A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Pearse Lyons, founder of Alltech and ‘visionary entrepreneur’ dies of acute lung condition at age 73

Alltech has announceed the passing of its founder and president, Dr. Pearse Lyons on Thursday, March 8, due to an acute lung condition that developed during his recovery from heart surgery.

He was 73.

“The thoughts of our entire Alltech family around the world are with Dr. Lyons’ family, specifically his wife Deirdre, daughter Aoife, son Mark and Mark’s wife Holly,” said Alric Blake, CEO and treasurer of Alltech.

“Dr. Lyons was a visionary entrepreneur who transformed the agriculture industry beginning with his innovative application of yeast technology in animal nutrition. From farm to field, from market to family dinner table, our world is immeasurably better because he was a man who never saw problems, only a challenge that had not yet been solved.

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“He inspired everyone he met with his energy, enthusiasm and passionate belief in possibilities. He instilled that positivity in his people, more than 5,000 Alltech team members around the world. I am confident I speak on behalf of all of them when I say that we are deeply honored to have known and worked for such a great man. We will resolve to honor his legacy by deepening our commitment to his customers and all the innovative ideas he believed in so strongly.”

To continue driving forward his vision for serving the agriculture industry through field-proven innovations, Dr. Lyons established a clear leadership structure, including:

• Dr. Mark Pearse Lyons, Chairman and President
• Alric A. Blake, Chief Executive Officer and Treasurer
• E. Michael Castle II, Vice President and Secretary

As the company’ director of corporate image and design, Mrs. Deirdre Lyons will continue to further Dr. Lyons’ vision for Alltech’s global presence and their shared commitment to philanthropy and community involvement.

“We are all deeply saddened by my father’s passing,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, Pearse’s son and chairman and president of Alltech. “He always focused on developing people, and he built an extraordinary team over the years. I know he had full confidence in his team to continue growing the company he built.

“He saw farther into the horizon than anyone in the industry, and we, as his team, are committed to delivering on the future he envisioned. He planted seeds that will produce a bountiful harvest for the world in the years to come.”

Kentucky leaders shared their sympathies as well.

Dr. Pearse Lyons

“The University of Kentucky, our alumni, and our friends are saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Pearse Lyons,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “Dr. Lyons was a compassionate and committed community leader and global entrepreneur who founded Alltech and established it as a powerful brand and industry leader. He was a philanthropist, ardent supporter of the University, and deeply committed patron of the arts. Most notably, his support of UK Opera Theatre brought artistic expression and music performance to the community, and students supported by his generosity have shared their remarkable talent with audiences across the world. We are enriched by the legacy he leaves to our campus and community, and the UK family offers its condolences to Deirdre and the entire Lyons family at this time.”

Tandy Patrick, the chair of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission, said, “The Kentucky Horse Park extends its deepest sympathy to the Lyons family upon the passing of our good friend, Dr. Pearse Lyons. The vision and support of Dr. Lyons and his wife, Deirdre, enabled the Kentucky Horse Park to host the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The Alltech Arena, at the Kentucky Horse Park, is one of the nation’s premiere equine event facilities. Both are legacies of his support. 

“Dr. Lyons’ energy, enthusiasm and belief that anything is possible will continue to be an inspiration to all of us.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) commented on the passing of Dr. Pearse Lyons: “Elaine and I were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our friend, Dr. Pearse Lyons. Pearse will be remembered for his many accomplishments – as a scientist and innovator, as a businessman and philanthropist, and as husband and father. In each of these, he excelled.

“Pearse and Deirdre founded Alltech in 1980 with an ambitious goal: they wanted to help farmers feed the world. Throughout his life, Pearse continued to set ambitious goals, and in so many he found great success.”

Mayor Jim Gray said, “Pearse was a builder. A builder of ideas and projects and people. A man of imagination, vigor, and enthusiasm. He was one of those rare, larger than life figures who had an influence far beyond our borders.”

“The Commerce Lexington Inc. family, its board of directors, and many throughout the regional business community at-large are saddened to hear of the passing of Alltech President and Founder, Dr. Pearse Lyons,” said Commerce Lexington Inc. President & CEO Bob Quick.  “Dr. Lyons was not only a strong advocate for Kentucky and the Bluegrass, but through his visionary leadership, Alltech transcended business and industry to become a global leader in finding solutions to the world’s most pressing issues.”

Dr. Lyons and his wife, Deirdre.

“Kentucky lost one of the great ones today with the passing of Pearse Lyons. I don’t know of anyone who was more innovative, who was more committed to excellence, or who was a better ambassador for the commonwealth,” said House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins. “He made a true difference in all of our lives, and the legacy he established through Alltech will be felt for generations. He will be deeply missed.”

Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles said, “It is with great sadness I have learned of Dr. Pearse Lyons’ passing. Dr. Lyons was, at root, a visionary and an ambassador for Kentucky. When he founded Alltech in 1980, Kentucky agriculture changed forever. The institution he built, the jobs he created, and his boundless zeal for our state lit a spark that spread into a wildfire of innovation for Kentucky agriculture, from animal feed to our beverage, fuel, and industrial alcohol industries. Dr. Lyons also gave generously to numerous philanthropic endeavors and launched a global conference that has become a staple of Kentucky’s spring calendar.”

At this time, the family kindly asks that any expressions of sympathy, including memories and tributes, be shared at alltech.com/pearselyons.

In lieu of flowers, the family is encouraging donations to the Alltech ACE Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that funds a variety of philanthropic endeavors around the world from disaster relief to primary schools in Haiti. Donations may be made at alltech.com/pearselyons.

Funeral masses will be in Lexington on March 17 and in Dublin, Ireland, in April. A special celebration of life will be held on May 20 at the beginning of ONE: The Alltech Ideas Conference in Lexington.

Public visitation in Lexington will be on Friday, March 16. Arrangement details will be kept up to date on alltech.com/pearselyons.

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