Gary CunninghamVice President of Programs - Chief Program Officer
Joined Northwest Area Foundation: May 2007
Gary L. Cunningham is vice president and chief program officer for the Northwest Area Foundation. He is responsible for carrying out the foundation's mission to support efforts by the people, organizations, and communities of the Foundation’s eight-state region to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable prosperity. In this capacity, Cunningham founded the African American Leadership Forums (AALF) in the Twin Cities; Portland, Ore.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.; and Des Moines, Iowa. The Association of Black Foundation Executives honored the Foundation with the Institutional Leadership Award for its innovative philanthropy in establishing the AALF.
For over 20 years, Mr. Cunningham has served as a top leader of philanthropic, health care, public policy, and educational organizations. He provides an innovative and results driven strategic approach to each institution, accelerating systemic change, and improving outcomes and organizational performance. In each organization, he brought together people with diverse interests and backgrounds to improve the lives of low-income people.
Prior to his work at the foundation, Cunningham was the president and chief executive officer for NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center in Minneapolis. Before that, Gary served as the director of planning and development for Hennepin County, Minnesota, where he supervised policy development and strategic planning and directed the Hennepin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
He also was county administrator and chief executive officer for Scott County, Minnesota; acting operations administrator and executive director of human resources for the Minneapolis Public Schools; and research fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. In addition, he has held manager/consultant roles for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, and the City of Minneapolis.
He is the founder of the award-winning African American Men Project (AAMP). AAMP has helped hundreds of young men recommit to their families and communities. In 2005, under his direction, AAMP received the Minneapolis Urban League’s High Impact Outstanding Community Partner award. AAMP has also received special recognition from the American Planning Association and the National Association of Counties. Gary has written and lectured extensively throughout the United States on the plight of African American men.
In 1992, Cunningham earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government after being awarded the Bush Leadership Fellowship. He has a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis.
Highlights of his awards and recognition include: the Minnesota Psychological Association Presidential Citation, the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights Distinguished Service Award, the National Association of Human Rights Workers Outstanding Achievement Award, the University of Minnesota Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Public Leadership award, Minnesota Mental Health Action Group Walk the Talk award, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Distinguished Service, and outstanding achievement awards from both Hennepin and Scott Counties.
Cunningham presently serves as a member of the Metropolitan Council representing District 7 of Minneapolis and Robbinsdale. He also serves on the board of directors of the Association of Black Foundation Executives, GenerationNext, and the Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. He also serves on the advisory council of the Hubert H. School of Public Affairs. Gary is a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration.