The AAEC/John Locher Memorial Award was founded in 1986 by members of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC). They felt the need to establish an award that would not only honor the memory of John Locher but also would help discover young cartoonists and stimulate interest in editorial cartooning among college-age students in North America.
The Locher Award was named in honor of the late son of Dick and Mary Locher. Dick Locher is a Pulitzer-prize winning editorial cartoonist. He was also both the author and artist for the "Dick Tracy" comic strip until his retirement in 2011.
While participating as a panelist in the 1986 Ohio Comicon held at Ohio State University, Dick was approached by Hy Rosen, cartoonist for the Albany Times Union, and Andy Donato, cartoonist for the Toronto Sun, with the idea for the award. The final format of the award was determined at that fall meeting.
The first competition was launched in January of 1987. The entries were judged by Donato, Rosen, Locher, Brian Basset, cartoonist for the Seattle Times and John Trever, cartoonist for the Albuquerque Journal. The first winner of the award at the convention in Washington, D. C. was Kevin Siers, a student at the University of Minnesota. Following his winning the award, Kevin was offered and accepted the cartoonist's position on the Charlotte Observer editorial board.
Since 1987 the Locher Award has been won by consistently outstanding young cartoonists.
Dick, and his wife, Mary, made the initial contribution to the AAEC/John Locher Memorial Award fund. The idea of the award was then presented to the Chicago Tribune and the Tribune Media Syndicate. Both were enthusiastic about the concept of the award and gave added support through their financial donations. The award fund has been added to since then through contributions of members of the AAEC and other private donations. The Lochers have been assisted every year by the AAEC's management firm since the inception of the Award.
In 1992 Dick, Mary and AAEC president Brian Basset discussed ways in which the Award could be made a permanent, continuing contest. Basset in turn discussed the situation with Lucy Caswell, Associate Professor and Curator of the Cartoon, Graphic, and Photographic Arts Research Library (CGA) at The Ohio State University. In 1994 the Locher Award was included in the by-laws of the AAEC.
Through the generosity of the Chicago Tribune Foundation, Universal Press Syndicate, Cartoonist & Writers Syndicate, friends and members of the AAEC, enough money was raised to endow the funds for the award. The Ohio State University trustees at their June 2, 1995 meeting officially endowed the fund. Each year, originals of the winning cartoons, the biography of the winner and all other related materials are placed in the Locher Memorial Award archives at the University in the CGA Library.
In 2015, to reflect the changing nature of the profession, the Locher Award was opened to all full-time student cartoonists, including web cartoonists and graphic journalists, ages 17-25.
Anyone interested in contributing to the fund can send a contribution to to the OSU Cartoon Research Library, 023L Wexner, Columbus, OH 43216-1393. Please make your check payable to Ohio State University with the AAEC/John Locher Memorial Award listed in the note section.