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Mark Bernard GunningJanuary 13, 1955 ~ September 25, 2017 (age 62)
Prof. Mark Bernard Gunning, 62, and a retired member of the Rhode Island College education faculty, died peacefully surrounded by his family on September 25 after a courageous battle with cancer. Prof. Gunning was born in Pawtucket RI, the son of the late Thomas J. Gunning of Pawtucket and the late Frances V. Gunning, nee Dempsey, also of Pawtucket.
Prof. Gunning was an early innovator in the pursuit of career planning and professional internships to assure that high-risk high school students could enjoy productive and happy lives. After the successful launch of one of the first such programs at Narragansett High School in the early 2000s, he was invited to join the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities at Rhode Island College as a master teacher in 2003. In that role, he trained more than 3,000 faculty and employees at state agencies, public schools and higher education institutions to significantly improve school-to-career planning and outcomes.
His work at the Sherlock Center led to his appointment as special education professor in RIC’s Feinstein School of Education and Human Development. In this role, he was a strong advocate for Universal Design for Learning, employing the methods in his own courses and teaching budding educators about the value of reaching all students. As a member of the faculty, he was invited by the college president to join the Faculty Governing Council where he spearheaded policy changes to increase the number of students able to earn undergraduate degrees in four to five years.
Prof. Gunning was also an advocate of diversity and inclusion and was appointed by the college president to serve on The Rhode island College Dialogue on Diversity Committee. An integral part of his life’s work was to boost the quality of programming that enhances equity, accessibility, inclusion and academic achievement for students from linguistically and culturally diverse academic and socioeconomic background, as well as students with disabilities.
Perhaps most importantly, Prof. Gunning was actively involved in student government organizations as a faculty liaison helping students to advocate for their student rights and responsibilities and for the enhancement of educational, cultural and social opportunities. He was honored by being elected as the faculty speaker for the senior class at Cap and Gown Convocation in 2013—a distinction never before accorded to a special education professor.
Prof. Gunning completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree at University of Rhode Island in the 1980s. Upon graduation, he was appointed a Danforth Fellow and received a University Fellowship to complete his masters and doctoral work at Northwestern University.
Prof. Gunning was a strong devotee of the arts and quite a talented actor. He won a prestigious acting award at Northwestern in during his graduate studies and also served on the board of directors of Providence’s NewGate Theater.
Professor Gunning’s biggest passion was his family, especially his many nieces and nephews. He regularly prepared holiday meals for 30 or more family members. He was a generous, joyous person, who would fill the room with laughter and stories wherever he went. He was a mentor to many, and a friend to all. He loved nothing more than to bring joy to others, and always ensured everyone was well taken care of and well fed. He will be greatly missed, as his energy and laughter was contagious.
He is survived by his spouse and partner of 30 years, Edward Reich Ruehle of Providence, and his siblings: Mary Ellen Keiser of Jamestown, Thomas M. Gunning of Brewster, MA, Michael J. Gunning of Wakefield, Paul M. Gunning of Carolina Village, and Kristen A. Gunning of Kingston. He was the brother of the late Elizabeth F. Gunning. He is also survived by his brothers-in-law: Bruce R. Keiser and Jonathan A. Sigman, and his sisters-in-law: Sally Carlson Gunning, Rochelle Bromberg Gunning, and Beth Harrington Gunning. He was cherished “Uncle” to his many nieces and nephews.
Services will be at Swan Point Cemetery, 585 Blackstone Blvd., Providence, RI 02906. A Funeral Service will be held at 11am at the Historic Chapel, followed by burial. Reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, New England Chapter.