One thing every college student hears several times is that odds are the major students start their college career pursuing is not going to be the major they graduate with, but one familiar face on East Central campus made a change that may seem more drastic than most.

In 1971 sociology teacher Dr. William Cunningham graduated from seminary high school with plans to be a priest for a parish in the St. Louis area. One conversation with a professor provoked thought about a possible new career path.

   “My conversation with my professor began to make me question whether I wanted to only help people with their souls, or did I want to help them with all parts of their lives,” Dr. Cunningham said.

Cunningham graduated college with a masters degree and a PhD.

Making a drastic career change can cause both stress and a form of relief for college students, however, Dr. Cunningham has no regrets.

“I first want to say I have no regrets for the decision I made in my career path. My family was disappointed that I was leaving the seminary, [but] my biggest accomplishments career­wise would be earning my PhD in social work, I was a co­author of a Title III grant [and] I was asked to evaluate the Franklin County Drug Court program,” Cunningham said.

Dr. Cunningham has played several roles here at ECC in his 23 years on campus. He was the Division Chair for Social Science, part ­time Institutional Researcher, Title III Coordinator, volunteer coach for the women’s basketball team, Emerson Excellence Teaching Award winner Governor’s Excellence Teaching Award winner, R&R Club advisor and is now the Anime Club advisor. Though he has had a very successful career, and continues to do so, there is one accomplishment he is most proud of.

“My biggest accomplishment would be that my wife and I have been married for 37 ½ years, and I have two great daughters, Julie and Aimee [who] are both college graduates pursuing their perspective interests,” Cunningham said. 

Cunningham plans to retire eventually with no concrete plans. He is interested in writing a book and remaining active in the community. There is one piece of advice he wants to share,

“Anyone interested in a career in sociology needs to consider several questions. First, what do you want to do with your degree? Second, how much education are you willing to pursue? If you are a die­hard sociologist you will have to consider a Master’s degree or even a PhD to put yourself in a position where you can make yourself marketable,” Cunningham said.

Dr. Cunningham cares for his students and their well­being. If given the opportunity students should be on the look out for his sociology classes here at East Central College.

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