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Lyon honors alumni for exemplary character, service at Alumni Awards Banquet

Lyon honored outstanding alumni and friends of the College at the annual Alumni Awards Banquet on Oct. 8, highlighting both their success in their chosen career and their service to others.

Dr. Lesley Milton, ’11, and Christopher Dickie, ’11, received the Patterson Decade Award. This award is presented annually to two Lyon graduates who are members of the 10-year reunion class and have achieved a notable degree of success in their chosen field, career, or profession.

Milton said she would never be able to thank her professors and mentors enough for helping her achieve success.

“The friendships I made while on campus are what helped me make the decision to come back to the area to start my dental practice,” she said. “I thank God everyday for being able to do what I love and for being able to serve the Batesville community. It is an honor to be awarded the Patterson Decade Award, and I look forward to what the next ten years brings.”

“Lyon College staff and faculty, and the community at large, taught me how to go inside and uncrate the treasure I already own,” Dickie said. “That treasure today is identity, and you let me grab onto that. No matter what happens in my life I won’t lose my identity.”

Rev. Margaret Alsup, ’11, received the Decade of Service Award. This award is presented annually to a Lyon graduate who is a member of the 10-year reunion class and has demonstrated outstanding service to the College.

“When my time as a Lyon student came to an end, I knew I would be involved with this special place,” Alsup said. “I just didn’t know what giving back would look like.”

She said serving as the Lyon Chaplain has been the greatest honor of her life so far.

“When I was asked to serve as the interim chaplain in 2016, I jumped at the chance,” Alsup said. “I was coming back home to Batesville and this place that had instilled in me what it means to serve with passion, imagination, and resilience.”

Deborah Frazier, ’87, chancellor emerita of the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville (UACCB), received the Distinguished Alumna Award. This award is presented annually to a former student who completed at least 30 hours at Lyon. A minimum of 15 years must have passed since the candidate attended Lyon, and the candidate must have shown active interest and support of the College in the interim 15 years and be distinguished in his or her field or career.

“I want to cry because I love this institution,” said Frazier. “It is the foundation of who I became as an educational professional.”

She said she was honored to serve in her role as chancellor and help facilitate partnerships that increased opportunities for both UACCB and Lyon students.

Frazier continued, “I know in my soul it is Lyon College that prepared me to love, respect, and honor individuals.”

Dr. Bruce Johnston, with a 25-year career as Dean of Students at Lyon College, received the Honorary Alumnus Award, which is presented annually to a candidate who has achieved a notable degree of success in his or her chosen field, career, or profession. The candidate must also have received previous recognition from contemporaries and cannot be a graduate of Lyon College.

Johnston said he is particularly proud of developments like the Honor System and the House System, with faculty and staff living in campus residences as advisors, during his time as dean. He joked that one of his extra duties in those days was recruiting students to be babysitters for his daughter, Ellie.

“I would never have done that at any place that I worked other than here,” he said, “because of the kind of student that was here. I loved having those students interact with our children.”

Johnston continued, “I enjoyed every minute of my time here. I’m so pleased to have had that experience here, and I’m honored to be an alum of this place.”

Clifton Avant, Sr., ’78, received the Lifetime of Service Award. This award is presented annually to a graduate or friend of the College who has demonstrated outstanding service to Lyon.

Avant was recognized for his long career in economic development and his service to the College. Clifton and his wife, Nina, served on the Lyon College Past President’s Council as Charter Members and helped develop the strategic plan for the current growth of the College. He also placed students in work programs as they worked on their degrees and helped purchase a bus for the teams to travel. 

He served as the Director of Entergy Louisiana Economic Development during the Katrina and Rita hurricane crises and assisted the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas with the development of Gulf Opportunity Zones, used to rebuild the states. He also designed and implemented programs used in the Delta New Markets initiatives by the Clinton Administration in partnership with Entergy and local communities.

He thanked his family, friends, and mentors but saved a special spotlight for his wife, Nina.

“We moved nine times to different states, and she always said ‘They need you, and I support you,’” Avant said. “She always said ‘We can make this work because I believe in you.’”