Editor’s note: This story is part of ‘Meet a UChicagoan,’ a regular series focusing on the people who make UChicago a distinct intellectual community. Read about the others here.
On a rainy afternoon in Hyde Park last July, Wilson Cunningham got a life-changing call from the Chicago Cubs.
He had spent the day touring the University of Chicago campus with his parents, but the final day of the 2021 Major League Baseball draft was making it difficult to focus.
After quietly leaving the tour, Cunningham and his parents were waiting together in the UChicago Bookstore when the 6-foot-8 pitcher’s phone started to buzz. The Cubs had selected him in the final round of the draft.
An 18-year-old left-hander who took two years away from the sport in high school was about to become a professional baseball player—a career path that would typically preclude someone from pursuing education full-time. But thanks to an atypical contract arrangement offered by the Cubs, Cunningham could train and play as a member of the organization while pursuing a transformative undergraduate education at the University of Chicago College year-round.
“I love to learn, and I think that's the type of student that UChicago caters to,” he said. “The Core Curriculum really encourages you to expand your horizons and learn all sorts of subjects. It just stood out to me as a school for thinkers and for intellectuals, with a huge emphasis on free speech, and it was ultimately the best opportunity for me.”
More than a year later, as a student in the College studying applied mathematics, Cunningham spends about 20 hours a week adhering to a baseball training program prescribed by Cubs trainers and coaches, on top of his studies.
Balancing those duties with the demands of a rigorous College course load hasn’t been easy. But like many of his classmates, his drive to challenge himself is what brought him to UChicago in the first place. It’s why he fits right in.