Tom Lyon Passes

Thomas L. Lyon, age 80, beloved husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend, died on March 8, 2021, at his home, from acute myeloid leukemia and complications from his treatments.

He is survived by his wife, Barbara; son, Jeff (Karen); daughter, Melissa (Steve) Duin; son, Scott; and grandchildren, Megan Lyon, Nick Lyon, Alyson Duin and Brayton Duin. He is further survived by his sister-in-law, Margaret (Howard) Lyon; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Tom Lyon began his career at Midwest Breeders Cooperative in 1967, and helped expand the business beyond its regional base. Through several mergers, the company evolved into a nationwide cooperative known as 21st Century Genetics, which quickly became an international force in the cattle breeding industry.

In 1991, Lyon initiated the formation of Cooperative Resources International, creating an organization with more than 1,250 employees, 50,000 farmer-members and more than $100 million in revenue. The Shawano-based cooperative includes Genex Cooperative (cattle breeding services), AgSource Cooperative Services (milk recording and data management services) and the Central Livestock Association (cattle marketing services).

“Tom advocated and lived by the notion that the success of a company should be measured by the value it brings to its customers,” wrote Professor Kent Weigel, chair of the Department of Dairy Science, in his nomination.

A former member of the UW System Board of Regents, Lyon served as the board’s president from 1990-92. He presided over the hiring of two of the most influential women in the history of higher education in Wisconsin, former UW–Madison Chancellor Donna Shalala and former UW System President Katharine Lyall.

Lyon also served on the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Board of Visitors and on the UW Extension Board of Visitors. He is a 1962 graduate of Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in dairy science.

Preceding him in death were his parents, Earl and Nellie Lyon; brothers, Howard Lyon, Durward Lyon (Carolyn), and G. Joe Lyon (Norma); and a cousin, William Zmolek (Jean), who lived with the family while he was growing up and whom he considered a brother; and two infant sons.