Alltech president and founder Dr. Pearse Lyons dies at 73

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NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - Alltech president and founder Dr. Pearse Lyons has passed away after battling an illness, the company said Thursday.

Pearse Lyons Credit: Alltech

The company says he died Thursday morning.

Lyons immigrated to the United States from Ireland in the 1970s, and built the agricultural company from a home operation to employing more than 5,000 people internationally.

“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,” CEO and treasurer of Alltech Alric Blake said, “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."

The company released additional details on his life story here.

Lyons' funeral will be in Lexington Mar. 17 with a public visitation the day before.

University of Kentucky men's basketball coach John Calipari was a close friend of Lyons, and he had mentioned that the entrepreneur's health had been failing days ago.

"On a personal level, I've never met anyone as driven, as wired or as big-hearted as Dr. Lyons," Calipari said, "His random acts of kindness know no boundaries. I would use the term legendary to describe them, but you would only know about them if you were touched by them or if you're really close to him because most of it was done in a silent way."

At his news conference in St. Louis, Calipari discussed his friendship with Dr. Lyons.

Lexington Urban County Council held a moment of silence at the beginning of their regular meeting on Thursday.

"He had compassion," Mayor Jim Gray said afterward. "He had so much spirit for the city, for Lexington, for Kentucky. He was our ambassador."

Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R - Ky., also offered a statement following Lyons' death.

“Elaine and I were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our friend, Dr. Pearse Lyons," McConnell said, "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."

Lexington-area business leaders are also taking time to remember Dr. Lyons.

“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," said Commerce Lexington president and CEO Bob Quick.

“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," said Kentucky Horse Park chair Tandy Patrick, "Dr. Lyons’ energy, enthusiasm and belief that anything is possible will continue to be an inspiration to all of us.”

University of Kentucky president Eli Capilouto also released a statement.

“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.”

State leaders are also mourning the loss of Dr. Lyons.

"Kentucky lost one of the great ones today with the passing of Pearse Lyons," House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins said, "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. 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 talked about Dr. Lyons' impact in a statement, as well.

“It is with great sadness I have learned of Dr. Pearse Lyons’ passing," he said. "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.
“A dear mentor of mine, he taught me the importance of continuous self-improvement and served as a role model and inspiration. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Deidre; his children, Mark and Aoife; and the entire Alltech family during this difficult time.”

Lyons' family is asking for donations to the Alltech ACE Foundation, which provides services for schoolchildren in Haiti, in lieu of flowers.

This is a breaking news story. We will provide additional details as they become available.

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