Dr. Ralph S. Cunningham Remembered

It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to SCI’s 29th President Ralph S. Cunningham, Sr., 80, a great friend and champion of both hunting and conservation.  Ralph passed away November 7, 2020 at his home in Houston, Texas.  Services were held on November 13, 2020.

Ralph was born in Ohio and moved to Birmingham, Alabama at a young age where he grew up and graduated from high school.  He attended Auburn University where he studied chemical engineering, later earning his masters and then doctorate in chemical engineering at Ohio State University.

Ralph had a long and distinguished career in the oil industry, beginning at Humble Oil and Refining, now Exxon, as a technical engineer, and later holding various executive and C-level positions at Tenneco Oil, Clark Oil and Refining, Texaco Chemical, Huntsman Corporation, Citgo Petroleum and Enterprise Products. He served on the boards of various energy companies, including Agrium, EnCana, Enterprise Products, TEPPCO Partners, Cenovus, and TETRA Technologies.

Ralph is remembered by his friends as a “true gentleman” with a great sense of humor as well as an untiring advocate for wildlife conservation, education and hunters’ rights.  His constant manner and unswerving commitment will be sorely missed. 

“SCI and SCIF lost an exemplary leader, mentor and contributor with the passing of Dr. Ralph Cunningham,” Said Scott Chapman, SCI President.  “Ralph’s positive impact on SCI and SCIF and the greater hunting community will continue to be felt for years to come, and to say he will be missed is simply an understatement of epic proportion. Godspeed Past President Cunningham.”

Ralph was a Past President of SCI/SCIF and Treasurer and Board Member on SCIF’s Board of Directors.  He was a life-member of SCI, SCI PAC, and SCIF Sables.  He also served on numerous committees for both SCI and SCI Foundation, including the Finance and Investment, Nominating, Convention, Hall of Fame, C.J. McElroy Award, and SCI Executive committees to name a few.  He was an active member and Founding Trustee of SCIF’s Hunter Legacy 100 Fund and a sponsor of teachers attending AWLS. 

“Dr. Cunningham was an extraordinary leader, role model and friend,” said Craig Kauffman, SCIF President. “His passion for SCI and SCIF was unparalleled, and he set a standard and example that led the organization over many years and will provide a beacon for many years to come.”

Ralph was also a Life Member of and highly involved with many other industry-related organizations including the Weatherby Foundation International, Houston Safari Club, Shikar Safari Club International, Hunter Proud Foundation, the NRA, and many more.  He generously gave of his time and resources, serving in key leadership roles and on the boards and committees of many.

Ralph was a consummate hunter and avid outdoorsman, spending as much time trekking around the world in search of as much adventure as possible.  Ralph was awarded SCI’s World Hunting Award Ring in 2001 and achieved the highest level of World Hunting Awards which is the World Conservation and Hunting Award in 2008 after achieving 16 SCI Milestone Awards and 26 Diamond SCI Inner Circles including the Animals of Africa (2000) and Animals of North America (2002).  Ralph also holds many SCI records including 15 Top 10 Record Book entries and 14 additional Top 20 Record Book entries. Ralph has documented 333 total entries in the SCI Record Book and World Hunting Awards Program which is a testament to supporting hundreds of guides, outfitters, support staff, and conservation programs worldwide. 

Ralph and Deb, his beloved wife of 43 years, were the 2018 recipients of the prestigious Beretta and SCI Foundation Conservation Leadership Award for their efforts demonstrating extensive international hunting experience and a lifetime of commitment to wildlife conservation and education through volunteer service and philanthropy.  

“SCI and SCIF has lost a friend, a visionary and a true gentleman in all aspects of the word,” said Laird Hamberlin, SCI/F CEO.  “Dr. Ralph Cunningham was always there with a smile and helpful advice when you asked.  Let’s all pray for Deb and the entire family during this time.  The hunting industry is all grieving together thanks to Ralph’s far reaching touch on so many people in the hunting and conservation world.  I am sure he is looking down on us with a smile and a nod saying, ‘Go get ‘em…’”

Ralph is survived by his wife Deb; their children, Sandy and Linda Cunningham, Steve Cunningham, Susan Cunningham, and Jennifer and Greg Desautels; their grandchildren, Krissy and Josh Rachner, Brooke Cunningham, Ford Cunningham, Kaci Cunningham, Ryan Cunningham, Marissa Cunningham, Elliot Desautels, and Charlie Desautels; great granddaughter, Ember Rachner; sister Janice Phillips; and countless friends who he loved like family.

Please keep his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.  In lieu of flowers, please contribute to an organization or cause close to your heart. That would be Ralph’s wish.