Dr. Lyon – Sewanee

What made you choose Sewanee?

I have the benefit of having two older brothers who had gone through the whole experience of touring colleges. The other thing that I had was my father, and one whole side of my family all went to [The University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill, and there was always this expectation and hope: “You’re a Lyon. You’re going to go to Chapel Hill.” … I whittled it down to four or five schools by that August of senior year… but it really came down to Chapel Hill and Sewanee. … Chapel Hill is itself a smallish town, but once you go there, Chapel Hill, Raleigh [and] Durham all run together and frankly to me feels more like Dallas because it is so spread out. So you have a big public university with big classes … versus like at St. Mary’s where you get to know the professors. … I did long weekends at both. At Chapel Hill, I had a great time and would have loved it. My life would have been totally different. I never would have met [my wife], of course, …but the one takeaway was, I’m the youngest child. I need to do something different. I can’t just follow in the footsteps. I need to get out of my comfort zone.

What was your most valuable experience there? 

I just had a fantastic time. The classes really impressed me, and the interactions between professors and students [impressed me] because I went to a big public high school, which was bigger than Sewanee in population.

What opportunities did you get there?

It is just a beautiful, beautiful place. I was really an outdoors guy, so just being able to step out of the dorm room and immediately go mountain biking or hiking or kayaking really appealed to me. 

Are you still involved at all?

Both Sally [Lyon] and I are [still involved]. Some of our best friends are Sewanee grads. … We love going back a lot. Fourth of July week is a lot of fun there or fall break. We’ll go rent a house just so we can hike and get together. Both Sally and now I have served on the board of trustees at Sewanee. … We are deeply involved. We treasure that university. … Part of what’s so fun when we go back is our former professors are now our best friends, as well. So we meet up with them, and it’s a pretty cool community to be a part of. Maybe we’ll retire there. It’s still a special place for us.

Advice to seniors?

To really get a feel of a college, you have to go and really spend time. Spend a night or two with a student. Get the dorm experience, not off campus. Go to classes. See what night life is like. Get the full experience. The tours I don’t think are a very fair gauge of anything. The first go-through, do the college tours, but if you really are boiling down, you cannot base it on those. …Whether you’re at a big university or small college or small university, whoever is teaching you, whatever their office hours are, make sure that you are a familiar presence. Especially in bigger classes. Make a point of having a question for them even if you don’t really have a question. Just to make that connection, which we take for granted here at St. Mary’s, but it really will help you. Not just for self-interest things like grades or writing recommendations, but I think just in a personal mental health thing. Just to have that connection.

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