Phyllis Cunningham

Dr. Phyllis M. Cunninghami was professor emerita, Northern Illinois University (NIU), where she served as Presidential Teaching Professor of Adult Education. Dr. Cunningham has received numerous awards, including in 1982, the Outstanding Adult Educators Award, American Association of Adult Continuing Education (AAACE) at Washington, DC, and in 1995, the Outstanding Service and Dedication to Latino(a) and African American Students in Adult Continuing Education, from NIU. She was inducted into the International Adult and Continuing Education Hall of Fameii in 1996. Her publications are far too numerous to list here. Phyllis has dedicated her life to working with low income families searching for equity and social transformation; she considers her lasting legacy the many students whom she has mentored. The annual Adult Education Research Conference (AERC) honors Phyllis through the “Phyllis M. Cunningham Social Justice Award.”

Born November 10, 1927, Phyllis Cunningham received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in adult education, earned in 1973. She was a longtime 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.

Phyllis died on April 24, 2012.