Graduated Griffins: Adam Zyglis ’04

By Nathan Ress

Assistant Features Editor

Adam Zyglis is a current political cartoonist for The Buffalo News who got his start at Canisius College in 2001. He originally entered the College to pursue a dual degree in Computer Science and Mathematics, with a minor in studio art. He recognized the polar opposite nature of his desires from the very start, and took on the challenge as an effort to stimulate both sides of his brain. Zyglis Said, “It seems unrelated, but the skills were transferrable.” He noted h

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Zyglis in his office at The Buffalo News

ow the two areas of study worked together to stimulate his interests and push him in a positive direction.

While at Canisius this direction led him onto the staff of The Griffin as an editorial cartoonist. He was greatly influenced in this choice by various staff members he considered mentors, namely Tom Joyce and Mel Schrader, both professors in his day who are passed away now. Through their combined efforts, Zyglis began writing two cartoons a week for The Griffin. “I’ve always been interested in current events,” said Zyglis and the publication gave him an outlet for this as well as his artistic affinity.

Furthermore, Zyglis was also a member of the honors college, taking classes where he met the majority of his mentors. He cites this as a major highlight in his Canisius career, saying, “I owe a lot to the honors program.” At the height of this experience he wrote his senior thesis, a thesis that focused on his passion of editorial cartooning. He explored the nature and effects of this topic, its influence and dynamics, especially at a collegiate level. At that time this topic had not been explored heavily, and most of the existing literature was by scholars as opposed to cartoonists themselves. This thesis proved to be the final culmination of his four year experience, and Zyglis cites it as such – his crowning achievement.

Following Canisius College, Zyglis went to work as an editorial cartoonist at the Buffalo News, a position he has held for nearly 12 years. He refers to the Buffalo News as “a big extended family,” and speaks highly of the energy in the newsroom. He sees the newsroom as an environment full of diversity and fresh perspectives, a group of individuals from various backgrounds and ideals who come together as a conglomerate. It is not uncommon for him to take his ideas to several co-workers looking for feedback and inspiration. Zyglis is also fascinated by the instantaneous nature of the media today. He respects the immediate impact his work and his network can have on the public, specifically the Buffalo community.

In his own work, Zyglis has come to see the influence of the Jesuit ideals and education he received at Canisius College. He believes it takes the average cartoonist roughly ten years to find their own personal voice, and after his stay at the Buffalo News he now feels very comfortable with how he uses his influence. “The Jesuit voice has become really instrumental in my own voice as a cartoonist,” Zyglis said. With these ideals and values in mind, Zyglis has had the courage to point out issues of social justice, human rights, and empathy for those in need, all principle values of a Jesuit education. Zyglis is particularly interested in pointing out these values in the Buffalo community that he was raised in, and in which he has so much invested.

This investment in the city is something that Zyglis sees as a major facet of his work at the city’s primary news outlet. As a cartoonist Zyglis is able to visually represent the city, its people, and their views. “Buffalo as a community is really receptive,” Zyglis said. He cites the togetherness of the city, and believes that this coherency comes from the small size of the city. The people are closely knit and have been through everything as a unit. He looks back on the hard times that Buffalo has faced and overcome, and sees how these times have brought the community together and made it stronger. Buffalo is a city steeped in history, a history that Zyglis is happy to contribute to every day with his publications.

Zyglis sees his responsibility as an editorial cartoonist as “trying to engage in a long conversation with the readers.” To Zyglis the tightly knit nature of the community allows for this dialogue to take place, as well as flourish. He receives emails daily from readers encouraging him and his work. He also has learned to laugh off those emails that are less than encouraging. It is this dialogue that encourages him to do his best work, pushing forward for the betterment of the community as well as basic human rights.

Zyglis is from a small town, Alden, New York but now lives in the Parkside neighborhood with his wife and young family. As a member of the Buffalo community he has watched the recent flourishing with eager excitement and anticipation of further growth. “It’s been wonderful to watch it happen,” said Zyglis. He, like many other Buffalo residents, looks toward the progress of the Canalside park community as a shining example of Buffalo on the rise. “We’re all invested physically in that neighborhood,” said Zyglis, and sees the Canalside Park as having symbolic importance for Buffalo as a whole. He refers to Canalside as the “heart of the city,” seeing it as something for the community as a whole to look towards as a beacon for progress. With that said, he also knows that there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done, a sentiment that is reflected in his work, a large portion of which focuses on Buffalo.

As an alumnus of Canisius, Zyglis remains connected and aware of the community and the student body. To current students in need of a piece of advice, he has this to offer, “Be open to different forms of success that you didn’t plan for.” This goes hand in hand with the Jesuit value of being open to change. In Zyglis’ case he came to Canisius in search of a computer science degree and attained it, but achieved success in a radically different field. He encourages students not to stick to rigidly to a pre-determined plan, instead taking advantages of the opportunities that they encounter. He also notes the many connections that one can make at Canisius and encourages students to utilize those connections, seeing them as yet another resource offered by Canisius.

Currently Zyglis lives in Buffalo with his wife and child with another on the way. He is the current President of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. The AAEC is an association promoting the freedom and artistic value of editorial cartoonists. Zyglis sees this as his way of “doing [his] part to give back” to the broader editorial cartoonist population. He was a Pulitzer Prize winner in April 2015 for the body of work that he created in 2014 while at the Buffalo News. He is also a Canisius College Distinguished Alumni, as awarded in Fall 2015.

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