+ View the Flickr slideshow / Commencement program
Thiel College celebrated its' 139th Commencement exercise on Sunday, May 5, 2013 at 2 p.m. in the Passavant Center. Baccalaureate was held at 10 a.m. in the David Johnson Memorial Chapel.
Jim Cunningham ’77 served as the keynote speaker. Read his Commencement address.
Honorary Degree Recipient: Linda Haller, president, Henry E. Haller Jr. Foundation, doctorate of humanities
Commencement Keynote Speaker
James H. Cunningham '77
Artistic Director, Classical WQED-FM 89.3
A mainstay of Pittsburgh's radio and classical music scenes, Jim Cunningham '77 hosts the "QED Morning Show" and the nationally syndicated "Pittsburgh Symphony Radio" broadcasts on WQED-FM.
A native of Warren, Pa., he became involved with a radio club as a child, leading to work as an announcer on WNAE. Throughout high school, Cunningham was a regular on WNAE and WRRN-FM. He continued to work in radio while at Thiel, serving as the general manager of the campus radio station, then WTGP. During college and after graduation (with degrees in English and business administration), he worked full-time for WGRP as an announcer, producer and account executive. A former intern at WQED, Cunningham returned to the station to work part-time and then was hired as a full-time announcer. He later earned a management certificate from the University of Wisconsin Graduate School of Business with sponsorship from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Cunningham served as station manager of WQED for 15 years. As manager, he lead the team that established WQEJ Johnstown; began 24-hour classical broadcasts; expanded live broadcasts in annual series from Carnegie Mellon, Duquesne University, Chautauqua New York, Heinz Hall and Heinz Chapel; and initiated new programs, national distribution of concerts from the River City Brass Band and numerous holiday specials.
He served as classical music critic for Pittsburgh Magazine, contributing a monthly column for 15 years; produced and hosted more than 30 features for WQED-TV's "OnQ Magazine"; and serves as a regular pledge host for WQED-TV and has twice produced feature programs with violinist and composer Andre Rieu.
Cunningham hosts the prestigious Robert Morris Speakers Series at Heinz Hall where he interviews and introduces lecturers, such as Robert Redford, Benjamin Netanyahu and Salman Rushdie. He has traveled as a correspondent with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on 21 world tours, including memorable broadcasts from the Vatican, the great Wall in Beijing and the Salzburg Music Festival in Austria (where he produced the first international live digital broadcast).
A lifelong music lover, he studied piano and guitar, and sang in the choirs at First Lutheran Church in Warren, junior and senior high school, and Thiel College under Dr. Marlowe Johnson. An enthusiastic teacher, Cunningham taught music and art for the Carnegie Institute adult education program and currently teaches "Unlocking the Classics" for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Pittsburgh and the Academy of Life Long Learning at Carnegie Mellon University.
His work has been recognized with awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, the Air Award from March of Dimes, the Gabriel Award from US Catholic Broadcasters, the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh's Millie Award, the Board of Directors of Chatham Baroque and the Pittsburgh Symphony Paul J. Ross Award for Excellence in Education and Audience Engagement.
As an active member of the community, Cunningham regularly appears as a guest speaker, narrator or host at various cultural events. He has served on the boards of the City of Pittsburgh Arts Commission, Chatham Baroque, Citizens for the Arts in Pennsylvania and Eastern Public Radio, and is currently on the boards of the Friends of the Carnegie Library, the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony, the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society Executive Committee and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Steinway Society and the Pittsburgh Concert Society.