Nick Cunningham ’46

Hello classmates and other beneficiaries of Thacher’s exceptional growing up environment:

Choosing between Thacher, Harvard College, and Johns Hopkins med school as my #1 priority in terms of loyalty is easy: it’s Thacher.

I was SO fortunate, and am everlastingly grateful to my Thacher brothers Ty (’39) and Larry (’42) for telling my parents that if they left me at Milton Academy, I would end up as a “New England snot-nose”; now, I hope that Thacher boys & girls don’t end up as entitled California snobs!

My life has twirled around my inherited emphasis on fairness, which lead me into C.O.R.E. in the ’50’s while at Hopkins, marrying a fellow Peace Corps volunteer (African American) in the 60’s, and into lifelong efforts to provide quality primary health care to those children and mothers most in need–first in Africa and then in upper Manhattan. Many, maybe most of the programs we started have failed (a national health care scheme in Nigeria; a therapeutic nursery for maltreated children and their mothers at the Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center; and a randomized trial of post partum home visitation in Washington Heights). Others–like the General Pediatric Group Practice (a faculty based primary care system serving upper Manhattan families) and the first “WIC” program in northern Manhattan–limp along. But the concepts behind these endeavors have, I hope, inspired med students, residents, my daughter (who is part of the GPGP), and those at the Columbia University¬†Mailman School of Public Health (where I still co-teach).

I’ve learned from my second wife, a child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, that change starts in the family. But I can’t help also ruminating about the cosmos.

As the US debates stunted upwards mobility; more segregated schools and communities; charter schools; destroying Obamacare; our degradation of air, water, soil, and civility; and our part in world violence, I ask myself what kinds of mass movements could reverse our course?

And I ask myself what THACHER–my favorite formative institution, the one that formed me–can do to broaden its base, become more inclusive, and help today’s lucky few who study there to be the kind of leaders that my grand children are going so desperately to need?


Nick Cunningham CdeP 1946

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