Clark Edward Cunningham, 86, of Urbana died peacefully and beloved at home (April 18, 2020). He chose a beautiful spring morning surrounded by the love of his children.
Clark lived a large life full of travel, adventure, and an unceasing curiosity about almost everything. From a humble childhood as the son of a detective and mother, in Kansas City, MO, he progressed to earning, on full scholarship, a BA from Yale University. He continued his education as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a Bachelor of Letters and, ultimately, a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) from Oxford University.
His career started as a lecturer at Yale. He joined the UIUC Department of Anthropology in 1963, served a term as its head in the 70s, and retired as a full professor in 1995. Clark’s main focus of study in Anthropology was Southeast Asian Culture. Particularly Indonesia and Thailand. He was a leader in the development of Southeast Asian Studies on campus. And later he created the University’s first course on Asian American Studies, well before a department to the field was established. His career was very successful, long, varied, and brimming with many projects, colleagues, and students. He found dealing with, and traveling to other cultures, to be the most satisfying thing about his job.
As no professor truly retires, he continued his studies and wrote extensively for the rest of his life; articles in Journals as well as his own books. He was proud to continue serving as Curator for Southeast Asia in the UIUC's Spurlock Museum, and donated his collection of Indonesian textiles. He was also a member of the Museum's Board of Trustees, and was its president for 2008-2009.
Erudite, highly educated, and highly awarded, he unfortunately sired an actor and a musician. His son Eric and daughter Nathalie, born to his first wife Anita Hubert, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Bordeaux, but raised by his second wife and their mother, Aulikki Kokko-Cunningham, Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois. His wives precede him in death. Eric, a successful Composer and Music Producer, lives in Hollywood, CA with his wife Aimee and Clark’s grandchildren Chase, Kai, and Delphine Cunningham. Nathalie, an actor and teacher, also lives in Los Angeles with her husband John.
Clark was an avid collector of miniature cars and airplanes, magazines, and the New York Times. He loved good food, good drink, good companionship, poker, beautiful women, and all things funny. And, of course, traveling the world. He had a Buddhistic calm, was soft spoken, humble, with a hilarious dry wit, a big heart, and enormous generosity. A true Philanthropist in thought and deed. His was a life well lived and he was very well loved indeed.
Memorial Contributions may be made in Clark's honor to the Spurlock Museum of World Cultures at Illinois https://www.spurlock.illinois.edu/giving/.
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Spurlock Museum of World Cultures at Illinois
600 S Gregory St., Urbana IL 61801