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GFS Alumnus Gave Voice to the Voiceless

Journalist Chris Allen ‘09 Honored Through New Lecture Series

Chris Allen’s drive to tell complex, untold stories was born at GFS. 

“He had incredible energy and passion for life and was really big-hearted," said Anne Gerbner, retired GFS English teacher. “Very independent as a thinker, he did not accept anything anyone told him unless he could see it for himself.”

At GFS, Chris was a prodigious writer, able to write two pages for everybody else’s one. Gerbner clearly remembers a complex piece he tackled comparing Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe” to works by Derek Walcott and Jamaica Kincaid. 

“He soaked up information very easily and explained his ideas cleverly and clearly,” recalls Gerbner. “He was brave, with a fearless questioning spirit, and he wanted to tell the truth of what he saw. I think these qualities may have propelled him into being a reporter on the front.”

As a journalist, Chris reported from both Ukraine on the war in the Donbas region and South Sudan on the civil war there. His ability to unveil complexities first noted by Gerbner, marked his work. 

“He covered the hard realities on the ground but always explained the complex issues behind the scenes,” she said. “He never reduced anything to its simplest denominator.”
“. . . I came here to get as close to the conflict as I could. I believed there was an important story to be told. What I found was a situation immune to the reductive efforts of the media to define and describe it . . . my goal was always to get close to active sites of conflict rather than report on the collateral damage left in its wake.”
- Chris Allen in the “Pennsylvania Gazette” on being embedded with Donbas Battalion, Ukraine, 2014


In South Sudan, embedded with a rebel faction that was attempting to overthrow the government in Juba, Chris immersed himself in their community. During a skirmish in Kaya, Chris was targeted by government forces and killed on August 26, 2017.

The Christopher Allen '09 Fund was recently established by his parents, Joyce Krajian and John Allen, to support a lecture series in journalism to honor Chris's memory and his commitment to practicing journalism from under-reported areas of the world. 

His parents recall that he was compelled by fairness and justice. 

“He loved hearing stories and telling stories and understanding what motivated people. He wanted to understand what went on inside people,” they said.

The series will feature eminent journalists and writers who explore the human experience through their work both at home and abroad. The inaugural lecture, featuring Rebecca Vincent, Director of Campaigns for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), will be February 23. In her role, she campaigns in support of journalists and journalism around the world. While here, she will meet with GFS students to share her experiences and answer questions.


Vincent has been working closely with Christopher’s family in the campaign for justice for his murder over the past six years. 

“We campaign to protect journalists but also the information that they work so hard to get out - information that is crucial to all of our ability to make informed decisions and hold power to account, everywhere,” said Vincent.

Chris’ parents hope this lecture series will raise students’ awareness of how the stories we tell matter and will imbue future generations of GFS students with Chris's commitment to making a difference in the world. 

“I think that his love of learning and his passion for ideas would be a wonderful thing to come out of this for all the listeners (of the lecture series), and we are really grateful for the opportunity,” they said. 

At GFS, Chris Allen was a writer and editor for Earthquake, a varsity soccer and track team member, and co-founder of the peer writing group, WordSharks. After graduating, Chris studied Modern History, English, and International Relations for a year at the University of St Andrews, and History and Philosophy at Temple University, before graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in History and a concentration in European History. He completed his Master of Arts in European History and Civilisation at the University of Leiden, taking courses at Oxford and the Sorbonne as part of that degree.

Learn more: 
Christopher Allen Website

Christopher Allen '09 Inaugural Lecture
10:15 a.m., February 23, 2024
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
5421 Germantown Ave.
Phila., PA. 19144