Major Gift Benefits Banking Program

Estate of late alumnus bolsters endowment for faculty and program support

Students visit with Ken Cyree (right), dean of the UM School of Business Administration, outside Holman Hall. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Banking and finance students in the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration will benefit from strengthened faculty and program support, thanks to an estate gift from the late Ted Cunningham, a longtime banking professional.

A frequent supporter of the school’s banking and finance program throughout his lifetime, the Phoenix resident bequeathed $550,000 to the Frank R. Day/Mississippi Bankers Association Chair of Banking Endowment. The 1961 UM graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in banking and finance.

“I recall Ted’s pride in his involvement in the Financier’s Club when he was a student, and his strong desire for other students to benefit as he had at Ole Miss,” said Ken Cyree, chair of banking and dean of the School of Business Administration.

“He was an avid supporter of our efforts to educate and graduate the best and the brightest banking and finance students, whom we hope will enter the field with transformative influence. We are extremely grateful for Ted’s legacy of generous support.”

The Day Chair of Banking Endowment provides salary support for the chair holder and additional funds for support staff, travel, commodities, contractual services and other expenditures of the banking and finance program.

A native of Lewistown, Pennsylvania, Cunningham graduated from Lewistown High School, where he lettered in soccer and track, was sports editor of the school paper and sang in the concert choir. He attended Penn State University, where he earned a freshman letter in soccer and sang in the glee club, before transferring to Ole Miss his sophomore year.

On the Oxford campus, he was a charter member of the Financier’s Club, Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, Chancellor’s Committee of 100 and the Concert Singers.

Upon graduation, he became a field examiner for the FDIC and then joined Louisiana National Bank in Baton Rouge. In 1965, he began working for Arizona Bank in Phoenix, which ultimately became Bank of America.

Cunningham retired in 2002 after 38 years in banking. His career included tours as branch manager, national accounts officer, private banker and large commercial relationship manager.

His community activities included serving as past president and director of the University Club of Phoenix and the Phoenix General Hospital Foundation and as president of the Arizona Chapter of the Ole Miss Alumni Association.

“I was fortunate to have spent time with Ted over the last four years, visiting in his home city of Phoenix,” said Tim Noss, business school development officer. “He was passionate about Ole Miss and loved reminiscing about the great memories he had from his time here. He did what he could to create a strong presence for Ole Miss in the Phoenix area.”

Cunningham was a board member and officer of the Men’s Arts Council of the Phoenix Art Museum, Scottsdale Symphony, Arizona Chapter of Cystic Fibrosis and the Grammy-winning Phoenix Chorale. He also provided leadership as a founding director and officer of Jazz in Arizona.

He served as a national officer of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity and on the alumni advisory board for the UM Department of Finance, where he also appeared as a guest lecturer and teacher. He was elected to the board of the Arizona Historical Society and was appointed by the mayor and city council to serve two terms as a member of the City of Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission, where he chaired the grants committee for four years.

He was an instructor at Rio Salado Community College and received a graduate degree in 1985 from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University.

Cunningham was a life member of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lewistown, Mifflin County Historical Society, Huntington County Historical Society and the Ole Miss Alumni Association. He was a longtime member of the Arizona Country Club, Arizona Science Center, National Civil War Preservation Trust, Heard Museum and the Phoenix Art Museum.

His lifelong passion for jazz music resulted in a large collection of recordings in all media, books and art which will be donated from his estate to the Los Angeles Jazz Institute.

Byron Liles, senior director of gift planning, said he appreciates Cunningham’s thoughtfulness in providing support for banking and finance education at Ole Miss.

“Gifts like these can be used to support Ole Miss scholarships, academic and athletics programs, student experiences or many other opportunities that help transform the institution and the students who attend,” Liles said.

The Frank R. Day/Mississippi Bankers Association Chair of Banking Endowment accepts gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, mail a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the scholarship’s name in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or give online at

To support the School of Business Administration, contact Tim Noss at or 662-915-5932. For information on including the university in estate planning, contact Byron Liles at or 662-915-7601.