UC Berkeley News


Photography prize launched in memory of Matt Lyon
Annual award will recognize undergraduate photographers

| 17 March 2004


Matt Lyon, Berkeley’s assistant vice chancellor for public affairs from 1999 until his death in 2002, developed his love of photography at a young age. He carried his camera with him everywhere as a teenager, says his wife, and he captured the snowy New England landscape above in 1972.
Matt Lyon photo

When former Assistant Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Matt Lyon died in February 2002 at the age of 45, many at Berkeley were surprised to learn of the breadth of his talents outside the campus setting. Those who knew him as a strategic communicator, speechwriter, and political strategist also learned that he was an accomplished author, artist, architect, and photographer as well.

Recognizing those artistic passions, Lyon’s family and friends have endowed in his memory the Matthew M. Lyon Prize in Photography, a $1,000 award for a Berkeley undergraduate, recognizing excellence in fine art, documentary, or any other form of photography.

The deadline for applications for the first Lyon Prize is April 16. The prize is administered by the College of Environmental Design.

“Of all the ways in which Matt’s memory could be honored, a prize for aspiring young photographers is by far the most appropriate,” said his wife, Katie Hafner, who was the driving force in establishing the prize. “Matt fostered talent wherever he spotted it.... He would take delight in knowing that a lifelong passion of his is inspiring new generations of photographers.”

Lyon came to Berkeley in January 1999 to lead the Office of Public Affairs, overseeing media and government relations, university print and online communications (including the Berkeleyan), and programs for parents and visitors. At Berkeley he rejoined Chancellor Robert Berdahl — with whom he had worked closely when Berdahl was president of the University of Texas at Austin, serving initially as his speechwriter and later as a key figure in that campus’s public-affairs operation.

An avid fan of Cal basketball, Lyon had accompanied the men’s team to an away game in Seattle on Feb. 16, 2002, when he collapsed while working out with his friend, Cal Coach Ben Braun, and died of a heart attack.

His career had focused on writing, politics, and higher education. He was a stringer for The New York Times, an associate editor of the Texas Observer, and wrote a best-selling book with his wife, Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet. In the 1980s he did speechwriting and press work for Texas elected officials, including then-Governor Mark White, and in 1987 he was national issues director for U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt (D-Missouri), who was running for president.

At Berkeley, Lyon was active in the arts: he was a member of the board of the campus’s Consortium for the Arts and revitalized the annual competition for the Dorothea Lange Fellowship in documentary photography.

“Photography was something he had loved since childhood,” said Hafner. “As a teenager, he carried his camera with him everywhere. He developed his own film and made his own prints. Everyone and everything was a potential subject.”

Student applicants for the Lyon Prize should submit six to eight photographs (prints only, not slides or CDs) and a written description of their work.

For complete details on the prize, submitting an application, or contributing to the endowment, visit www.berkeley.edu/lyon.