Joe Lyons and alumni
People throw around the phrase “force of nature” a lot. Joseph Lyons is a force. Students just gravitate to him. Spend 5 minutes with Lyons and you’ll feel like you’ve known him for decades.
“He’s kind of a big deal to me…a superman, like a colossus, really. The number of men that I look up to in life can be counted on one hand, without the thumb. Mr. Lyons is, has, and always will be on that list,” Rodney Stokes (B.S.’04/B) said.
Lyons, a 24-year Virginia Commonwealth University employee, left on Nov. 13 to serve as associate director of Career Services at Virginia State University. He didn’t depart without a proper send off from a few students he’s helped along the way.
On Nov. 11, a dozen alumni traveled from around the state to take Lyons out for a farewell lunch. His enduring commitment to them fueled their journey.
“He has been a voice of reason at times when all options, so I thought, were exhausted. Joe is an excellent friend and a father figure to me. He always knew when to give me a hug or a kick in the hind parts,” said Clarence Bivens, a former student.
During his 24 years at VCU, first as an academic adviser and then as a career and industry adviser with VCU Career Services, Lyons forged strong bonds with students. He could often be found chatting with students in the University Student Commons or inviting them to join his family for Sunday dinner in his home.
Lyons came to VCU in 1985 to work with conditionally-accepted students and then left for a position at Virginia State University. He returned to VCU in the early 90’s as an academic adviser and later transitioned to working in career services.
“I’ve literally grown up professionally at this institution,” Lyons said.
Throughout his time as a career and industry adviser, Lyons witnessed many changes in the career and professional development services offered to students and alumni. As VCU Career Services continued its evolution, Lyons played an integral role developing and expanding the career ambassador program, a year-long career leadership program for undergraduate students.
Throughout all of it, Lyons remained devoted to his alumni. When Career Services staff asked visiting alumni if they had an appointment, the most common response was, “No, I just texted Joe.”
“Mr. Lyons was the parent I needed while I was away from home. He never hesitated to tell me to get my act together, he never sugar coated things and always pushed me to make the most of the opportunity I had at VCU,” Derrick Moseley (B.S.’02/B) said.
The students Lyons advised and mentored have gone on to successful careers, started families, and earned Ph.Ds. and master’s degrees. Lyons has even given his permission and blessing for a marriage for one VCU alumnus.
“To see how they have just become adults and professionals, and to have a fraction of a contribution to that, is just exciting. Who can have job a where you make this little contribution and it just multiplies and grows,” Lyons said.
In his role at Virginia State University, Lyons will continue to advise students and will work on expanding STEM career and professional development opportunities. His new office is five minutes from his house. He’s considering getting a bike so that he can, as he puts it, “be one of those old men in a suit who rides a bike to work.”