It’s been a little over a month since the passing of OSU’s beloved Dr. Patricia (Patty) Cunningham. The deep pang of sorrow stemming from her loss is still resonating within all of us who had the esteemed honor of knowing her. It truly cannot be put into mere words what she has meant to OSU students, many communities throughout Ohio, and even parts of the nation as a whole. For those who don’t know who she was, let me fill you in…
Hailing from Springfield, Ohio, Dr. Patty was a three-time graduate of The Ohio State University, receiving her Bachelor’s in Women’s Studies (with a minor in Black Studies), Master’s in Higher Education and Student Affairs, and Ph.D in Cultural Foundations. She taught eight different leadership courses covering a vast array of topics, such as: poverty, race, gender, and civic engagement, among others.
However, Dr. Patty was much more than just your run-of-the-mill professor. She was an extreme advocate of social change and justice, and this was manifested in her close involvement with various organizations that made strides toward reform and student development.
Dr. Patty was the Director of the Social Change program, which was established with the help of Dr. Javaune Adams-Gaston (or “Dr. J” as she is more affectionately known), another highly acclaimed black female figure at OSU. Dr. Patty also oversaw a vast amount of other community outreach initiatives, such as the Buckeye Civic Engagement program, which leads projects that help develop poverty-stricken neighborhoods within Columbus, and was a mentor for the Todd A. Bell National Resource Center (or BNRC) at OSU, among many others.
BNRC, a program that I myself was a part of and benefitted from, gives young black male students a platform in which they may receive guidance and a sense of brotherhood as they enter the college world, allowing one to have a smooth transition from high school to college instead of a headfirst plunge into the chaotic regime that naturally comes with the collegiate lifestyle, as most must endure. By being a mentor to such a program, Dr. Patty provided a special sense of motherly love to the young black men that might be missed from their own mothers back at home.
What separates Dr. Patty the most, as everyone could agree on, ultimately was her PERSONALITY. She instilled hope within people, she saw the best in those that could not see the best within themselves, her immense passion was contagious; and she did all of these things while still managing to being a silly, lovable, personable, relatable individual. She always ensured she balanced her heavy workload with equal amounts of fun, whether it be dancing, karaoke, partying, and even playing with sock puppets. She was purely a joy to be around, no matter who you were, how old you are, or where you came from. She personally connected with thousands of individuals, ranging from multiple generations, with each relationship being unique in its own distinct way.
In essence, the world lost a powerful member this past month, one that has made everlasting impressions on a great deal of us, and it is not easy to reflect on such thoughts without feeling grips of pain and distress. However, as we look back on Dr. Patty’s life, we must not brood in sadness; but rather, we must celebrate the illustrious life that she lived and reminisce on the joyous memories she helped create with all of us, and be grateful that such memories were able to once had. I truly and wholeheartedly believe that her spirit and endeavors will live on through all of the lives she has touched. They say: “legends never die”, and in all her glorious wake, I see no reason why this quote shouldn’t be applied to the “Ph.Diva” herself.