Three decades after Pan Am bombing, The Alexia continues to honor visual storytellers

On Dec. 21, 1988, Alexia Tsairis was killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The 20-year-old Newhouse photography major was one of 35 Syracuse University students returning home from a semester abroad when they were killed in the terrorist act.

More than 30 years later, the University continues to remember those students through the Remembrance Scholars, Lockerbie Scholars and annual Remembrance Week events. At the Newhouse School, The Alexia (formerly the Alexia Foundation) pays homage to Tsairis’ memory through an annual grant competition that supports student and professional visual storytellers who give voice to social justice issues.

“Alexia’s parents, Peter and Aphrodite Tsairis, along with her professor David Sutherland, created the Alexia Foundation for World Peace and Cultural Understanding in 1991 to honor Alexia’s photojournalism dream,” says current Alexia Tsairis chair for documentary studies Bruce Strong. “Through competitive grants, scholarships and special projects, it has promoted the power of visual storytelling to shed light on significant issues around the world; supported photographers, filmmakers and other visual creatives as agents for change; and helped us all recognize that cultural difference is a strength.”

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

The Alexia fosters visual storytellers of all kinds, recognizing them as agents of change through work that helps give a voice to the unheard, promotes understanding and exposes social injustice. The annual competition has disbursed almost $2 million in grants to 170 student and professional photographers.

The submission period for the 2021 Alexia grant competition will open Jan. 11. For more information, contact Bruce Strong at brstrong@syr.edu.

A Black woman sitting in front of a vanity mirror next to a cake that has a burning 35 candle on it.
Cornell Watson collection, “Behind the Mask” (2020 professional grant winner)
A young native woman signs a memorial in a field.
Amber Bracken collection, “Generations” (2020 professional grant runner-up)
A senior man in a hospital bed talks to a woman in an iPad, held by a nurse in personal protective gear.
Isadora Kosofsky collection, “Permanent and Unknown” (2020 Professional Award of Excellence winner)
Papa and Mama Monét.
Leonidas Enetanya collection, “The Monét Archives” (2020 student grant winner)
A black and white image of a woman staring pensively to the right, her hand over her mouth.
Michele Abercrombie collection, “we live(d) in our heads” (2020 Student Award of Excellence winner)
A series rearview mirrors in a car reflect the driver.
Zilan Imsik collection, “Where is Home?” (2020 student grant runner-up)