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Board of Visitors brings new voices to the table

The Board of Visitors is bringing new voices to Lyon College’s strategic planning.

Founders’ Day on Oct. 22 featured the inaugural meeting of the newly established board, which was commissioned by the Board of Trustees in 2020 to serve as active thought leaders and engaged ambassadors, providing support through strategic planning and helping Lyon accomplish its objectives as a national liberal arts college.

Jonathan Thompson, ’02, chief executive officer of Nielsen-Massey Vanillas in Chicago, Ill., was unanimously elected as the first chair of the organization.

“As a former alumnus who counts my time at Lyon as among my most cherished and foundational experiences, I’m thrilled to be a part of the new Board of Visitors,” said Thompson, “and to have this opportunity to collaborate and invest in the future of Lyon with such an impressive, passionate and talented group of people.”

Vice President for Advancement David Hutchison said the Board of Trustees first started discussing the concept of the new organization as a much-needed advisory council a couple of years ago. The idea, he said, was for the Board of Visitors to be a more expansive group that could work on engagement with various communities, long-time strategic strategy and the College’s brand identity.

“The goal was to expand the numbers of voices that are at the table,” Hutchison said. “We wanted to bring more people into the conversation, but not necessarily saddle them with all the responsibilities that come with being a trustee.”

He continued, “Folks on the Board of Visitors range from presidents of large national companies to local small business owners and philanthropists, but they all have a passion and an interest in helping shape and be a part of Lyon’s future.”

The Advancement department established criteria that would govern who gets an invitation to sit on the Board of Visitors. Hutchison said the College wants members who are strategic thinkers with established professional and personal networks. The Board of Visitors will also be a great source to identify potential trustees, he said.

“Instead of guessing if someone might be a good trustee, you will get to see them in action,” he said, “and identify people who should be trustees because of the good work they’re doing on the Board of Visitors.”

The Board of Visitors will have two major meetings in the fall and spring of each year, coinciding with Board of Trustees meetings. The members have also divided themselves into committees to discuss alumni and donor engagement, the capital campaign, enrollment and more. 

“The case for a Liberal Arts education has not only gotten stronger with time, but may actually be necessary to successfully navigate the future,” said Thompson. “Learning how to think better is the answer to the question of the future, and that is precisely the role of the Liberal Arts education.”

The group currently has about 20 members, Hutchison said, but the College plans to grow it out to between 25 and 50 members. Anyone interested in serving on the Board of Visitors can reach out to Hutchison at david.hutchison@lyon.edu.
 

The Board of Visitors’ founding members are as follows:

  • Andrew Adlong- President, South Region, Nabholz Construction
  • Marlon D Banks, ’03- Senior People Partner, Walmart 
  • John Beller- President, Bank of Cave City 
  • Mitch Bettis- President, Arkansas Business Publishing Group 
  • David Brogdon, ’93- President, Bad Boy Mowers 
  • Elizabeth Christian- Owner, The River: Steakhouse & Grill.
  • Mike Clauss- CEO, Clauss Ventures, Lyon College Entrepreneur-in-Residence
  • Patti Clauss- VP, Global Talent Acquisition, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. 
  • Dr. Tiffany Garrison, ’95- Sr. Director, Integrated Discovery Operations, Discovery Research, AbbVie
  • Dr. Rodney A. Griffin, ’96- Dentist, Rodney Griffin DDS
  • Rev. Brien Nix Hall, ’93- Retired Pastor, Licensed Mental Health and Trauma Therapist
  • Beth Hallowell, ’92- Sr. VP/Texas Banking Market Manager, PNC Private Bank
  • Ryland L. Kieffer, ’98- VP Operations, Bad Boy Mowers
  • Ginger T. Long, ’93- Director, Global Controllership, Walmart Stores, Inc.
  • Christopher Lance Thompson, ’08- Managing Attorney, Dunham & Jones
  • Jonathan A. Thompson, ’02- CEO, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas
  • Stephanie Thompson, ’06- Sr. Product Manager, Amazon
  • Andy Walmsley, ’96- Financial Advisor, Ameriprise Financial