Cynthia Syperek - Director of Programming

Oct. 30, 2012 by Nicole V. Rohr

Cynthia Syperek, Director of Programming

Director of Programming Cynthia Syperek thought back, trying to remember how long she has worked at WYCC PBS Chicago. She recalls that her now 21-year-old son was only 3 months old at the time she got the job.

“I don’t have to do math. That’s the easiest way for me to tell you how long I’ve worked here… So, 21 years I’ve been here,” Syperek explained, laughing. Then she jokingly whispered, “I started when I was 12. I was a child prodigy.”

Syperek, who just returned to work from maternity leave after the birth of her third son, Matthew, began at WYCC in master control in 1991. Her professional life and her family life have revolved around public broadcasting ever since she can remember, so when she was awarded a scholarship for her master’s studies in Public Telecommunications Management, she took the opportunity.

She attended Ohio University, and returned to a hybrid position at WYCC, which combined master control, traffic and programming, then continued on to work full-time in programming. Syperek began attending PBS conferences, and her passion for public media was only enhanced. In fact, she is known as the resident WYCC mystery enthusiast.

“I just love mysteries. LOVE mysteries. All capital letters,” she said, laughing. Agatha Christie is my all-time favorite author, and Miss Marple, I think, is just the most amazing detective, and so many of the newer detectives [like Hetty Wainthropp] have a lot of elements from those tried and true detectives.”

Syperek draws on this love for mysteries, and her performance background, to host our holiday mystery marathons each year at the station. As one can only assume from the photo, she was in the circus – as an aerialist in a touring circus and for Gamma Phi Circus at Illinois State University.

When WYCC producers first asked her to appear on-air for the pledge breaks, Syperek answered, “Okay, I guess there is some of that performer that comes out and makes it a bit natural. My mom was a performer... She was a singer and a dancer, so I think there’s some of that in [my] blood.”

So, Syperek films her pledge breaks, heads up the programming department, and then goes home at the end of the day to her husband and three boys, including 3-month-old Matthew and 4-year-old Thomas. She balances a lot, and while a certain writer is trying to avoid the overuse of circus terminology, Syperek often draws on that experience to describe her current path in life, and the team of professionals at WYCC.

“It’s not enough just to do one thing,” she said. “You can’t just juggle, you have to ride the unicycle. You can’t just do the trapeze, you have to know how to put the rig up. And that’s what we have here: We have some folks who have got a lot of talent. And when we work together as a team, there’s just nothing that we can’t do.”

Syperek said that her husband, Tom, who works for the United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), is very supportive and contributes to the team effort needed to raise two young boys. Tom and Cindy have been married for 12 years, and one of his favorite qualities about her was her passion for her work.

They met when Cindy worked at WYCC when it was located at Daley College. Tom was then a UPS driver and made deliveries to the station on his route. The first time he showed up with a delivery, he met Cindy. The two did not speak again for a few years, and then were surprisingly reconnected by mutual friends.

“We both remembered. He was like, ‘Were you the one… That was you!’ So, we were destined,” Syperek said. “See, those are the kind of stories I love because it seems to me that that is a ‘meant-to-be.’ You know, you were meant to cross paths and… so many times, you walk right by them and don’t know it.”

There are many points in her life that have sent her in the direction of PBS, and specifically to WYCC. “I just love it,” Syperek said. “It was a very nice coincidence that I’ve always been PBS my whole entire life. My entire television career has been public broadcasting, and to have Masterpiece Mystery as a part of it… it makes sense. It makes me very passionate for what we do.” 

Syperek, who has seen many changes in management and technology during her 21 years, looks forward to a heavier focus on children’s programming through the WYCC Kids Club and Ready to Learn initiatives.

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