Published on May 27, 2021 by Holly Gainer  

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Vivian Cunningham pursued her dream of earning her college degree when she graduated from Samford University on May 8. Little did the 78-year-old know that her story would garner international media attention and inspire future students around the world.

To honor her legacy, Samford has established the Vivian Cunningham Leadership Scholarship, which will help other students who exhibit characteristics of leadership, determination and perseverance pursue their dreams of a college education. The scholarship was announced on NBC’s Today Show on May 28 during a live segment with Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager.

Cunningham, whose journey to earn her degree was featured on the show, was interviewed afterwards where it was announced that Samford will also pay her tuition and fees for her to earn her master’s degree upon acceptance into a program at the university.

A single mother to two children, Cunningham worked overnight as a custodian at Alabama Power for 13 years, working her way up to a day shift in the company’s mailroom, eventually managing all of its external mail. It was there that she began to take advantage of the company’s Tuition Reimbursement Program, earning course credits at many of Birmingham’s colleges and universities.

She never gave up on her dream of becoming a college graduate and after six years of taking classes through Samford’s Professional Studies program, she earned her degree in liberal studies. Her next step – pursuing her master’s degree.

“I don’t want to stop. I don’t want to just sit because I’m retired. I want the knowledge,” Cunningham said. “Believe in yourself because you can do it. Keep God in the plan and you’ll make it. Don’t let anybody discourage you.”

To contribute to the Vivian Cunningham Leadership Scholarship, visit this page. Click here to learn more about her journey to becoming a college graduate.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.