Canisius alum wins Pulitzer Prize

by CJ Gates


It was another typical Tuesday afternoon at The Buffalo News. Editorial cartoonist and Canisius graduate Adam Zyglis was at his desk working on that day’s cartoon when he suddenly heard shrieks coming from outside his office tucked into the corner of The Buffalo News’ newsroom. At nearly the same time, he began receiving congratulatory text messages from colleagues around the county. The video feed of the press conference that he was watching in his office was on a delay, so he was seemingly the last person to know: he had just won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning.

“The entire newsroom immediately started swarming toward my office,” Zyglis said in an email to the Griffin. “I was embraced with hugs and shouts… it was quite an emotional scene.”

Zyglis, who graduated from Canisius in 2004 majored in Computer Science, minored in Math with a concentration in Studio Arts, was hired by The Buffalo News just three months after graduating from Canisius.

It was at Canisius that Zyglis got his start as a cartoonist. He began doing cartoons for the Griffin in 2001 and produced two cartoons per week for the paper.

“Having that space in the newspaper to express my own voice in a creative way was extremely appealing,” Zyglis said, explaining what drove him to begin cartooning.

While working with the Griffin, Zyglis was mentored by a pair of Canisius professors: Tom Joyce, a Philosophy professor, and Mel Schroeder, who taught English.

“Both Tom Joyce and Mel Schroeder deserve a lot of credit for my development,” Zyglis said. “They mentored me with my thesis and with my work on the Griffin. Sadly both have passed away, but I know they’d be incredibly proud right now.”

Following Joyce’s passing in 2013, Zyglis wrote in the Griffin saying, “If it weren’t for him, I would have never been coaxed into joining the school paper, where I began my career as an editorial cartoonist.”

When Zyglis was a senior, he wrote his Honors Thesis on editorial cartooning which was followed by slew of awards and nominations for collegiate cartooning after which he began considering making a career out of it.

When he was hired by The Buffalo News straight out of college, he had big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Tom Toles had won a Pulitzer Prize with The Buffalo News in 1990 and had left the paper two years earlier when he was hired by The Washington Post in 2002. Zyglis said Toles reached out to him with a message of congratulations a few hours after the news broke of Zyglis’ win.

The Pulitzer committee cited Zyglis’ ability to use “strong images to connect with readers while conveying layers of meaning in a few words.”

Zyglis describes his method of creating a new cartoon as a three-part process, “developing the message, brainstorming a concept and then executing the artwork. The art takes me anywhere from 2-4 hours (including coloring) depending on the detail.”

As for where he gets his inspiration, Zyglis says he has a pretty disciplined routine of consuming as much news and information as possible early in the day. “Then I like to walk around a lot and talk to coworkers to get my mind working. I have a few other brainstorming techniques I use to develop ideas while thinking in my office.”

Zyglis’ cartoons span a wide range of topics from sports to politics, both national and local, to environmental issues.


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