PHILIPPI, W.Va. - Dr. Jean Cunningham was honored by her family and Alderson Broaddus University on Saturday, May 25, 2013. The Wilcox Chapel bell tower is now called the “Jean Cunningham Bell Tower” and was made possible by a generous gift from Jean’s daughters, their spouses, and her brother-in-law (Charles and Ramona O’Bryant of Greensboro, N.C.; Lynn and Lee Ann Fogwell of Raleigh, N.C. and Shanghai, China; Terry and Judy Jeffrey of Madison, N.C.; Michael and Joy Groves of Mouth of Wilson, N.C.; and George Cunningham of Fort Wayne, Ind.).  

Jean graduated from AB in 1953 and received an honorary doctorate in 2008. She has been active in the life of Alderson Broaddus since her time as a student. Some of her most notable roles include her serving on the Board of Trustees (currently) and chairing the successful Renewing the Promise Capital Campaign (

The naming of the bell tower recognizes Jean’s longtime commitment and dedicated service to her alma mater. Her daughters and brother-in-law felt the bell tower to be a very appropriate way to honor her in light of her love of music and her desire to serve students in the name of Christ. Each time the bells chime to call the campus community to the chapel, the music and the pathway will honor Jean.

Jean A. Cunningham came to Alderson Broaddus University in 1949.  While at AB, she often worked over 40 hours a week. She cleaned bathrooms, worked in the library and kitchen, and in various academic departments. She graduated from AB with a degree in social studies and with minors in German, English, and music.

After graduating from AB, Jean attended Yale Divinity School for one year.  Following that, she spent time in Mexico through the American Friends Service Committee.  She then returned to West Virginia, working at the Weirton Christian Center, teaching kindergarten and serving as youth director.  She married Jim Cunningham and the couple moved to Cowen, West Virginia where they served in ministry together.  While in Cowen, she started teaching at Webster County High School in addition to giving voice and piano lessons.  Then the family moved to South Charleston where she began working in church music.  The family’s next calling was in Milton, and while there she taught in the school system.

During her time in Milton, Jean began work with the National Board of American Baptist Women.  She has continued her involvement with American Baptist Women’s Ministries to this day.   When her husband joined the staff of the West Virginia Baptist Convention as minister of conference, camping and youth, the family relocated to Parchment Valley where they ran the service end of operations.  It was here that Jean began her career in social work, working first for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Services, then for a nursing home, a hospital, and a youth group home.  She worked for Action Youth Care, a private service agency caring for troubled youth and their families, Jean was acting CEO of Action Youth Care, an agency with 13 offices across the state of West Virginia.

In 1992, she and her late husband, Jim, established the Jim Cunningham Family Scholarship at Alderson Broaddus University.  In 1995, Jean served as president of the West Virginia Baptist Convention.  She is currently the Minister of Administration at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Charleston and also sings in the choir.  She is a member of the General Board of American Baptist Churches-USA.  

To learn more about naming opportunities to honor a faculty or staff member, or alumni, please contact the Office of Institutional Advancement at 304/457-6321 or via e-mail at .