John Fabian Cunningham, O.P.
Born: Aug. 7, 1928
Professed: Sep. 11, 1947
Ordained: Jun. 4, 1953
Died: Dec. 4, 2006
Father John Fabian Cunningham, O.P., the Tenth President of Providence College and Faculty member there for almost fifty years, died on December 4, 2006.
Soon after his ordination to the priesthood, Father Cunningham was asked to go to the University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome where he earned a Doctorate in Philosophy before returning to enter upon his illustrious academic career, principally at Providence College. He was soon recognized as one of the ablest members of the faculty, with a special gift for communicating to his students the elements of philosophy with a clarity of language and facility of expression which earned him the admiration and gratitude of generations of Providence College alumni.
Father Cunningham’s administrative talents were gradually rewarded with a series of increasingly responsible positions within the fabric of the College. He played a foundational role in the basic and mandatory program known as the Development of Western Civilization; he helped to create a series of Honors Programs within the curriculum; through his diligence and generosity, he inaugurated scholarships for minority students, including those for Southeast Asians.
His only absence from his beloved Providence College was an administrative leave for four years in order to accept the invitation of the Provincial of St. Joseph’s Province to serve as his Socius from 1980 to 1984.
Upon his return, Father Cunningham was chosen to be the Tenth President of Providence College in 1985, a position he filled with extraordinary dedication and competence for nine years, during which the College grew in physical expansion and academic excellence.
In addition to his other interests, Father Cunningham had a lifelong love of theatre and occasionally took part in productions of the Blackfriars Theatre on campus, even while serving as President.
When his tenure was over, he returned to his first love, teaching, and resumed his place in the classroom for several more years, even as his health began to decline. He taught his last class just a month before he died.
Father Cunningham’s funeral Mass was a magnificent tribute to his almost fifty years at Providence College as a vital part of its life, celebrated by his Dominican Brothers, faculty and administrative colleagues, students past and present, and members of the College family. Appropriately, he was buried in the Dominican cemetery on campus where he will rest in honored memory.