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Lyon College

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    • Motto: Perseverantia Omnia Vincent Deo Volente -- Perseverance Conquers All, God Willing.
    • Established: 1872
    • Type: Private
    • President: Donald Weatherman
    • Academic staff: 42
  • Summary

    Lyon College is an independent, residential, co-educational, undergraduate liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Founded in 1872, it is the oldest independent college...


    Lyon College is an independent, residential, co-educational, undergraduate liberal arts college affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Founded in 1872, it is the oldest independent college in Arkansas.


    When Batesville lost to Fayetteville in the bid for the state university in November 1871, Reverend Isaac J. Long and other ministers in the Arkansas Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in the United States led the effort to establish a denominational college there. Located on the eastern edge of town, Arkansas College opened its doors in September 1872 with Long as president and only one other college-level faculty member. Typical of nineteenth-century denominational institutions, Arkansas College maintained a grammar school (which was phased out in the 1890s) and a secondary academy (discontinued in the 1920s), and featured a curriculum heavy on mathematics, the classical languages (Latin and Greek), and religious instruction.

    Originally located on the block now occupied by the First Presbyterian Church of Batesville, the college remained under the guidance of the Long family for most of its first four decades. The college was, from its inception, nonsectarian in philosophy and co-educational. Arkansas College’s first class of graduates in 1876 included three young women who became the state’s first females to receive bachelor’s degrees.

    After the College moved in the early 1950s to its current location, once the site of the Masonic Home for Orphans, a frenzy of growth and activity was seen over the next decade and a half. World War II decimated the institution’s already small enrollment—the class of 1944 consisted of only two students—but Arkansas College received a new lease on life after the war as GIs filled classrooms into the early 1950s. In 1952, Paul M. McCain succeeded Reverend John D. Spragins as president of the college. The arrival of McCain, the first Arkansas College president with a university-earned Ph.D., marked a new era in the institution’s history, and his subsequent seventeen-year tenure witnessed a constant stream of change and progress. Accreditation by the North Central Association in 1959, steady physical expansion during the 1960s, and demographic alteration of the student body through desegregation and heavy recruitment in the northeastern United States, where baby boomers threatened to overcrowd college classrooms in their own region, began to redefine the institution.

    Becoming Lyon College

    The 1970s and 1980s brought further change as president Dan C. West oversaw the implementation of significant curricular reforms (including the adoption of a new core curriculum and the addition of many new non-traditional majors), the introduction of innovative fundraising techniques (including the creation of the college’s own for-profit development corporation), the establishment of an international studies program funded by a gift from former board of trustees president Shuford Nichols, and the development of the Scottish heritage program, which had come to be a defining symbol of the college by the twenty-first century. The bequest of more than $14 million by Jean Brown of Hot Springs in 1981—at the time the largest single gift to an institution of higher learning in Arkansas history—launched a drive that catapulted the college into the ranks of the nation’s best-endowed small colleges by the mid-1980s and paved the way for a dramatic expansion of scholarship funds and endowed faculty positions.

    In the 1990s, president John V. Griffith utilized this momentum to place the college on the path to distinction while returning it to its more purely liberal arts roots. Among the innovations and changes of the decade were the implementation of an honor system and the development of a residential “house system.” In 1994, the board of trustees voted to change the name of Arkansas College to Lyon College, in honor of the half-century of service and support of former board president Frank Lyon Sr. of Little Rock. Walter Roettger served as president from 1998 to 2009. Roettger, a political scientist who had been Dean of the Faculty and Vice President of Westminster College in Fulton, MO, was the first president to have earned tenure as a faculty member at a college. Under his leadership, Lyon grew to nearly 600 full-time students in fall 2009 from about 400 students in fall 1998. Upon Roettger's retirement in July 2009, the Board of Trustees named him the College's first "President Emeritus." [1]

    Dr. Donald Weatherman became Lyon's 17th president in July 2009. Weatherman served as the John D. Trimble Sr. Professor of Political Philosophy at Lyon from 1983 to 1999. He left Batesville to become vice president and dean of Erskine College in South Carolina. In 2003, he was promoted to executive vice president and dean. He also served as a professor of politics at Erskine. When a fire destroyed Edwards Commons in October 2010, Lyon's student center and dining hall, Weatherman spearheaded the campaign to rebuild the center, the heart of the campus. Since he has taken the helm, Lyon has seen record-breaking enrollment numbers under Weatherman's administration and has developed a strategic plan to better accommodate the College's rapid growth.


    A strong liberal arts college, Lyon confers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. Pre-professional students see a 90 percent acceptance rate to medical and law school.

    Students may develop individualized majors with the approval of their advisor, the division chair, and the Dean of the Faculty. Students may also complete two majors, but will receive only one degree. If the two completed majors result in different degrees (B.A. and B.S.), the student may decide which degree he or she will receive.

    The vast majority of Lyon classes are taught by full-time faculty members, and more than 90% of Lyon faculty have their terminal degrees (Ph.D. or M.F.A). In a record unmatched by another college in Arkansas, Lyon boasts 14 out of the last 21 Carnegie/CASE Arkansas Professors of the Year. Lyon has an average class size of 15 and a student-teacher ratio of 12:1.

    Students and Student Life

    Lyon enrolls approximately 600 students from 21 states and 14 countries. The middle 50% of entering freshmen score between 22 and 27 on the ACT, while 72% rank in the top quartile of their high school graduating classes. In the fall of 2009, Lyon enrolled the largest entering class in the school's history with more than 290 new students.

    Student activities include more than 40 student clubs and organizations; five national Greek organizations, and one local Greek organization; an active Campus Ministry Program; a regulation Disc Golf Course; ready access to some of the nations best camping, canoeing, caving, and hiking locations; and a distinctive Scottish Heritage program.

    Campus and facilities

    Lyon's 136-acre (0.55 km2) campus features facilities such as the Derby Center for Science and Mathematics, the black-box Holloway Theatre, and the Lyon Business and Economics Building (modeled after Harvard Business School facilities).

    Nine student residence halls are clustered into the three "Houses" that make up the College's residential house system. Academic buildings and all residence halls have digital key card access for additional security. The Mabee-Simpson Library contains more than 200,000 media items and provides access to more than 20,000 periodicals.

    Recreational facilities include a regulation soccer field, six lighted tennis courts, the Becknell Gymnasium (featuring a fitness center and an indoor swimming pool), the Scots Baseball Field, the Kelley Indoor Baseball Complex, a new women's softball field, a sand volleyball court, an 18 hole disc golf course, and an intramural field.

    Bryan Lake, located on the southern portion of the campus, features a walking path, flowering trees and water fowl.


    Lyon College teams, nicknamed athletically as the Scots, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), primarily competing in the American Midwest Conference. Prior to the 2012-13 season, the Scots previously competed in the TranSouth Athletic Conference (TSAC). Men's sports include baseball, basketball, golf and soccer; while women's sports include basketball, cheerleading, golf, soccer, softball and volleyball.

    The college also fields an extensive intramural sports program.


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