For any college, the most important records–legally and historically– are the Board of Trustee Minutes. Davidson is no exception. We are fortunate to have a complete set of trustee minutes. Kept in hefty ledger books, the minutes document the life of the college in handwriting of varying degrees of decipherability. As archivist, I am deeply grateful to Dorothy McQueen Finlayson Cunningham for carefully transcribing all the minutes from June 1, 1836 to May 30, 1936, all 1864 pages of them!
Her work is acknowledged in a few sentences in Walter Lingle’s February 21, 1940 president’s report to the Trustees:
. . . you directed us to have all the Minutesof the Trustees re-copied and thus made available for consultation at any time by College officials. I am glad to report that practically all this work has been done. The Minutes of the Trustees from the beginning of the College to the present have been copied in duplicate and bound into tow sets of three handsome volumes to each set. The three volumes contain a total of 1,864 large typewritten pages. You can readily see that this constituted a very considerable task. The work was done by Mrs. Dorothy Finlayson Cunningham, formerly secretary to Dean Sentelle.
Finding this reference, I grew curious about the woman who took on this task. Dorothy FInlayson grew up in the town of Davidson, niece of college treasurer F. L. Jackson. She appears several times in the local news column of the student newspaper, the Davidsonian. Our Local History Database provides excerpts from the town news reported in the paper. The May 10, 1916 paper reported on her performance at a school graduation.
There are additional accounts of her being part of a hiking party and hosting the Young Ladies Missionary Society in 1917. Helping with the Red Cross and graduating from high school in 1918. A short notice in 1919 places her at Winthrop College.
She returned to Davidson in 1921 to serve as secretary to the college treasurer and the Dean of Students. She served both offices until 1926, thereafter working only for the Dean of Students. Mentions in the local columns during the 1920s and 1930s, show her continuing to be active in church activities, motoring around visiting friends, hosting unusual clubs including the Sutzers and Kill Kare Club, and singing at recitals and weddings.
In 1937, she married Andrew Moreland Cunningham, Davidson class of 1935. He was a teacher in Morganton, NC until 1942, when he joined the army. While he was overseas, Dorothy moved back to Davidson. After the war, they moved to Raleigh, NC. Dorothy died in 1968 leaving an important legacy for Davidson College.
Thank you Dorothy.