Dr. Paul G. Cunningham: A True Pioneer Passes to Eternity
| by Carol Best firstname.lastname@example.org
General Superintendent Emeritus Paul G. Cunningham passed from this world to his heavenly home July 18, 2020. Dr. Cunningham served 16 years, beginning in 1993, as one of the leaders of the Church of the Nazarene, traveling internationally, preaching, encouraging and leading pastors, missionaries and congregants around the world. But to MNU Pioneers everywhere, it was Pastor Cunningham’s 30-year tenure as senior pastor of College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas, that endeared him to the campus community that would not be here, if not for his vision.
Dr. Cunningham was a young minister in his first pastorate in the 46-member Olathe Church of the Nazarene in 1964 when the Nazarene denomination voted to start a new college. Convinced that his city of 15,000 residents held the best potential location, Dr. Cunningham approached bank president and civic leader R.R. Osborne with the idea of locating the college here.
An enthusiastic leader with tremendous vision for what Olathe could become, Osborne caught the vision. Dr. Cunningham and Osborne put together a group of business leaders who donated land and secured local support. The location became MidAmerica Nazarene College and in 1968, opened its doors to its first students.
Not only did he influence the university’s location, but from 1968 to 1993, Dr. Cunningham served as the spiritual shepherd to students, faculty, staff and many residents of the area. He and his wife, Dr. Connie Cunningham, welcomed students to their home, provided guidance and influenced thousands for Christ. His purpose was so much greater than providing another institution of higher education in the heart of the country. It was, as he said in a thank you video to Nazarene congregations, for the purpose of creating a university with global impact for the Gospel of Christ.
“Dr. Paul Cunningham was a true shepherd servant whose passion for his Lord was reflected in his love for the church, people around the world and a vision that birthed our university,” said MNU President Dr. David Spittal. “We extend our condolences to his wife Connie and family and share the gratitude of the university family and all whose lives have been changed by his leadership, influence and legacy of faithful service.“
In 2015 MNU bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award to Drs. Paul and Connie Cunningham, creating a video chronicling his life and their work. In 2016, MNU announced it would name its new student center after the couple. The Cunningham Student Center’s groundbreaking is scheduled for August 28, 2020, and construction will begin shortly thereafter.
Dr. Cunningham has been honored with numerous awards from a variety of church and civic organizations, among them The City of Olathe’s Cathedral Builders award for work to establish and support MidAmerica Nazarene University.
A collection of Dr. Cunningham’s sermons is on MNU’s digital repository and is available at https://mnu.whdl.org/collections/dr-paul-cunningham-collection.
Dr. Cunningham is survived by his wife, Connie Cunningham, daughters Lori Wegley and Connie Jo Mason, son, Paul Mark Cunningham, sister Joanne Carlson, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
A celebration of life will take place August 30, 2020, at 3 p.m., at College Church of the Nazarene in Olathe, Kansas.