Jesse Lee Cuninggim Collection

Identifier: 2017.002

  • Staff Only


  • Majority of material found within 1902 - 1950

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 24 hours is needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact: The Virginia Davis Laskey Library, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact: The Virginia Davis Laskey Library, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN.

Biographical / Historical

Jesse Lee Cuninggim was born on March 21, 1870 at Lenoir Institute, Green County, North Carolina. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating with a BA degree in 1891, and Vanderbilt University where he received his BD in 1895. He did graduate work for four years at the University of Chicago.

He was a professor in the Biblical Department at Vanderbilt from 1902 – 1915, directing the Correspondence School of the Methodist Church, South (c 1902-1909) and Ministerial Supply and Training (1910-1914). From 1915-1917, he was the pastor of the First Methodist Church at Elizabeth City, NC and was a presiding elder of the Durham, NC conference district. He was a professor of Religious Education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas from 1917-1921.

He moved to the Scarritt Bible and Training Institute in 1921, “with a view to remove it from Kansas City and enlarge its educational mission.” The school moved to Nashville in 1924 and became known as Scarritt College for Christian Workers. Dr. Cuninggim was its first president, responsible for literally building the institution (procuring the property in Nashville and beginning a campaign to support the development of new buildings including the Belle Harris Bennett complex and later Gibson Hall. Under his leadership, Scarritt moved from being a bible training institute to a fully accredited endowed senior college and graduate school.

Dr. Cuninggim served as President of Scarritt from 1924-1943. He wrote several books, most notably The Family of God, published following his retirement in 1948 (Nashville: Parthenon Press) which contains his philosophy of education. He was careful to document to process of founding Scarritt and many of the papers in this collection reflect his dedication to writing not just a history of Scarritt College, but writing about the process of founding a school for religious education. His history of Scarritt College was published after his death in 1950.

He was responsible for introducing the Joint University Center complex, working with the presidents of Vanderbilt and Peabody. With the presidents of Vanderbilt and Peabody, he was instrumental in founding a joint school of graduate social work, which later became the UT School of Social Work. Vanderbilt Alumni magazine (c1950) described JLC as building a “chapel-size college with a cathedral proportioned dream.”

He was married to Maud Merrimon in June of 1910. Their two children are Dr. Merrimon Cuninggim, a Rhodes Scholar and Chairman of the Department of Religion at Pomona College, and Margaret Louise Cuninggim, former Dean at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Cuninggim retired from the presidency of Scarritt in 1943 and was named President Emeritus. He died at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville on November 25, 1950 at the age of 80.


10.4 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



The Jesse Lee Cuninggim Collection is organized into ten broad categories:

1. Correspondence 2. Presidency of Scarritt 3. History of Scarritt 4. Writings, Presentations, and Sermons 5. The Family of God 6. Retirement and Death 7. Notebooks 8. Books, Photos, and Duplicates 9. Non-Cuninggim Material 10. Maud Cuninggim Papers

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection is property of The Virginia Davis Laskey Library, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, TN.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Scarritt Bennett Center - Laskey Library and Archives Repository

Virginia Davis Laskey Library and Archives
1027 18th Avenue South
Nashville TN 37212


About this Site

This site contains collection guides, or finding aids, to the archival collections held by Vanderbilt University Special Collections and University Archives, the History of Medicine Collection, and the Scarritt Bennett Center. Finding aids describe the context, arrangement, and structure of archival materials, allowing users to identify and request materials relevant to their research.

Requesting Materials

Each finding aid contains a link to request materials from the collections. Collections can also be requested by emailing the repository directly through the library website. Each repository has its own location, hours, and contact information. Please consult the repository with questions about using the materials. Collections are non-circulating and must be used in the repository’s reading room. In many cases, the collections are stored off-site and require advance notice for retrieval.