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New development officer embraces challenge

January 30, 2013

“Challenge” is a key word for Matt Cunningham, Wayne State University Law School’s new leadership annual gifts officer. He started the job Jan. 2.

For the past three years, he worked as development director for WSU’s Office of Athletics, and had a lot of success in that role. But a new development position at the Law School piqued his interest, Cunningham said. And he likes to keep challenging himself.
In keeping with that philosophy, he started attending Wayne Law’s evening program in the fall of 2011. So working full-time as a development officer for the Law School is “just a natural fit” with his ultimate education and career goals, he said.
He’ll be interacting a lot with alumni through his new job, and as a law student, that’s exactly what he wants to do, he said.
“I really do look forward to hearing their stories,” Cunningham said. “I’ve been surprised just reading about some of our alums and what they’ve done. We have a great network of alums to look up to. They are true role models. And, of course, we need their help. We need them to continue to be great role models that our students can look up to and receive support from.”
He’d like to bring more Law School alumni into closer connection with the students and the campus, he said.
“It’s a great resource to have many of our alumni remain in the metro Detroit area,” Cunningham said. “It can be intimidating to be a student when you hear about the lack of jobs and the burdensome debt that comes with choosing to be a law student. But when you look at the success that our alums have gone on to, both in and out of law firms, it gives students inspiration to push on and blaze their own trails.”
In his new job, he’ll be focused on projects such as annual scholarships and the Law Firm Challenge, a friendly, fundraising competition among law firms. 
Cunningham himself is a natural competitor. He became a four-year starter after walking onto the  baseball team at Wayne State as an undergraduate, and was named captain in 2007 and 2008. He earned his bachelor’s degree in public relations in 2007, and his master’s degree in sports administration in 2009. Then he worked as an intern in administration and player development for the Detroit Lions, and in 2010 he became development director for Athletics, where he routinely exceeded fundraising goals.
Now he’s bringing his competitive edge to Wayne Law, both as a student and a development officer — and also to the golf course whenever he can find time.
“I went from Gregory, Mich., and moved to downtown Detroit,” Cunningham said.  “Big change. I started golfing to get out in nature some more. I’m not great, but I really enjoy it. It’s just another challenge.”

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