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Bill Cunningham Creates a Legacy of Diplomacy at UST

Prof. Bill Cunningham and PatriciaA legacy of global diplomacy has been cemented at University of St. Thomas as beloved Professor Emeritus William J. Cunningham (FSO, ret.) and his wife Patricia bestowed over $210,000 to the Center for International Studies at the University in their will.

Patricia, 91, well known for her quick smile, sharp intellect and beautiful brimmed hats, passed away on March 8, 2018 surrounded by her family and husband of 61 years. Professor Cunningham, 92, passed away one week later on March 16, 2018. His passing occurred just a few hours after his wife’s funeral.

Life in the Foreign Service

Prof. Bill CunninghamAfter serving in the United States Navy at the end of World War II, Cunningham began a 32-year career as a Foreign Service Officer. His foreign service included assignments in the former Czechoslovakia, France, Korea, Japan (twice), Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and the United States Mission to the United Nations. After retiring, he served as professor and director of the Center for International Studies. During this time, he was a pioneer in the City of Houston’s evolution into a global city. His obituary states that he was a man of peace who built his diplomatic and educational careers upon the principles of human understanding and cooperation between people of different cultures.

One of his greatest achievements typified his keen foresight as an FSO. His quick action and advocacy for an American ping pong team exhibition in China was one of the first steps toward what would become known as “Ping Pong Diplomacy.” Such actions ultimately resulted in the opening of relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.

Center for International Studies

Established in 1981, the Center for International Studies is Texas’ oldest undergraduate degree-granting program in international studies. The Center houses the Department of International Studies, Modern Languages, and Political Science, Distinguished Diplomat Program, Latin American Studies Program, Taiwan & East Asia Studies Program, and Master in Public Policy Administration, and actively engages in community outreach and programming. Its graduates have demonstrated success in careers in international business, law, politics, public service and teaching.

A Lifetime of Generosity

Professor and Mrs.Cunningham’s lifetime commitments to UST totaled nearly $340,000.

Ann Q. Tiller Memorial Scholarship in International Studies

In honor of the Center’s founding director, Professor Cunningham established the Ann Q. Tiller Memorial Scholarship in International Studies It was his intent to fund the scholarship to a level that would provide one full-tuition endowed scholarship annually. Professor and Mrs. Cunningham’s gifts to the Ann Q. Tiller Memorial Scholarship totaled nearly $140,000.

Distinguished Diplomat Endowed Lecture and Program

In 2012, Professor Cunningham worked with Professor Richard Sindelar and community friends to establish the Distinguished Diplomat Program and endowed fund. The Distinguished Diplomat Program was joined by active support of the American Foreign Service Association. Professor Cunningham was the first Founding Donor with a generous first gift to the endowed fund. The establishment of the Distinguished Diplomat Program institutionalize nearly four decades of the Center’s advocacy for the closer union of the peoples of the world through American leadership and diplomacy.

The Distinguished Diplomat Program mission is to educate and inspire its students and community toward careers in or utilizing diplomacy-- whether in or through governmental, corporate, or nongovernmental organizations. The program’s speaker series have included celebrated former US ambassadors such as John Negroponte, Thomas Pickering, Nicholas Platt and Anne W. Patterson.

The Cunninghams both bequeathed generous additional gifts of nearly $130,000 to the Distinguished Diplomat Endowment.