Shaw, Cornelia Rebekah, comp. War Records of Davidson College, 1917-1918. Charlotte, NC: Presbyterian Standard, 1923.

Spencer, Samuel R. The First Year. Davidson, NC: Davidson College, 1969.

Shaw, Cornelia Rebekah. Davidson College. New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1923.

“Timeline.” Davidson College Press Release, 29 March 2007, on the World Wide Web at: <>

Author: Molly P. Gillespie
Date: 1998

Cite as: Gillespie, Molly P. “John Rood Cunningham ” Davidson Encyclopedia

Related Entries: President’s HousePresidents of Davidson College

Related Links: Cunningham’s Presidential Portrait

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