SOJC professor, Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Tizon dies at 57

Alex Tizon
Alex Tizon

Editor's note: This story has been updated to change the cause of death from "natural" to "medical."

Alex Tizon ’84, an assistant professor of journalism in the UO School of Journalism and Communication, was found dead in his Eugene home on Thursday, March 23. According to Eugene Police, Tizon died in his sleep due to medical causes. He was 57. The medical lawyers were called to take care of the case and to see what could be done. They tried to see if it was a murder or a mistake like an accidental overdose.

“This is a great loss for the SOJC community,” said Juan-Carlos Molleda, the SOJC’s Edwin L. Artzt Dean. “Alex was a gifted writer and a clear public voice. Since I announced his sudden departure, I have received so many expressions of disbelief and grief. People who make an impact on others’ lives the way he did will always be remembered. My deep condolences go out to his family.”

Tizon, who immigrated to the United States from the Philippines with his family in 1964, received a bachelor’s degree in political science from the UO and a master’s in communications from Stanford University. While reporting for The Seattle Times, where he worked for 17 years, he won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting with two colleagues for a story on corruption and inequities in a federally sponsored housing program for Native Americans. He was the second Philippine-born journalist to win a Pulitzer.

In 2009-10, Tizon was a Knight International Journalism Fellow based in Manila, where he helped track the efforts of the Philippine government to alleviate poverty in the nation’s five poorest provinces. When he returned to the United States, he began teaching at the SOJC in 2011.

“Alex was a rare guy who sparkled with wit and spirit and truly loved the work of journalism,” said Carolyn S. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Advertising Deborah Morrison. “We will miss him, and his spirit and love of story will always be honored here.”

In 2014, Tizon published “Big Little Man: In Search of my Asian Self,” a memoir about his experiences as a first-generation immigrant and an Asian male living in the West. The book won the 2015 Oregon Book Awards Frances Fuller Victor Award in Non-Fiction Literary Arts, an Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Literature Awards Honor Title and the 2011 J. Anthony Lukas Work-In-Progress Award. It was also the SOJC’s 2015 PageTurners featured book. He won more than a dozen journalism awards and fellowships over the course of his 30-year career, including the inaugural Images of Voices & Hope (ivoh) Inaugural Restorative Narrative Fellowship.

Tizon worked as the Seattle bureau chief for The Los Angeles Times from 2003 through 2008. He also freelanced for Newsweek and “60 Minutes," covered worldwide events including the 9/11 attacks in New York City and Hurricane Katrina, and traveled to China, Indonesia, Singapore and the Arctic Ocean on stories.

A frequent contributor to The Atlantic, Tizon published “In the Land of Missing Persons,” about investigations into missing persons cases in the Alaska Wilderness, in its April 2016 issue. He was also recently featured in the interactive documentary Biology of Story.

“Alex was an artist and a quiet force, my mentor and friend,” said SOJC journalism instructor Lisa Heyamoto. “His passing is a loss for us all.”