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Lyon College celebrates sesquicentennial Founders' Week

“You can’t really know where you’re going until you know where you have been.”

                                                                                       -Maya Angelou

It’s a difficult task to recognize and appreciate 150 years of history, especially when the stories told sound like Herculean trials that Lyon College had to withstand. However, as with all things, the College persevered. In celebration of this perseverance and 150 years of making an impact, Lyon College pulled out all the stops with Founders' Week celebrations.

Founders’ Week

With it being the 150th year of Lyon College, Founders’ Day appropriately evolved into Founders’ Week. There was just too much history and dedication to pack into a mere 24 hours.

Kicking off Founders’ Week on Monday, Oct. 17, was the debut of the 150th anniversary traveling mural. Lyon College alumna and mural artist Daisy Hall, of Batesville, designed and painted the mural showcasing some of the more iconic Lyon imagery such as a silhouette of Rev. Isaac J. Long, the Lyon Building, Brown Chapel, and more.

On Tuesday, Oct. 18, the public was invited to a poetry slam, where students, faculty, and staff recited their works. The slam took place in the Student Center of Edwards Commons. Participants were allowed a max of three poems that they could recite, whether original works or not. Alumna Andrea Hollander wrote a special sesquicentennial poem to cap off the night, which was recited by Dr. Terrell Tebbetts.

“In 1872, with only one professor
and a handful of future grads, the Presbytery created our school—the first college in the state.
When we grew enough to leave downtown,

we planted ourselves on this impressive ground. Today we gather here to celebrate”

                   -Excerpt from Andrea Hollander’s “First and Only”

And the final days before things really shifted into high gear, Historian-in-Residence Dr. Brooks Blevins hosted a lecture on Wednesday, Oct. 19, and historical bus tour on Thursday, Oct. 20, that featured several locations of significance in Lyon College history. 

Lyon College’s Founders’ Day Convocation was held on Friday, Oct. 21. The annual event observes and celebrates the College’s founding in 1872, with this year’s keynote speaker being Dr. Dan C. West, who served as Lyon College president from 1972 to 1988. His speech, titled “Determination, Achievement, Aspiration” spoke of the College’s trials and tribulations, the many impactful people that have passed through campus, and the lasting effects our community has had throughout the decades.

“It is a miracle, an act of God, that Lyon College lives,” said West. “It has endured volatile enrollments, attempts to close or merge, financial scarcity, turnover in leadership, the Great Depression, two world wars, a destructive tornado, the destruction by fire of a lovely college union, and a global pandemic.”

He continued, “Why is this college still here, still so important, still so effective?”

West went on to talk about founder Rev. Isaac J. Long and his determination to create a college no matter the obstacles, about the several families who dedicated multiple decades to the College, and about the many women who helped serve in key positions that kept the College alive when all odds were against it.

West finished his speech with, “In sum, you will continue to work here to educate yourselves and each other. Few things in life are more important than learning. It’s hard work; it’s expensive, but, as Derek Bok said, ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.’”

The convocation was followed by a picnic, featuring Lyon College’s Marching Band, Pipers, and Jazz Band, and the night ended with a Highland House social recognizing the College’s faculty and staff, both past and present.

Saturday started with the Alumni Choir Reunion in Sloan Auditorium, Brown Chapel. Alongside the Alumni Choir Reunion, Saturday was home to Lyon College’s 19th presidential inauguration.


Dr. Melissa P. Taverner, was inaugurated on Saturday, Oct. 22, as Lyon College’s 19th and first female president. Since becoming interim president in August 2021 and being selected as the College’s 19th president in February 2022, Dr. Taverner has been integral to several of the most transformational decisions in Lyon College history.

Dr. Taverner has worked with the Board of Trustees, faculty, and staff to expand the College’s mission statement and offer select graduate programs; has overseen the initial transition to NCAA Division III for Scots athletics; and has been instrumental in organizing a partnership with White River Health on a proposed RN-to-BSN nursing program at Lyon.

On a picturesque fall day, with auburn colored leaves gently falling on Couch Garden, things got underway with a joint choir of students and alumni from across the generations performing the premiere of "In This Shining Moment." The piece's moving lyrics were provided by Lyon College Director of Development for Scottish Heritage Kenton Adler, and the beautiful musical composition by Lyon College Choir Director Dr. Michael Oriatti.

Representatives from the alumni, students, boards of trustees and visitors, as well as the community and higher education delivered greetings and charges for the new President’s tenure, followed by the keynote address from Dr. Jacqueline Howard, ’89, highlighting the impact that Lyon College, then Arkansas College, had on her life.

“I know this sounds cliche,” said Dr. Howard, “but being here for four years profoundly changed my life.”

Dr. Howard said that she came to Lyon College for more than just an education. She came to Lyon to have a place to grow, experience new things, make new friends, and to establish a more open mind for herself and the world around her.

“I got that and more than I bargained for,” she said. “I became who I needed to be, and I learned to think critically about who I was, where I came from, and what I would let define me.”

After Dr. Howard’s keynote, Dr. Taverner delivered her inaugural address thanking everyone for being a part of “another important milestone in the history of Lyon College.”

“So here we are,” said Dr. Taverner. “I’m going to be honest with you, this day, this role was not in the plan.”

Dr. Taverner went on to detail the long and winding road she has traveled since starting, unbeknownst to her, her journey to Lyon College’s president. Starting her path as a tenure-track biology professor as a small liberal arts college in the “mountains of southwest Virginia,” she was teaching her biology classes, writing some National Science Foundation grants to improve lab facilities, advising and mentoring her students, and working on her scholarship that “involved killing lots of pest insects.”

Dr. Taverner’s path from professor, to department chair in her third year, to assessment director a few years later, to trading out her department chair for the division chair of natural sciences, to interim vice president for Academic Affairs, all before leaving Virginia, left her with the realization that, “Bobby Burns was right, the original ‘plan’ may have gone astray but really it was only ever just a starting point: life has a way of bringing opportunities that you never saw coming, and that to live fully into your often-unrealized potential they have to be engaged.” 

Sesquicentennial Celebration Gala

And finally, what is a birthday without a birthday party? It only felt right after so many different events and festivities that the night ended with a gala, celebrating all of the momentous occasions from Founders’ week and the College’s 19th Presidential Inauguration. With a cocktail reception, live music by North of Argyll, and a completely transformed Becknell Gymnasium, the gala was a hit. Dr. Taverner greeted the audience after the reception, before having the first dance of the night with her husband David Taverner. After the dance, Vice President for Advancement David Hutchison gave attendees a sneak-peek into the future of Lyon College before closing out the night.

Attendees were presented with a tremendous slate of new initiatives that Lyon College is embarking upon in its 150th year and beyond, from its first ever graduate programs, a Master of Arts in Education, to its first foray in healthcare education, nursing, improvements to academic and athletic facilities, and most ambitiously, its proposed programs in dental and veterinary education at a new branch campus in Little Rock. It was also announced that the gala had raised more than $250,000 toward the renovation of the Mabee-Simpson Library. 

To check out the full image recap click the following link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lyoncollegescots/collections/72157721212934644/ Photos are still being uploaded, so if you don't see your pictures right away, check back in a couple of days!