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Acclaimed political cartoonist Tom Toles to be honored at UB’s annual Signature Series

Tom Toles’ editorial cartoons address such topics as freedom of speech, climate change, gun violence, Washington politics and the economy.

By BERT GAMBINI

Published April 8, 2016

“Editorial cartooning is the platypus of journalism. An improbable aggregation of information, politics, art, humor and opinion, with venom.”
Tom Toles, Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist and UB alumnus

Pulitzer Prize winner and Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles is UB’s honored guest for this year’s Signature Series, an annual event celebrating the university’s legacy of innovation and distinction in arts and letters.

A spring tradition at UB, the Signature Series features Toles, a UB alumnus (BA ’73), in an array of programming honoring his distinguished career and highlighting the university’s vibrant culture of creative excellence, ingenuity and imagination.

“The Signature Series is about celebrating the multifaceted role that the arts play in bringing our academic mission to life,” says President Satish K. Tripathi. “By provoking, persuading and capturing the imagination, they challenge us to constantly re-examine our ideas and beliefs — and the world around us — through new lenses. The art of editorial cartooning does all that and more, and we have the good fortune of claiming one of the world’s great practitioners of that art as our distinguished alumnus.

“We are thrilled to welcome Tom Toles back to UB — and we are very proud to say that the University at Buffalo is where his distinguished career began, with his work as a student on the Spectrum staff.”

The public and the UB community are invited to this year’s events, which include:

  • Talking Toles: Toles will be joined on stage by Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor of English and James Agee Professor American Culture, for a candid and in-depth dialogue about political commentary, journalism and Toles’ career. The conversation begins at 7 p.m. on April 14 in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall, North Campus.
  • Humor in Political Commentary: On April 15 at 2 p.m. in the Letro Courtroom in O’Brian Hall, Andy Stott, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, leads a panel discussion with Toles featuring UB faculty and students. This event has reached capacity and only preregistered guests will be able to attend.

An exhibit of Toles’ work featuring a range of his commentary on various issues and events opens at 4 p.m. April 14 in the Kaveeshwar Gallery on the fifth floor of Capen Hall, North Campus. The exhibit covers a broad expanse of Toles’ career arc, beginning with selections from his time at the UB Spectrum to his personally selected 2015 and 2016 favorites from the Washington Post addressing such topics as freedom of speech, climate change, gun violence, Washington politics and the economy.

All Signature Series events are free, but advance registration is requested.

Known for his incisive political commentary and deftness with a drawing pen, Toles, who, regardless of the subject, usually has the last word articulated by his tiny self-portrait at the drawing board in the lower right-hand corner of his panels, was previously editorial cartoonist for U.S. News & World Report, New Republic, New York Daily News, The Buffalo News and the Buffalo Courier-Express.

“Editorial cartooning is the platypus of journalism. An improbable aggregation of information, politics, art, humor and opinion, with venom,” says Toles. “I get up every day and ask myself, ‘What needs saying?’ followed by ‘How can I best say that?’ It is demanding and controversial and difficult, and a damn lot of fun.”

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize (1990), his honors include the Herblock Cartooning Prize, National Cartoonists’ Society Best Editorial Cartoons, National Headliner Award, Overseas Press Club Thomas Nast Award and National Press Club Order of the Owl.

Long committed to environment concerns, Toles has received the National Wildlife Federation’s Conservation Achievement Award and The Wilderness Society’s Aldo Leopold Award for Distinguished Editorial Writing.

He is also the author of several books and has written and performed in an original musical comedy.