PHYLLIS M. CUNNINGHAM | 1927 - 2012 | Obituary

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Born: November 10, 1927
Died: April 24, 2012

Phyllis M. Cunningham, Ph.D., 84, of DeKalb, Illinois, passed away peacefully April 24 2012, at Pine Acres Rehab & Living Center, DeKalb.

Born November 10, 1927, in New Sharon, Maine, the daughter of Owen and Bessie Cunningham, she is survived by her daughter Jeanie Oddgeirsson, granddaughter Jessie Cunningham Oddgeirsson, and several nieces and nephews.

Dr. Cunningham was a long time resident of DeKalb and joined Northern Illinois University in 1976. She served as Presidential Teaching Professor and Professor Emerita in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education of NIU’s College of Education.

Dr. Cunningham earned a doctorate in Education from the University of Chicago. She is renowned for scholarly publications in her field. She held leadership positions in professional associations in the USA and internationally. Dr. Cunningham received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Alliance of Popular and Adult Education and an award for Outstanding Service and Dedication to Latino/a and African American Students in Adult Continuing Education from NIU. The American Association for Adult and Continuing Education inducted her into the Hall of Fame in 1996. Internationally, she was celebrated with the John Ranton McIntosh Visiting Scholar Award by the University of Saskatchewan and as Honorary Professor by the Shanghai Second Institute of Education in China.

After her retirement in 2003, she remained active in community work. She was a founding member of the Phyllis Cunningham Social Justice Institute in 2010 and instrumental in developing Conexion Comunidad, the first community-based Latino organization in DeKalb. Dr. Cunningham contributed to the university and to her profession of adult education with passion during a distinguished career. She worked diligently for social justice and supported students and friends from all walks of life and corners of the world until the end of her life.

To her friends and family, Dr. Cunningham was known as tough, supportive, and kind. She will be sorely missed by her students, friends, and colleagues around the world. Phyllis was a loving and dedicated mother, a proud and devoted grandmother, and a caring aunt. We all will miss her laughter and compassion, but cherish the memories and continue in the spirit of her life’s work.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 19, at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, 1201 Twombley Road, DeKalb, following visitation from noon-2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Dr. Cunningham Memorial Fund, in care of Anderson Funeral Home, P.O. Box 605, 2011 South Fourth Street, DeKalb, IL 60115.

For information, visit or call 815-756-1022.

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