Jean Cunningham PA conservation figure

Jean Stull Cunningham

January 30, 1929 - July 30, 2011

Jean Stull Cunningham was born on January 30, 1929 in Waterford, Pennsylvania. She was a highly talented artist, teacher, and carried her love for nature with her until the day of her death. Her parents are given the credit for this, because of the encouragement and support they provided her throughout life. She attended Edinboro State Teachers College, (Edinboro University), and received her bachelor’s degree in Art Education in 1949. Jean continued her education attending Palomar College, Mira Costa College, and completed her graduate study at Penn State University.

While educating children of all ages in public schools, she used her skills in painting and writing to educate outside of the classroom. She had many books published such as: Finding Birds on Presque Isle (1956), Birds of Erie County including Presque Isle (1988), Nature Watch (1995), and various nature columns in Erie County newspapers. However, writing books and articles were not her only accomplishments. She helped conducted studies on insect migration, and the Pennsylvania Breeding Birds Atlas Project. She also wrote articles for several periodicals and has been featured in many PBS documentaries.

Jean was involved in almost every aspect of Presque Isle State Park. Throughout their life together, Jean and her husband James spent countless hours at Presque Isle banding and tracking migrating birds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. She would often wear an apron during this time, and would place the birds in her pockets as she sorted out the bands. She and James also organized the Presque Isle Nature Club in 1956, which was later renamed the Presque Isle Audubon Society and now has 700 members. The Presque Isle Nature Center was dedicated and renamed the Stull Interpretive Center in 1994 in honor of Jean and her late husband, James.

Jean’s life was filled with memorable accomplishments to the field of natural sciences. Many organizations recognized this and awarded her symbols of their gratitude. She received the W.E. Clyde Todd Conservation Award from the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania (1988), Edinboro University honored her with the Distinguished Alumna, Arts and Humanities title (1990), and the Daughters of the American Revolution presented her the National Conservation Medal (1994).

Before her death in 2011 she wrote, “If I have helped the environment, I would imagine it would be through teaching others – directly and indirectly. My mother told me that a kernel of corn will grow an ear of corn.”