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Jonathan Sinclair ’90

Jonathan Sinclair '90Jonathan Sinclair, who received a degree from IUP in Communications Media in 1990, said one of the highlights of his life was when he was asked to be the department’s commencement speaker a decade after graduation.

“That was huge! While you are a student, you don’t really think about things like that happening,” Sinclair said. “You are just trying to learn as much as you can before you go out into the world. Then to be asked back was a thrill, and it was fun to tell graduates there is a life out there and it can be super fun.”

Sinclair believes that the education provided by IUP is a great start, particularly in the area of communications media.

“In the IUP program, students actually do some stuff and create things,” he said, “plus it’s a safe place to make mistakes and learn.” He thinks learning by doing is particularly valuable in his field.

Sinclair didn’t begin his college career at IUP, instead spending his freshman year at Grove City College.

“I was playing basketball there for about a year,” he said, “but then decided that I’d never make a living that way. I was always interested in television and transferred to IUP because I was from Indiana and it was home, plus IUP had a working television station in a great department.”

While studying at IUP, Sinclair was able to produce his own weekly television show on WIUP-TV and completed an internship at WNEP-TV in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

“Dr. Richard Lamberski was the internship coordinator,” Sinclair said, “and he was great. He ran the program and that whole network, which was really good for me, since the station where I interned was owned by the New York Times and we got to do things in the city. I was exposed to all types of programming.”

In addition to the classes in his major, Sinclair said he also took “a little bit of everything.”

“I soaked up the college experience from all different areas, including chemistry, biology, and the history of China,” he said, “because I felt if I was going to be a storyteller of any merit, I had to dive into this stuff, plus I am extremely curious about things.”

After graduation, Sinclair worked at stations in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Dayton, Ohio; and Pittsburgh before being hired in 1996 by Harpo Studios, Inc., the company that produced The Oprah Winfrey Show. He now serves as executive vice president and executive producer.

As executive producer at Harpo Studios, Sinclair has produced Oprah’s Lifeclass; In the Bedroom with Dr. Berman; Iyanla, Fix My Life; and Oprah’s Master Class. Master Class has featured several well-known people, including Justin Timberlake, Morgan Freeman, Diane Sawyer, Jane Fonda, and Jay Z and was nominated for an Emmy last year. Iyanla, Fix My Life features relationship expert Iyanla Vanzant and was awarded an NAACP Image Award this year.

In conjunction with Oprah’s Master Class, Sinclair created a “Finding Your Passion and Life’s Work” session, which he has presented to high school students and teachers. The sessions are based on one of Winfrey’s core beliefs that life is not random; instead it is unfolding in a purposeful way, and every experience people have teaches them something and is a lesson from which they can learn.

“People react very well to the presentations,” he said.

Sinclair said the show interviewed Lorne Michaels, the creator of Saturday Night Live, who said he goes by the “2 a.m. rule” when hiring people, meaning he only hires people he would still want to be around after the end of a long, hard day.

“Something that is important for students to know is that it’s one thing to be the smartest, most talented person in the room, but it’s another to be the one people want to have around,” Sinclair said. “It doesn’t necessarily reflect where you went to school or what your GPA was; it speaks to a person’s character. Those types of character traits will get you much further.”

Profile published on 4/10/14

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