When the Riverside-Brookfield High School Class of 1961 returned this past weekend for their 50th reunion, it also saw the return of one of the class’ most distinguished members, Jack Dykinga.

His story as a photographer began when snapped pictures for RBHS’ school paper, The Clarion. While he was in high school, Dykinga won a Look Magazine photography contest, and his hobby was soon to be his profession, starting with taking pictures of celebrities as they came to O’Hare airport.

From there, Dykinga was hired by the Chicago Tribune, where he saw a different side of life through the lens by photographing presidents and astronauts as well as civil rights marches and the riots that tore through Chicago in the 1960s.

His crowning moment came as he photographed overcrowded conditions in a state mental institution. One of those pictures won him the Pulitzer Prize for photography in 1971.

Wanting a change of view from behind the camera, Dykinga moved his family to Tucson, Ariz., where nature became the subject of his pictures. He traveled the globe, taking photographs that would end up in various publications, including National Geographic.

While in town last week for his reunion, Dykinga gave a slide presentation of his work to RBHS students, faculty and friends while explaining the venues, subjects and techniques he uses.

His visit to the high school included an interview for RBTV by student Marie Morgenthaler, who said she found Dykinga to be very interesting and his pictures “breathtaking” and “phenomenal” after reading about him on his website.

She also had the chance to meet the man whose plaque is on the Alumni Achievement Medal wall in the high school. Dykinga received the award in 2001.

The Pulitzer Prize winner continues his passion for the environment, learning about conservation and spending quiet times at his favorite place, El Camino de Diablo on the Mexico-Arizona border.