Alumnus joins ever-growing list of RIT graduates to win Pulitzer Prize

Evan Vucci ’00 becomes 11th graduate to win top award honoring journalism excellence

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Demonstrators overturn a car on May 31, 2020, as they protest the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. This photo was part of the Pulitzer Prize-winning entry.

When Evan Vucci ’00 (professional photographic illustration) was part of a 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning team announced June 11, he joined an ever-growing list of journalism’s top award winners with Rochester Institute of Technology connections.

The chief photographer for the Associated Press (AP) in Washington, D.C., helped the AP photography staff win the top prize in Breaking News Photography for a collection of compelling photographs from multiple U.S. cities that cohesively captures the country’s response to the police killing of George Floyd.

Vucci becomes one of 11 RIT graduates who have now won a combined 15 Pulitzer Prizes.

“When they announced the award, I couldn’t believe it,” said Vucci, who watched the awards ceremony virtually from his D.C. home with his wife and two daughters. “It was very special; my wife took a video with my kids. It was a really nice moment.”

“I’m not much of an awards guy, but I was very happy and proud—especially watching it with my family,” he added. “I was shocked how happy I was.”

Vucci had two photos submitted among the 10-member AP photo team judged on 20 images. One of his photos from June 4, 2020, shows demonstrators protesting in the driving rain near the White House in Washington, D.C. Another powerful shot captures demonstrators overturning a car on May 31, 2020, as they protest the death of Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers.

The Olney, Md., native, who joined AP as a photographer in 2003, said he was particularly honored because “one day we’ll look at 2020 the same way we did 1968 as far as American history.”

“It’s exactly why you want to become a photographer, especially why you want to become a photojournalist, to do this kind of work truly documenting history,” he said. “To see that recognized is unbelievable, and to achieve that with your friends and peers is even better.”

“When the time came for us to carry on the legacy of the Associated Press, we didn’t falter,” he added. “We were able to continue the strong AP legacy … there’s some big footsteps to follow here and what I’m most proud of.”

While it’s been more than two decades since graduating from RIT, Vucci said he continues to hearken back to his days at the university and credits former School of Photographic Arts and Sciences (SPAS) chair Bill DuBois with giving him the passion for photography he still carries with him today.

“His excitement for photography was infectious … he made it fun with his passion,” Vucci recalled. “I knew right away I made the right decision to get into photography, and that I was in the right place.”

William Snyder, SPAS professor, a four-time Pulitzer winner, and the former director of photography at The Dallas Morning News, said RIT’s extraordinary photo school faculty with its diverse experience and teaching styles sets the school apart.

“At RIT, we have literally dozens of faculty who have a significant influence on photojournalism students’ style and perspective,” he said. “The photojournalism program has embraced that variety and versatility of style with its strong focus on storytelling, which allows students to develop their own unique voice and vision. That’s what separates us—and our alumni like Evan—in our work.”

Other RIT Pulitzer winners

Here is more on the other RIT graduates who have won Pulitzer Prizes:

William Snyder ’81, winner of Pulitzer Prizes in 1989, 1991, 1993 and 2006 while working for The Dallas Morning News. Snyder was honored in 1989 in the Explanatory Journalism category. Snyder was part of a three-person team that reported how the National Transportation Safety Board conducts air-crash investigations following a crash in 1986. In 1991, Snyder won a Pulitzer in the Feature Photography category for his images of ill and orphaned children living in deplorable conditions in Romania. Snyder and Ken Geiger ’11 won in the Spot News category in 1993 for their images of the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Under Snyder’s leadership as director of photography at The Dallas Morning News, the staff earned a Pulitzer in 2006 in the Breaking News Photography category for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Chloe Coleman ‘13, an award-winning photo editor with The Washington Post since 2014, helped the newspaper staff win the top prize in Explanatory Reporting in 2020 for its series that used temperature data from across the globe to examine places where warming has already exceeded the two degrees Celsius threshold—the global community’s accepted limitation of temperature growth to avoid significant and potentially catastrophic changes to the planet.

David Wallace ’01, a photographer with The Arizona Republic, helped the newspaper staff and the USA TODAY NETWORK win the prize for explanatory reporting for a project on President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, which included more than a dozen stories and documentary videos, a podcast series and a digital map with video of every foot of the 2,000-mile border showing existing fencing.

Robert Bukaty ’82 and Dan Loh ’95, winners of Pulitzer Prize in 1999 while working for The Associated Press. Bukaty and Loh were part of the AP photography staff honored in the Feature Photography category for their series of images of the key players and events surrounding President Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and the impeachment hearings.

Paul Benoit ’76, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1979 in the Feature Photography category while working for Boston Herald-American. Benoit and members of the paper’s photography staff won for their coverage of the blizzard of 1978.

Stan Grossfeld ’73, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes in 1984 and 1985 while working for The Boston Globe. Grossfeld won in 1984 in the Spot News category for his series of photographs revealing the effects of war on the people of Lebanon. In 1985, he earned a Pulitzer in the Feature Photography category for a portfolio of images of the famine in Ethiopia and of illegal aliens on the Mexican border. Grossfeld was also among the finalists for Pulitzers in 1984, 1994 and 1996.

Anthony Suau ’78, winner of Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for Feature Photography while at The Denver Post, for a portfolio of images depicting the tragic effects of starvation in Ethiopia and for a single photograph of a woman at her husband’s gravesite on Memorial Day.

David Carson ’94, part of the photography staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography in 2015. The award was for the newspaper’s coverage of the events in Ferguson, Mo., following the police shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a white police officer.