Maine higher education champion Charles Lyons dies

Posted Aug. 22, 2012, at 8:02 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 23, 2012, at 12:41 p.m.
Charles Lyons
courtesy photo
Charles Lyons

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — A longtime leader in Maine’s higher education circles died Wednesday morning after a long struggle with cancer.

Charles Lyons, 68, of Scarborough had held a variety of leadership posts at universities and colleges from Fort Kent to Wells. He was president of York County Community College in Wells at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife Barbara, their five children and their families.

In a statement issued shortly after Lyons’ death, Maine Community College System President John Fitzsimmons called Lyons “a devoted husband and father who always put his family first.”

Fitzsimmons noted that Lyons had held a variety of leadership positions in higher education for 22 years — 17 of them as president of Maine universities and colleges. Lyons, he said, “was recognized as an advocate for students and a cheerleader for the importance of higher education in the lives of the people of Maine.

“Today, a family lost a husband and a father and the state of Maine lost a great leader. We will all miss the energy and joy he brought to anyone in his presence,” he said.

According to published reports, Lyons was president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent from 1996 through 2001 and the University of Maine at Augusta from 2001 through 2006.

Lyons also served as vice chancellor of the University of Maine System and as chairman of the Maine Higher Education Council, the Board of Visitors of the Long Creek Youth Development Center and the Maine Higher Education Partnership, a group of University of Maine System and Maine Community College System presidents charged with creating seamless articulation agreements among their respective institutions.

He also was a senior member of the Clinical Research Review Committee at Maine Medical Center.

The father of five, Lyons was a Madison High School graduate who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from St. Francis Xavier University, a master’s degree in education from the University of Hartford and a doctorate in education from Boston University.

Several of those who knew Lyons expressed sadness upon his passing.

U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and former Gov. John McKernan Jr. recalled Lyons as “not only an extraordinary person but a highly respected academic leader in our great state. … He was an unparalleled advocate for his students and his tireless efforts throughout his exceptional career have undoubtedly bettered the lives of thousands across our state. Indeed, he leaves a legacy of excellence in education that will resonate for generations to come.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins remembered him as a outstanding public servant and dear friend.

“His impressive career speaks to his steady leadership and unwavering commitment to the noble cause of educating minds,” she said. “While he will be dearly missed by his family, friends, colleagues and students, Charlie leaves behind a lasting legacy that will be felt for a long time to come.”

Gov. Paul LePage said that Lyons not only was a leader and advocate for his students, he also was a vital part of his community.

“The example he set as a loving husband, father and devoted teacher is one all should follow,” LePage said. “Today we lost a great family man, a great champion of higher education but most of all a great Mainer who put his students first.”

Information about funeral arrangements were not available Wednesday.

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