Topics: Alumni, College of Communication Information and Media

August 28, 2007

Innovative and award-winning late night talk show host and comedian David Letterman began his acclaimed broadcasting career as a student at Ball State, on WBST-FM, now part of Indiana Public Radio. In the mid-1980s, he assisted in the creation of the student-run radio station WCRD-FM. Today, both radio stations are among the occupants of the $21 million communication and media building that bears Letterman's name.

A telecommunications major who graduated in Ball State's Class of 1969, Letterman has introduced millions of television viewers to the university through frequent references to his alma mater on The Late Show with David Letterman on CBS. Since 1985, he has funded annual scholarships for Ball State telecommunications students who submit creative projects to qualify for one of the $10,000, $5,000, or $3,333 awards.

After earning his Ball State diploma, Letterman worked as a weatherman and reporter for WTHR-TV in Indianapolis. Later, in California, he was a writer for several popular sitcoms and a stand-up comedian—catching the attention of NBC's The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. By 1978, Letterman was named permanent guest host for the legendary Carson, whom he today calls his mentor.

On Feb. 1, 1982, NBC premiered Late Night with David Letterman, giving the Ball State favorite son his own national spotlight immediately following Carson's broadcast. Letterman moved to CBS 11 years later to host The Late Show, a program that continues to deliver—in the eyes of television critics and casual viewers alike—some of the most inventive and imaginative comedy to be found in any medium today. To date, Letterman's late night programs have garnered 97 Emmy nominations and won 16 of the awards. In 1992, the program was recognized with a prestigious George Foster Peabody Award.