Alexia Foundation becomes part of Newhouse School

Alexia Tsairis in Rinchnach, Germany, November 1988. Photo by Emil Hoffman.

After 30 years of promoting photojournalism as a tool for social justice, the Alexia Foundation for World Peace has now become part of the Newhouse School at Syracuse University.

Dr. Peter and Aphrodite Tsairis established the foundation in 1991 to honor their daughter, Alexia Tsairis. Alexia was a 20-year-old photography major at the Newhouse School when she was killed in the bombing of Pan Am 103 in December 1988 as she was returning home from a semester abroad in London.

“Our partnership with Newhouse has been a true and lasting testament to Alexia’s legacy,” the Tsairises said. “As a student, she was proud to be part of the Newhouse community.” 

The Alexia Foundation was formed in partnership with the Newhouse School with the mission to promote the power of photojournalism to give voice to social injustice, and to support photographers as agents for change. Since its founding, the foundation has awarded over 1.7 million in grants to 170 student and professional photographers through annual competitions.

Young Black children at a campground in South Carolina.
Photo by Peggie Peattie, the first recipient of the Alexia Foundation professional grant in 1997.

“The Alexia Foundation grant had an enormous impact on my approach to visual storytelling,” says Peggy Peattie, winner of the first professional grant. “As a professional photographer who had covered an amazing variety of breaking news, feature stories and sporting events, I took a leap of faith and left it all to dive deep into a story that it seemed no one was willing to confront. Winning the Alexia grant not only gave me the confidence I needed to immerse myself in the project by validating my instincts, but gave me a supportive family of mentors, promoted my work and supplied the funds I needed to complete the project. Staying involved with the Alexia family over the years has kept me informed on critical ways of seeing, and of interpreting our role as documentary photographers and how we interact with the communities we are photographing.”

Katie Orlinsky was the recipient of the student grant in 2012, which supported her work documenting the innocent victims of the Mexican Drug War, and the professional grant in 2019, which allowed her to continue documenting Alaskan communities on the front lines of climate change.

“The Alexia Foundation has meant so much to me, offering me the support I needed at two of the most pivotal points in my career,” she says. “But more importantly, providing the resources needed to raise awareness and impact change on crucial issues.”

A woman tying a horse trailer as her boss watches
Photo by Tamara Voninski, the first recipient of the Alexia Foundation student grant in 1991.

Mike Davis, who has served as Newhouse’s Alexia Tsairis Chair for Documentary Photography for the past seven years, will continue to direct the competition, now supported by the Alexia Tsairis Competition Grants Fund.

“Thanks to the generosity of Peter and Aphrodite, we’ll be able to expand upon the Alexia Foundation’s mission of supporting significant visual storytelling for years to come,” Davis says.

To support these efforts, you may give online (click “Choose another Newhouse Department or Program Fund” and then select “Alexia Tsairis Competition Grants Fund” from the menu), or mail your check, payable to Syracuse University, to: Syracuse University Advancement Services, 640 Skytop Road 2nd Floor, Syracuse NY 13244.