The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | JULY-AUGUST 2018 93 n William Joseph Cunningham, 92, a retired Foreign Service officer, died of cancer on March 16, a few hours after he attended the funeral of his wife, Patricia. Mr. Cunninghamwas born in Santa Monica, Calif., the oldest son of Dr. and Mrs. WilliamCunningham. The family soon moved to a small alfalfa farm east of Lancaster, Calif., where he grew up. While at Antelope Valley Joint Union High School, his interest in politics, diplomacy and government first became evident when he won admission to the California Boys State session in the sum- mer of 1943. Mr. Cunninghamwas sworn into the U.S. Navy in 1943, beginning his military career in the Navy’s V-12 officer training program at Washburn Municipal Univer- sity in Topeka, Kan. In 1944, he transferred to the U.S. Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of NewMexico. As a commissioned naval officer in 1946, he served mainly on sea duty until released from active service. He returned to the University of NewMexico and com- pleted his undergraduate and graduate degrees. Mr. Cunningham began his 32-year diplomatic career in 1949 in Prague, in the former Czechoslovakia, during the early years of the Cold War. He was assigned to Paris in the spring of 1950. But wanting to be “where the action was,” he requested a posting in Seoul, arriving just beforeThanksgiving at the height of the Korean War. He was suddenly evacuated to Japan when the Chinese communist army invaded the southern tip of the Korean peninsula. He served in the U.S. consulate at Sapporo in Hokkaido from 1951 to 1952. In 1952 he was stationed in the former Sai- gon (now Ho Chi Minh City), and in 1954 he was transferred to Phnom Penh. After returning to Washington, D.C., he met and married Patricia Ann Sloan, who had her own international career in Peru and Italy. The couple had five children during their 61-year marriage. A 1957 assignment to study Chinese at the Department of State’s Chinese Language School in Taichung, Taiwan, sent the couple to East Asia for five years, where Mr. Cunningham gained his official commission as a Foreign Service officer. Following his studies in Taichung, he became director of the school and later gained a position at the American Institute in Taiwan in Taipei. He then returned to the China desk in Washington, D.C., before taking a year’s sabbatical to study at Columbia University in New York. In 1968 Mr. Cunningham began his final overseas assignment, as first secre- tary in Tokyo. While there, he received— and realized the underlying significance of—a message from the captain of the American Table Tennis Team, then competing at an international match in Nagoya, Japan, informing him that the People’s Republic of China had invited the Americans to an exhibition match in Beijing. Mr. Cunningham knew that cultural and athletic exchanges were exempt from the long-enforced ban on travel by U.S. citizens to the People’s Republic of China. He correctly sensed that the government of mainland China was seeking a way to make peaceful contact with the United States. He delicately negotiated the matter through governmental bureaucracy, later learning that the Nixon administration was also seeking a back channel to com- municate peacefully with the Chinese. The exchange gained the famous label, “Ping-Pong Diplomacy”; Mr. Cunning- ham’s work was credited in Henry Kiss- inger’s memoir, White House Years . Mr. Cunningham’s last decade with the State Department was evenly divided between service in Washington, D.C., and New York, where he became counselor to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. On his retirement in 1982, Mr. Cun- ningham began a second career in Hous- ton, as director of the recently established Center for International Studies at the University of St. Thomas. Mr. Cunninghamwas preceded in death by his wife, Patricia; his parents; his infant sister, Anne-Marie Cunningham; and his adult sister, Mary Ann Reilly. He is survived by his brother, Carl Cunningham of Houston, Texas; children Anne (and her husband, Ralph) Hedian of Cheverly, Md.; Theresa (and her husband, Padraig) Doolan of Riva, Md.; Marie-Claire Cunningham (and her husband, Earl Rix) of New York, N.Y.; Peggy “Pegeen” Bush of Corinth, Texas, and William Joseph (and his wife, June) Cunningham Jr. of Mill- ersville, Md.; three nieces and a nephew; eleven grandchildren; and seven great- grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Catholic Relief Services; the University of St. Thomas’ Center for Inter- national Studies’ Distinguished Diplomat Program; or the University of St. Thomas’ Ann Q. Tiller Endowed Scholarship in International Studies. n Robert K. German, 90, a retired Foreign Service officer, passed away on March 11. Mr. German was born on Aug. 27, 1927, in Sherman, Texas, and lived on the family farm near Whitewright until moving to Bonham for third grade. He graduated from BonhamHigh School in 1944, then took the train to Austin and enrolled in the University of Texas, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in 1947 and a bachelor of laws degree in 1952.