In Memoriam

In Memory: Nancy Cunningham Good

In Memory: Nancy Cunningham Good
In Memoriam: Nancy Cunningham Good

Denison’s “first lady” from 1976 to 1984, Nancy Cunningham Good died on August 24, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  She was 89.

The Denison years were a chapter in the Goods’ life together that was cut tragically short in 1984 by Bob’s terminal illness.  Nancy had graduated from Smith College in 1944 when she met Bob Good.  In 1946 they were married in Switzerland. Nancy was employed at the time by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administra­tion, serving in the effort to repatriate displaced persons in the wake of World War II.  After their marriage, she and Bob opened a settlement house in Frankfurt, Germany under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee.  It was an achievement for which the German government would honor Nancy 50 years later.

Service was the theme of Nancy’s entire life.  Prior to their time at Denison, Nancy worked in the field of fair housing both in Denver and in Washington, D.C.  When Bob was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, she worked in hunger relief agencies in that country.  After their Deni­son years, the move back to Denver, and Bob’s death, she served on the city’s Commission on Com­munity Relations.  Her daughter Kathy VanBuskirk aptly described her as “a change agent all her life.”

Professor of Religion David O. Woodyard ’54 remembers Good’s spirit of acti­vism and her unabashed desire to address other people’s needs and concerns.  On one occa­sion, he recalls, a group of construction workers had seen fit to launch a union protest at Denison’s front entrance, to the consternation of President Good.  What the president didn’t know, how­ever, was that Nancy, seeing the protest, had promptly invited the unhappy workers to lunch!

According to Woodyard and McDonald, the Goods had arrived on the Denison campus at a time when the college (like much of the larger culture) was feeling the effects of the social and cross-generational dissension of the 1970s.  Experienced diplomats, the Goods were called on to exercise all their skills of listening and reconciliation.  “Nancy was a healer who was always doing a lot of ‘knitting’ in the community,” Woodyard said.  “Seldom do you see in one person the combined abilities to both heal and prod.”

And prod she did, gently but ever so effectively.  Good’s special interests at Denison encom­passed minority student enfranchisement, the vitality of the women’s community, the devel­opment of the Homestead, and the well-being of students, faculty, and staff of every stripe.  She is still remembered on campus as the determined savior of Monomoy Place, which had been all but doomed to the wrecking ball.  Early on, Good had recognized the potential of the dilapidated nineteenth-century mansion as a locus of good relationship-building with both campus and village. To help make restoration financially feasible, she marshaled an army of students, staff, and friends to parti­cipate in wallpaper-stripping and other preparation for renovation. Once com­pleted, Monomoy became the cherished campus/village treasure that it remains today.  And it was in Monomoy that Nancy would become locally famous for her annual “Eggnog for Eggheads” party, an all-day rolling extravaganza of holiday hospitality that epitomized friendly town/gown relationships.

On her departure from Denison, Nancy was awarded the University’s Distinguished Service Award, and she was formally recognized by the Village of Granville as well. But beyond awards, there is so much more that could be said about the colorful and energetic Nancy Good:  her advocacy of equal opportunity, her blindness to barriers, her can-do attitude, her tender care of her stricken husband.  Suffice it to say that Good seldom missed an opportunity to build good will, and that the Denison and Granville communities reaped the benefit of her gracious momentum for years to come. “Like Bob, Nancy was truly on a mission her entire life to bring people together in peaceful community,” said McDonald.  “Her impact was extra­ordinary.”

Published December 2011