On Saturday, January 14, the North Point gym overflowed with hundreds of staff, teachers, administrators, students, friends, and family who gathered for one purpose: to remember, and celebrate, Ronald Cunningham, the Deputy Superintendant of Charles County Public Schools for the past fourteen years. Many of the attendees could be overheard greeting each other like old friends, and it was obvious that Cunningham , who passed away on December 31st, was beloved by those who knew and worked with him.
“You came here to pay your respects, but you also came here because Ronald Cunningham left his fingerprints on your heart in some way,” said Charles Wineland, a colleague and friend.
Those fingerprints go all the way back to Surrattsville High School in the 1960s, where Cunningham got his start as a social studies teacher. “R.C.” was remembered for knowing every student and teacher by name. Later, he would serve as a high school principal and county administrator.
The ceremony was most memorable for its glimpses into Cunningham not as a school official, but as a good friend. “I constantly picked on him for being vertically challenged,” Wineland recalled. Cunningham’s reply? “My suits cost half as much as yours.”
A slideshow of Cunningham’s life was presented, showing him on and off the job: greeting students in a classroom, walking down the aisle at his wedding, headfirst through a drift of snow. It was, needless to say, heartwarming.
The North Point orchestra and chamber choir provided music during the ceremony, the notes to The Wind Beneath My Wings reverberating around the gym as the audience sat in silent reflection. Mr. Bodamer, familiar to many county music students, performed Amazing Grace on the saxophone.
Cunningham is most remembered for his singular focus on the student. He would have been please to witness the student participation at the event. Culinary students prepared refreshments and Criminal Justice students, decked out in neon green gear, directed traffic across parking lots. JROTC students directed guests and carried the flags, slowly and somberly, to the front of the gymnasium. National Honor Society students ran the coat check.
“It’s really not a sad thing, it’s a celebration of all the good things he’s done in the county,” said Elizabeth Burgess (’13), a Criminal Justice student.