John "Jack" Robert Cunningham

January 5, 1927January 4, 2020

With heavy hearts we announce the peaceful passing of JOHN ROBERT “JACK” CUNNINGHAM, OC PhD on Saturday, January 4, 2020, surrounded by family members. Jack leaves his wife of 68 years, Sheila Margaret (née Reesor) Cunningham; loving father of five children including Joan (with partner Michael Wargovich), Ian (with Grace Parraga), Susan (with Paul Koeller), Karen (with Ken Jones) and Clifton. Adored grandfather of Andy, Calvin, Daryl, Jason, Pierre, Jordan, Lucy, Robin, Maggie and loved great-grandfather of Jayden, Farley and Ruby. He is predeceased by his brother Jim Smiles and son-in-law Darcy Flynn. Jack served in the Canadian Technical Training Corps just prior to the end of World War II and then studied Engineering Physics at the University of Saskatchewan (1945) and was awarded a PhD in Physics at the University of Toronto (1955). He joined the Physics Division of the Ontario Cancer Institute at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto in 1958 where he remained Chief of Clinical Physics and Professor at the University of Toronto until 1989. In 1964-65 he spent a year as a consultant with the International Atomic Energy Agency working in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), providing his family of 4 children at that time and Sheila with a wonderful experience they would never forget. In 2005 he was installed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, recognizing his life-long contributions to the betterment of Canadians as “one of Canada’s most distinguished medical physicists”. He was an exceptional person, orator, innovator and pioneer of medical physics with a special appreciation of the importance of global cooperation and development. He was recognized internationally with awards from many professional organizations and acknowledged as a leader establishing the scientific groundwork of radiation cancer treatment. He and Harold Johns authored The Physics of Radiology which remains the authoritative text in the field. He had a wonderful smile and exceptional sense of humour, epitomized by the devilish delight he took playing the part of Jimmy the (naughty) Clown at the Princess Margaret Hospital Childrens’ Christmas parties for many years. He is dearly missed by his family and everyone who had the good fortune to know him.


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John "Jack" Robert Cunningham

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Martha van Weezel Errens

January 23, 2020

Coming from South Africa and meeting the JACK CUNNINGHAM in real flesh and blood, was surely one of the greatest moments in my life. Then to discover that he was the kindest person on earth with a wicked sense of humour.
My John's and Cummingham Physics book still is my prized possession.
A giant in the world has gone and my sincerest condolences to his family.

Carol-Anne Davis

January 14, 2020

My condolences to Dr Cunningham's family. Dr Cunningham was a renowned educator and advocate for radiation oncology...I was one of many who wore down the pages of his infamous textbook. Dr Cunningham agreed to come to the east coast many many years ago to speak at a CAMRT conference...I was not shy at all to ask him to sign my beloved textbook.

Suzanne Dunford (nee Hunt)

January 13, 2020

The whole Hunt family especially Marguerite and John Hunt mourn the loss of Jack. We, the children, remember Jack as a clown every year at the annual Princess Margaret hospital Christmas party. We were encouraged to yell and scream when either of the clowns showed their face! Mum especially wants to send her condolences to her long time friend Sheila and Dad remembers Jack fondly. Hugs to all from the Hunts in Ontario and the Yukon.

Ulf Rosenow, PhD FAAPM

January 12, 2020

The last time I met Jack, and Sheyla, was along with the Centenary Röntgen Congress at Würzburg, Germany, in 1995. Both were on a private trip through Germany and had decided to pay a spontaneous visit to the Meeting.
I had taken an hour off the meeting to visit W. C. Röntgen´s old Physics Institute, where he had discovered the Röntgen Rays, now being a museum, at short distance from the meeting venue.
On my way back I had to stop at a traffic light when I suddenly heard my first name called. That sounded like my last call coming from somewhere up in the Heaven. To my relief and big surprise I realized Sheyla calling me from a car, Jack at the controls.
What a happy reunion, if only for some short time!
Why am I telling this? The friendship with Jack, and Sheyla, which had for long been established was of the special kind that never looses intensity how rarely you micht see each other. Therefore, I heard of John´s passing away with great sadness and the feeling of a big loss and emptiness.
My sorrow and compassion goes to Sheyla and her family.
Ulf F. Rosenow, Göttingen, Germany

Alan Rawlinson

January 11, 2020

I joined Princess Margaret Hospital in 1965 as a novice clinical physicist. I very much appreciated Jack's wonderful support, understanding and encouragement in those early years and beyond. Jack had so many special qualities. I was particularly impressed by his passion and enthusiasm for his work - he often said that he couldn't believe that he actually got paid for what he did!
I'm proud that he was my boss, my student supervisor, my colleague - and my friend.

John Grant

January 11, 2020

It was a pleasure to work in the Department of Clinical Physics at PMH during the 1980s where Jack Cunningham’s leadership was a style of guided empowerment. What I am reflecting on this week is how well I can remember his lectures and conversations. Never one to teach by facing a chalkboard, he could get the facts across using fundamental diagrams, anecdotes and humour.
To his family I am sending my condolences on his passing and am sharing with them thanksgiving for how he touched so many people during his influential career.

Ufuk Orhun

January 10, 2020

I had to pleasure and good luck of working with Jack for a few years. His smile was contagious. In his presense there were always smiles and learning about something; physics, life, philosophy. He was such a great human being. We will miss him a lot.

Jean-Pierre Bissonnette

January 10, 2020

I have known Jack through my tenure as the organizer of the COMP J.R. Cunningham Young Investigator Symposium, when he and I met many young aspiring physicists across Canada. Jack and I co-chaired the Symposium over many years. I was fortunate enough to develop a camaraderie with Jack, developing gentle banter that may have helped some YIS participants ease off nervousness; Jack always had a splendid tale to tell about pioneering our field, or tracing his genealogy back to Québec.

Jack was a giant in our field; his work and collaborations continue to impact in the radiation treatment of innumerable patients across the world. I am happy that I have met him.

Chris Thomas

January 9, 2020

My condolences to Jack’s family.
Jack was a towering figure in medical physics and was an inspiration to us all. I only met him a handful to times but I have my autographed copy of J&C proudly sitting on my bookshelf.
He will be missed.

Bryan Hughes

January 9, 2020

I was a graduate student of Jack in the late sixties. Through sheer force of his buoyant personality, his knowledge of physics and his people skills I was able to graduate and enjoy a career in medical physics. He was the true expression of the word mentor.