Forty-eight years have passed since George Lombardi first became involved in WSHU Public Radio at Sacred Heart University, back when he was a student here and started working at the station as an engineer. When something broke, Lombardi fixed it, set it up, or rewired it.
After graduation, Lombardi left WSHU to pursue a career in industry. He worked as a lab technician for Raybestos-Manhattan, a company that specialized in making car parts, and then he worked as a technical purchasing buyer at Perkin Elmer. But it wasn’t long before Lombardi was back at WSHU.
More than 40 years later, he still performs some engineering work, but as general manager of WSHU, he spends a typical day working on fundraising and programming for the station.
Lombardi had the vision of making WSHU an affiliate of National Public Radio (NPR), and he was able to raise enough funds to make it happen 1983. Since then, his leadership and vision have helped WSHU expand its audience to almost 300,000 weekly listeners. The station also syndicates Sunday Baroque to public radio stations across the country.
The station has won five national and 10 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards, along with dozens of awards from the Associated Press, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, Society of Professional Journalists and the Fair Media Council, all under Lombardi’s leadership. It also has
grown tremendously over the years. Once run by the Diocese of Bridgeport, WSHU operated in what is now home to the Theatre Arts and University Band programs and the Department of Public Safety. The station then moved to the Cape Cod-styled house in the parking lot right outside Toussaint Hall, while the development offices remained in Sacred Heart’s satellite campus in Trumbull.
Soon, WSHU will move to its new home on campus: a building with two full studios, four editing suites, a conference room and the George Lombardi Lobby.
The new facility will unite everyone—something Lombardi is excited to see. “Moving to the new building will bring everyone back together again,” says Lombardi, who hopes this move will improve communications.
“WSHU is getting the home it deserves, and George is largely responsible for that. He has had a great deal of influence on the station, and it wouldn’t be what it is today without his leadership, professionalism and dedication,” said John J. Petillo, president of Sacred Heart University. “It is fitting to name the lobby after George. He certainly deserves it.”
Though the new WSHU building will bring advanced innovation and technology, Lombardi will miss some things about the little house on Jefferson Street. For him, it’s a place that holds many memories, from bringing people in for election night, to troubleshooting how to work around snow storms. Through all his years with WSHU, the staff always made do with what was available and thrived. It may be a small operation, but as Lombardi says, “a little bubblegum can go a long way.”
Now, whenever he walks in to work each morning and passes through the George Lombardi Lobby, he will have a reminder of all he has accomplished at WSHU—a recognition of how far he has brought the station. On those occasions, his mind most likely will be strategizing on its future.