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Dr Pearse Lyons, Alltech president and founder, dies at 73

Animal health and nutrition company Alltech has announced the passing of its founder and president, Dr Pearse Lyons. He was 73.

Dr Lyons died on Thursday, March 8, due to an acute lung condition that developed during his recovery from heart surgery.

“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, in a press release.

Visionary entrepreneur

Mr Blake continued to say, “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.”

Dr Pearse Lyons presents during the Alltech 30th Annual International Symposium in Lexington, KY, United States. Photo: Alltech
Dr Pearse Lyons presents during the Alltech 30th Annual International Symposium in Lexington, KY, United States. Photo: Alltech

Mr Blake said, “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.”

Irish background, education in brewing

Born in Dundalk, Ireland, on August 3, 1944, young Pearse Lyons received his bachelor’s degree from University College Dublin, Ireland. He continued into postgraduate study at the British School of Malting and Brewing in Birmingham, UK, where he gained masters and doctoral degrees in brewing science from the University of Birmingham.

With his young family, Deirdre, Aoife and Mark, Dr Lyons immigrated to the United States in 1976. He was asked by Irish distillery Gems Whisky to help ethanol distillers in Kentucky improve their processes.

Alltech: focus on animal health and nutrition

In 1980, Dr Lyons decided to ‘take control of his own destiny’ and launched his own business, Alltech, which built its success upon the application of yeast technologies to animal health and nutrition.

Dr Pearse Lyons pictured in Borris, Ireland. Photo: Roger Jones | Alltech
Dr Pearse Lyons pictured in Borris, Ireland. Photo: Roger Jones | Alltech

The company was set up in a garage with an initial investment of $10,000 and enough money set aside to pay the mortgage and buy groceries for the family for a year. In its 1st year, the company turned over a million dollars.

Today, his company Alltech focuses on improving animal, crop and human health and performance through its innovative use of yeast fermentation, enzyme technology, algae and nutrigenomics.

More than animal feed

The company’s reach has also grown beyond animal feed. In 1999, when the former Lexington Brewing Company in downtown Lexington was closing its doors, Dr Lyons purchased it to resurrect the brewing and distilling tradition of Lexington that dates back to 1794. The first beer from Dr Lyons’ new brewery was Kentucky Ale, a blend of 2 classic beer styles – an Irish red ale and an English pale ale.

In 2008, using 2 copper pot stills brought in from Scotland, the company distilled its first batches of whiskey in the brewery. Dr Lyons’ initiatives also led to the establishment of a crop science business and even research into human health challenges, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

Contributions to science and industry

Dr Lyons was widely recognised for his contributions to science and industry and was awarded honorary doctorates from colleges and universities around the world.

Dr Pearse Lyons in 2017. Photo: Alltech
Dr Pearse Lyons in 2017. Photo: Alltech

Giving back was also a passion for Dr Lyons, so he established Alltech’s ACE Involvement Foundation, a charitable foundation to help fund the company’s philanthropic efforts.

Dr Lyons established a leadership structure, including:

• Dr Mark Pearse Lyons, chairman and president

• Alric A. Blake, CEO and treasurer

• E. Michael Castle II, vice president and secretary

Full confidence in his team

“We are all deeply saddened by my father’s passing,” said Dr Mark Lyons. “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.”

Dr Mark Lyons added, “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.”

Dr Pearse Lyons speaking during the opening session of the 2006 Alltech International Symposium. Photo: Alltech
Dr Pearse Lyons speaking during the opening session of the 2006 Alltech International Symposium. Photo: Alltech

Funeral masses will be in Lexington, KY, USA, 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. More info can be found at alltech.com/pearselyons.

Vincent ter Beek

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