Portland, IN | Certificate of Distinction: 2009
Robert Lyons retired in 2006 after a 46-year career teaching biology and vocational agriculture in Jay County, Indiana, first at Portland High School and later Jay County High School. He is now a full time farmer with 1400 acres in production. A native of Bryant in northern Jay County, Lyons graduated from Purdue University in 1960 with a B.S. in Agricultural Education. He received his M.S. in Agricultural Education from Purdue in 1967.
Lyons has a distinguished record as an educator and a record of unequaled service to Jay County agriculture and to FFA programs. In 46 years, he built Jay County’s vocational agriculture program from 17 students with one instructor to 548 students and three instructors. He personally taught approximately 1,200 biology students and 4,000 vocational agriculture students during his career. His judging teams participated in 11 state crops contests; 12 state dairy contests; eight national and 12 state soils contests; and 18 national and 34 state poultry contests, winning the district poultry judging contest for 21 consecutive years. His FFA program produced over 200 Hoosier Farmers and 20 American Farmers.
For several years Lyons was the most successful FFA fundraiser in the state, and in 1985 he founded the Jay County High School FFA Foundation which now has more than $100,000 in its endowment in the Jay County Foundation for FFA member scholarships. He worked with other school staff, FFA members and the agriculture advisory board to build a state of the art greenhouse for $270,000, using no tax dollars. The greenhouse is widely believed to be the best high school greenhouse in the state. Other career accomplishments include the establishment of the annual Jay County High School Community/Parent/Member FFA Banquet, and the establishment of the FFA Summer Ag Experience (SAE).
Lyons is a 40-year member of the Jay County Fair Association’s board of directors, where he is recognized as the founder of the new, successful fair. More than 20 years ago he developed Young McDonald’s Farm, an exhibit of young farm animals targeted to young audiences which is still an integral part of the county fair exhibits.. He also was responsible for developing the “Jayland Classics” display more than 10 years ago which now fills a 4000 square foot exhibit area with antique equipment and historical artifacts. He has also been active in the community as a 46-year 4-H leader and as a member of the Tri-State Antique Engine Association. And for 32 years he has served as the Pike Township Trustee/Assessor. As a farmer, he is now active in the promotion of the development of wind energy and alternative, renewable fuels.
His professional memberships include: Indiana and National Agriculture Teachers Association (46 years); Jay/Portland Classroom Teachers (46 years); Indiana State Teachers Association (46 years); National Educational Association (life member; 46 years); and Indiana Township Trustees Association (32 years).
Lyons was honored for his work with the Jay County Fair when he was inducted into the Indiana Association of County and District Fairs Hall of Fame in 1987. Governor Mitch Daniels named him a Sagamore of the Wabash in 2008.