Roger K. Cunningham, 71, member of UB microbiology faculty since 1973

By Lois Baker

Release Date: December 27, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y -- Roger K. Cunningham, Ph.D., associate professor of microbiology and immunology in the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, died on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24, 2004) at the age of 71. The cause was cancer.

Cunningham was a specialist in the study of human blood groups and blood-group antigens and had authored or co-authored 44 articles on the subject in scientific journals.

In 1992 he was named director of the Ernest Witebsky Center for Immunology and served in that capacity for 10 years. The center, now known as the Witebsky Center for Microbial Pathogenesis and Immunology, is a highly regarded multidisciplinary research center for the study of bacterial, parasitic and viral diseases.

Working with students was his passion, however. "Teaching was his life," said his wife, Nancy Cunningham. He was awarded the Louis A. and Ruth Siegel Distinguished Medical Teaching Award in 1979 and 1980, and received a letter of commendation in that competition on five different occasions.

Outside of his academic life he was a gardener, a lover of dogs and was interested in animal rehabilitation.

A native of Enumclaw, Wash., Cunningham received his bachelor's degree in zoology and chemistry from the University of Washington in Seattle and a master's degree in zoology and biochemistry from Clemson University in Clemson, N.C. He earned a doctorate in immunology and microbiology from the UB medical school in 1970.

In 1971 he was awarded a fellowship from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health, which provides international training opportunities in biomedical and behavioral research for faculty and graduate students. The fellowship allowed him to spend the next two years at the Medical School of Linkoping University in Linkoping, Sweden. He returned to UB in 1973 as an assistant professor of microbiology and remained an active member of the faculty until his death.

Cunningham had served as a consultant in microbiology and diagnostic serology for UB's

Student Health Center since 1974. He was a member of the Scientific and Medical Advisory Committee for the Buffalo Regional Red Cross Blood Center from 1974 to 1983. He also served as assistant director of the clinical laboratory for Health Care Plan, Inc. He was a member of several scientific organizations, including the American Society of Zoologists, the American Society for Microbiology and the Council of Biological Editors.

Cunningham lived in Williamsville.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Roy of Buffalo, and Carl of Seattle; a daughter, Shelia Fricke, of Bainbridge Island, Wash; a brother Thomas, of Seattle, and a granddaughter, Ella Williams, of Bainbridge Island. A daughter, Anna Cunningham, and a brother, Richard, preceded him in death.

A private memorial service will be held at the convenience of the family. Memorials may be made to Hospice Buffalo, Inc.