Published May 1, 2023
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) alum Marcus Yam, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and foreign correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, will be awarded the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal May 20 at the first of two SEAS graduate commencement ceremonies.
The University at Buffalo’s highest honor, the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal is presented annually in public recognition of a person who has, in Norton’s words, “performed some great thing which is identified with Buffalo … a great civic or political act, a great book, a great work of art, a great scientific achievement or any other thing which, in itself, is truly great and ennobling, and which dignifies the performer and Buffalo in the eyes of the world.”
Yam came to UB from his home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering. Although he aspired to become a NASA astronaut, he discovered his passion for photography during a stint at UB’s student newspaper, The Spectrum, and an internship with The Buffalo News.
Now a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner and roving foreign correspondent and photographer for the L.A. Times, Yam has brought his viewers to the frontlines of conflict, struggle and intimacy. He credits his analytical, technical approach to photography to his UB education in engineering.
“Marcus is a prime example of how our SEAS alumni are well-rounded scholars who use their engineering skills to better the world in a variety of ways,” says Kemper Lewis, dean of SEAS. “That he was disciplined enough to balance photography with the rigors of earning an engineering degree speaks volumes. So it comes as no surprise that he has found so much success in his chosen field."
In 2022, Yam won the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for images documenting the U.S. departure from Afghanistan. In 2016, he was part of the L.A. Times’ Pulitzer Prize-winning news team that covered the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack. In 2015, as a photojournalist for the Seattle Times, he shared the Pulitzer for breaking news reporting of the deadly landslide in Oso, Washington.
His conflict reporting is widely recognized. In 2023, Yam was named a recipient of the Robert Capa Gold Medal for his courage and enterprise while photographing the devastation of the war in Ukraine with nuance and poetry. Yam is also a two-time recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award, including in 2019 for his unflinching photos documenting the everyday plight of citizens during deadly clashes in the Gaza Strip.
His work has also earned him an Emmy Award for News and Documentary, a World Press Photo Award, a DART Award for Trauma Coverage, a Scripps Howard Visual Journalism Award, Picture of the Year International’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year Award, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award, National Headliner Award, the Society of Publishers in Asia Award and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award.