Jump to Navigation

Glenn Cunningham collection : [sec. 2] Papers of Ruth Cunningham

Creator: Cunningham, Ruth (Ruth Maxine Sheffield), 1923-2008

Date: 1930-2007

Level of Description: Sub-collection/group

Material Type: Manuscripts

Call Number: Ms. Coll. 904: Box 7: Sec. 2

Unit ID: 312704

Biographical sketch: Teacher, philanthropist, genealogist; of Iowa, Kansas, Arkansas.

Abstract: Letters received and newspaper clippings & stories about her, her family, her hometown--Storm Lake, Iowa--as well as information on a trip to West Germany and her last residence, Tucson, Ariz. Also included is a biographical essay about her written by her daughter Cindy for a university class. The collection also contains biographical and genealogical information Ruth compiled and wrote about her husband, Glenn, and his family. Other biographical information on Glenn may be found in his papers, Section 1, and those of Myra Lockwood Brown, a biographer, Section 3.

Space Required/Quantity: 2 folders

Title (Main title): Glenn Cunningham collection : [sec. 2] Papers of Ruth Cunningham

Titles (Other):

  • Ruth Cunningham papers

Part of: Glenn Cunningham collection.

Language note: Text is in English.


Biog. Sketch (Full):

Ruth Maxine Sheffield was born 11 June 1923, the daughter of Ralph Emerson Sheffield (1893-1956) and Edna Zeruah Hodges Sheffield (1895-1984) in Storm Lake, Iowa. She had two older brothers, Gordon Hodges Sheffield (1916-2012) and Paul Howard Sheffield (1918-2012), and a younger sister, Helen Louise Sheffield (Langner) (b. 1928).

She began piano lessons as a child, eventually becoming an accomplished pianist who played in recitals and accompanied vocalists. She graduated from high school in 1940 at the age of sixteen.

She attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, graduating in 1944 with a bachelors degree in physical education; she was the first woman at Cornell to earn a degree in that field. In her sophomore year she was chosen the outstanding sportswoman at the College.

After college, she taught physical education at Charles City, Iowa, and Dixon, Illinois. Wanting more musical training, she moved to Emporia, Kansas, where her uncle, Dr. Vernon Sheffield, was a music professor at Kansas State Teachers College of Emporia, now Emporia State University. While in Emporia, she became reacquainted with Glenn Cunningham (1909-1988), who had been a faculty member and for whom she had worked at Cornell when she was a student. At the time Glenn was raising horses and lecturing while living on the edge of Emporia.

She married Glenn on 29 June 1947 at Storm Lake, Iowa. They had ten children: Glenn Drury, also known as "Glenn Junior," born 1948; Lynn Sheffield, born 1949; Gene Alan, born 1950; Sue Ann (Wethli), born 1953; Cindy Ruth (Garcia Andrade), born 1955; Cathy Lee (Lee), born 1956; Sharon Kay (Jones), born 1958; Nancy Jo (Howard), born 1959; John Clint, born 1961; and Cheryl Louise (Watkins), born 1963. They first lived outside Emporia, then moved to his Cedar Creek Ranch in Chase County, Kansas, in 1950. There she and Glenn began to accept troubled children and worked to rehabilitate them. In 1960 the expense of providing for these children forced them to leave the Cedar Creek Ranch and move to a smaller farm in Butler County, Kansas, where they remained until 1973.

An avid genealogist, she also took library science and children’s literature classes. She sewed clothes for her children and worked tirelessly to provide for the estimated 8,000 children they assisted through the years.

In October 1973 they relocated their home and Youth Ranch to a rural area near Plainview, Arkansas. The Ranch closed in 1976, and Glenn and Ruth moved to Conway, Arkansas. Glenn died 10 March 1988.

After his death, she went to Germany to do volunteer work with a missionary couple. She later returned to Conway and continued to pursue genealogy as well as be active in her son Gene’s Basic Training Bible Ministries. She also assembled scrapbooks of newspaper clippings describing Glenn’s track accomplishments in the 1930s. She suffered and recovered from a stroke in 1993 and cancer in 1999. Afterward she moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and to Tucson, Arizona, to be near some of her children. She collaborated with Paul J. Kiell, M.D., on research for a biography of Glenn, American Miler: The Life and Times of Glenn Cunningham, that was published in 2006; the book is available in the Kansas Historical Society library (call no. K B C917k). She died in Tucson on 7 January 2008 and was buried with Glenn in Crestlake Memorial Park in Conway.

Scope and Content


Items marked by an asterisk (*) denote containers retained with their original descriptions and in original internal order as received.

folder 1: General, 1937-2007
folder 2: Storm Lake,* 1930-1992


Locator Contents

Index Terms


    Cunningham family
    Personal correspondence
    Germany (West) -- Description and travel
    Storm Lake (Iowa)
    Tucson (Ariz.)
    Cunningham, Glenn, 1909-1988 -- Family
    Cunningham, Ruth (Ruth Maxine Sheffield), 1923-2008
    Cunningham, Ruth (Ruth Maxine Sheffield), 1923-2008 -- Family
    Cunningham, Ruth (Ruth Maxine Sheffield), 1923-2008 -- Travels -- Germany (West)
    Clippings (Books, newspapers, etc.)

Creators and Contributors


General Note: Title supplied by cataloger.