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Cunningham Chair in Cognitive Development Celebrated for UC Merced

August 6, 2002

Merced, CA — Marking the 13th endowed chair for the University of California, Merced, the estate of Carlston Cunningham has generously funded a new chair in cognitive development that will further enhance the University's efforts to attract the very best faculty and to serve the citizens of California.

The endowed chair has been funded at $500,000 in memory of Carlston Cunningham and his parents, Emmett and Bernice Cunningham. The gift was announced last week (July 30, 2002) by Carlston Cunningham's sister, Nancy Lint, a Merced County resident. The announcement took place at a Chancellor's Associates reception, hosted at Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey's residence. More than 70 people were in attendance.

Ms. Lint, a longtime elementary school teacher in Atwater and Merced and now retired, presented the check and talked about her brother's (Carlston) severe reading problem and the estate's motivation in offering the gift to the University. “It wasn't until Carlston learned about dyslexia at the age of 70, that he realized the syndrome had something to do with his own inability to read,” said Lint. “It was devastating for him not to be able to read, especially not knowing why he had such difficulty in the first place. Our hope is that research on this cognitive development issue will help others who also have reading disabilities.”

Cognitive development focuses on how children learn and process information. Teachers apply the findings of cognitive development research into their daily lessons on reading, writing, and other important skills learned in the classroom.

“The Cunningham family gift will support important research and programs based on cognitive development studies in the years to come,” said Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. “UC Merced is very fortunate to have supporters such as the Cunninghams who ardently value higher education's important role in developing solutions for society's everyday challenges.”

Carlston Cunningham's family has been in the ranching business in eastern Merced County for generations, a tradition continued today by Jim and Carlene Cunningham of Le Grand. They have had a special interest in education, and in the late 80s, joined a group of leading citizens to create the bid to seek the 10th UC campus.

Endowed chairs and professorships at UC Merced will facilitate the hiring and retention of outstanding faculty. Income generated by the endowments assures a continuing income flow to fund the research of faculty members appointed to fill these positions.

The Emmett, Bernice and Carlston Cunningham Endowed Chair in Cognitive Development is one of 13 endowed chairs committed to the UC Merced campus. Other donors and their designated endowed chairs are: William and Dorothy Bizzini of Atwater, Biotechnology/Biological Sciences; Walter and Isabel Coats of Merced, Arts; Tony and Phyllis Coelho of Washington, D.C., Public Policy; County Bank of Merced, Economics; Ted and Jan Falasco of Los Banos, Earth Sciences; the late Vincent Hillyer of Los Banos, Early Literature; Margaret and the late Joseph Josephine of Fresno, Biological Sciences; Art and Fafa Kamangar of Merced, Biological Sciences (nutrition and preventive medicine); John Myers of Merced and Beverly Hills, Sierra Nevada Research Institute; Keith and Elinor Shaffer of Santa Cruz, Engineering (chair also named for Bettylou George of Merced); and Ramakrishna, Sumana, Vikas and Ramesh Thondapu of Merced, discipline to be decided. In addition, the University of California's Office of the President has provided UC Merced with a Presidential Chair, with the Chancellor determining the specific application of funds.

With the commitment of more than a dozen endowed chairs, UC Merced has received more such endowments than any other university campus in the United States prior to opening.

UC Merced currently employs approximately 100 educators and professionals. In addition to its main location, the Merced campus will utilize digital technology to create an educational network that serves students and communities throughout the San Joaquin Valley. The University currently operates educational centers in Bakersfield, Fresno, and Merced. Another center is planned for Modesto.