GREENVILLE, Pa.—Jim Cunningham, artistic director of WQED-FM Pittsburgh and a 1977 graduate of Thiel College, will serve as graduation speaker at Thiel College’s commencement at 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 in the College’s William A. Passavant Center.
Cunningham’s address coincides with the groundbreaking of a new communication center on Thiel’s campus this spring. The James Pedas Communication Center will house the studios and offices of the student-run media as well as interactive and presentation facilities and classrooms.
A mainstay of Pittsburgh’s radio and classical music scenes, Cunningham 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 radio a child, working for northwest Pennsylvania stations WNAE and WRRN throughout high school. While attending Thiel College, he served as general manager of the campus radio station. A former intern at WQED, Cunningham returned to the station to work part-time after graduation (with degrees in English and business administration) 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 also 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.
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.
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.
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.
Being recognized at this year’s graduation ceremony is Linda Haller, executive director of the Henry E. Haller Jr. Foundation of Pittsburgh, who will receive an honorary doctorate of humanities from Thiel.