Karen Pringle Cunningham lives in Brookings for all the right reasons.
It’s a beautiful part of the Oregon Coast. There’s a thriving port and scenic harbor. The nearby forest with the ocean is the best crossroads anybody could have.
And, there’s a community college where she can volunteer to positively impact people’s lives.
“My whole career was really about community building. That experience brought me to SWOCC,” she said.
Having worked in Montana and then Central Oregon in philanthropy, Karen learned about the effort to develop the Curry campus in 2009. She wanted to be involved in creating a place where people could pursue their dreams. She soon moved here, taking the job of fundraising to build the Curry campus. Once the mission was accomplished, she signed on as the executive director of the SWOCC Foundation until retiring in 2013.
With grandchildren in Gold Beach, she and her husband, Hank Cunningham, are here now for good. Through it all, Karen has developed really good friendships in Brookings. She has taken SWOCC’s community education classes such as Better Bones & Balance, and attended workshops on the climate and local food production. She encourages people to take a class or teach one.
“There is a big group of people who are very excited and supportive of the College,” she said. “I look forward to putting that energy and enthusiasm together, through volunteering with the College.”
A few years ago, Karen started volunteering as a trustee on the SWOCC Foundation. Through the foundation, she strives to connect with people who want to fund scholarships and inspire others.
“I have a heart for people, especially older students who want to go to school and do something they dreamed about, or try something different. I also have a heart for those who need a helping hand to get started,” she said.
Karen never expects a payback, but receives one every time she gets a personal thank you letter from a Curry Campus student recipient of the Pringle Cunningham Scholarship.