ACU graduate David Leeson wins Pulitzer Prize
For almost two months last year, Meyer and Leeson were journalists imbedded with U.S. forces advancing on Baghdad. Meyer was with the Marines' Second Tank Battalion and Leeson with the Army's Third Infantry Division. Their gripping photos also appeared on the pages of other major daily newspapers around the world.
A four-time Pulitzer finalist (1986, 1995, 1990 and 2004), Leeson has received other major honors, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Outstanding Coverage of the Problems of the Disadvantaged. His work for ACU's alumni magazine, ACU Today, also has won major photography awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.
"From the first the first time I met David in the late 1970s when he was majoring in news/editorial, I could tell he was a talented young man. He had this sense of what it took to get a story. He understood how to look for one, and more important, how to tell it," said Dr. Charlie Marler, ACU professor emeritus of journalism and mass communication and one of Leeson's former teachers. "He has such a heart for his subjects and such a heart for telling their story from a unique vantage point."
"One of the first people I thought about today is Dr. Marler, and I'm about to call him to thank him for the work he's done in my life, and for the encouragement I received from him and others at ACU," Leeson said. "They have played a very powerful and influential role in my life and career."
An Abilene native, Leeson worked for the Abilene Reporter-News(1977-82, The Times-Picayune/The States Item in New Orleans (1982-84), and joined the Morning News staff in 1984. He has covered armed conflicts in Angola, Kuwait and Nicaragua; civil war in Panama, Peru and Sudan; apartheid in South Africa; homelessness in Dallas; the Gulf War, earthquakes in Turkey, and death row in American prisons.
"I've always said that David would be our first alumnus to earn a Pulitzer or get shot trying. And since he's been shot (Panama) and held captive (El Salvador) at least once, I'm not surprised he's won this recognition," said Dr. Cheryl Bacon, professor and chair of ACU's JMC department. "David brings a passion and sensitivity to his work that is rooted in a deep concern for humanity. He understands the ways in which people learn about and are affected by photographs. David knows an image that is preserved and passed on will affect people in many different ways. And he respects that power."
Leeson said the announcement left him with mixed emotions.
"The initial feeling is one of relief because so many people have believed in me and had confidence in me. I didn't want to let them down," Leeson said. "It's bittersweet because this award is received in memory of all those who have fallen in battle in Iraq. While I've been able to celebrate this victory, so many American sons have never come home. I haven't lost sight of that in the middle of this joy. I'd give the award back today and slip away into obscurity if those guys could come back.
"Ultimately, I hope this gives additional life to the images we captured so that future generations can see what the price of freedom is. And it's gratityfing that these images will immortalize the courage of the guys of Task Force 2-69 Armored of Fort Benning, Ga.," Leeson said.
John Best, general manager of KACU-FM and adjunct instructor of journalism and mass communication at ACU, was Leeson's first photo editor at the Abilene Reporter-News in 1981.
"David was one of those people who went beyond the expected," Best said. "He has the innate ability to look through a lens - a 24x36mm frame - and see the shape of things as well as the content, and then translate that to an image that communicates. Part of it can be learned. The rest is a gift from God."
Pulitzer Prize article in the Abilene Reporter News
Pulitzer Prize article in The Optimist (ACU student newspaper)
Slide show on Dallas Morning News Web site of Leeson's recent work:
Profile of Anderson and Leeson in The Optimist (ACU student newspaper)
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