Lifetime Achievement Award – Reunion 2008

We all know that some of Drew’s most notable faculty members have become living legends.  Drew also has legendary alumni/ae, and one of them is John Cunningham, who has become a legend in his own time by bringing us the facts.

John has always seen himself as a journalist.  He began writing for the Morris County Daily Record as a Morristown High School student, continuing while he was at Drew, and later spent 23 years as a reporter for the Newark Sunday News.  He approaches history with a journalist’s quest for truth and a style that engages non-historians.  His accuracy, his knowledge of New Jersey, and his appealing style have earned him recognition as “New Jersey’s popular historian,” as he was named by the New Jersey Historical Association.

It is hard to imagine an aspect of New Jersey history untouched by John’s pen.  He is now preparing the fifth revision of his first book, This is New Jersey (1953), which has never gone out of print.  Other popular titles include New Jersey:  America’s Main Road; The New Jersey Sampler; NEWARK; and Railroads in New Jersey.  His magazine articles, including a cover story in National Geographic, have covered the state’s natural wonders.  Thousands of young people have learned their New Jersey history from You, New Jersey and the World and On the Go in New Jersey, written for third and fourth graders.  New Jersey:  A Mirror on America is widely used in secondary schools and colleges.  He has made over 20 documentary films, receiving an Emmy for his film on immigration, Dreams of Distant Shores, and he has been honored by the American Association for State and Local History, the New Jersey Audubon Society, and the Great Swamp Watershed Association.  He co-founded the New Jersey Historical Commission, and has served as its chair and as president of the New Jersey Historical Society.

John has not forgotten that Drew is an integral part of New Jersey.  His University in the Forest, first published in 1990, has been revised twice.  He and Regina Diverio G’96 published a pictorial survey of Drew in The College History Series (Arcadia, 2000).  This past April he held a Drew audience spellbound on the subject of his 50th and latest book, The Uncertain Revolution:  Washington and the Continental Army at Morristown.  His planned gift to Drew will fund a College of Liberal Arts scholarship in his name and that of his late wife, Dorothy.

Nor has Drew been unaware of John.  This is his third Alumni/ae Achievement Award, following the Award in the Arts in 1955 and the Service Award in 1980.  He was the first alumnus to be elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and received one of his eight honorary degrees from Drew in 1976.  Rutgers has called John “Mr. Jersey,” but as we present him with the Lifetime Achievement Award, we are proud to call him “Mr. Drew.”