John Lyons

A Dream Come True at DU

John LyonsTell me about your experience at DU.

Before graduation from high school I ran away and joined the U.S. Marine Corps. During the ensuing five years I saw much combat (Vietnam included). I came home from my last tour in Vietnam to Chelsea Navy Hospital to recover from serious injuries. Despite my obvious scholastic short comings DU accepted me for admittance at the end of 1966. I traveled from Boston to Denver in a very small car with all my possessions and began my studies in the summer quarter of 1967. I was terrified despite my experiences under the most frightening circumstances one can imagine. The intellectual challenge terrified me. Despite my fear, I attended classes during that first quarter and earned a 3.0 GPA, receiving the only C that I ever received at DU. I studied hard and received my degree (Cum Laude) in three years. I was honored to be admitted to Phi Betta Kapa during my senior year.

For me, attending DU was born of a dream. With my lack of any significant academic background it might have been an impossible dream, yet I was determined to try anything to gain admittance. With virtually no money and without an invitation or appointment, I flew from Boston to Denver and rented a car in which I slept that cold night. In the morning I "washed up" at a gas station and then appeared unannounced at the office of the Dean of Admissions. At noon two flustered secretaries encouraged me to leave and have lunch but I refused and politely told them that I would stay until I could meet with the Dean. In the afternoon the Dean apparently relented and welcomed me into what I considered the inner sanctum. He was quite surprised, but very respectful, about my past and my aspirations for my future. I returned to Boston thinking I had been rejected and was quite surprised when several weeks later I received an extremely conditional letter of acceptance. I thought "IMAGINE ME AT DU". Here I come!

In the Marines I had seen the Pieta at St Peters and wondered how is it possible for a human being to create life from stone. I needed, and thirsted, for knowledge and understanding. Being a young combat Marine was one thing, but the Pieta was quite another. DU more than satisfied my quest for meaning, knowledge, appreciation, and understanding of human capabilities. DU taught me to think analytically and critically.

Fun, interesting or memorable story about your time at DU?

Given my tenuous academic background, and never having taken the SAT, DU admitted me under strict probationary status. After the first quarter my grades were to be reviewed by the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts to determine whether or not I could continue with my studies. Having earned a 3.0 GPA during my first quarter I remained very concerned that I would not be allowed to continue at DU. On schedule, the Dean's office called me to set up an appointment with the Dean. I was certain I was going to be precluded from continuing my studies. Amazingly enough, the Dean offered me an academic scholarship if I would stop my evening job in order to devote myself fulltime to my studies.

How did your experience at DU benefit you after graduation?

My degree, in a very real way, served as a departure from the bloodshed of Vietnam and the ability to think analytically and critically about the things that really matter in life. My accomplishments at DU gave me the courage and confidence to obtain a law degree at the University of Notre Dame. In no small part, I owe DU thanks for the considerable success I experienced during a long, and some would say, very successful career. In my service to my government I retired in 1999 as the Assistant Commissioner (International) IRS. In 2003 I retired from Deloitte & Touche as the Global Director of Competent Authority Practice.

What has motivated you to "give back" to DU?

DU gave me so much. It enriched my life to such a degree that I have a debt to DU that I can really never fully repay. How can you "give back" to an institution for the ideas and intellectual discipline that have given me my life? Life is made of dreams that can only be reached through knowledge. I reached those hopes and dreams because of DU.

What is your hope for your scholarships and its student recipients?

I hope for the same intellectual and humanitarian rebirth that was provided by my experience. I am very pleased with the current recipient, Arron Street.

What would you tell other potential donors about making a bequest like yours?

It is impossible for me to imagine that potential donors would turn their back(s) on our future and people like me, who had no chance to contribute to society like I have. I would also like to mention that this scholarship is named for Arthur P Beckman Jr., the best Marine I have known. He was killed as an undercover narcotics police officer for the Philadelphia Police Department in 1991. He died, as he lived, in the line of duty.

Class and Major:

Class - 1970
Major - U.S. History (Cum Laude)
Phi Beta Kappa
JD - University of Notre Dame, 1973

Written March 7, 2013