Jack Lyons, the controversial businessman and arts enthusiast who provided the funding for the Music Department and concert hall at the University of York has died at the age of 92.
John Stringer, head of the Music department at the University, issued a press release stating: “We [the Music Department] were greatly saddened to hear of the death of Jack Lyons. He and his wife, Roslyn, have been great supporters of Music at York for many years. Our thoughts are with his family at this distressing time.”
Isidore Jack Lyons was born in 1916 in Leeds, the fifth of six children of a polish immigrant, Samuel Lyons. Educated at Leeds Grammar School and Columbia University, Lyons went on to become a successful businessman and was well renound as a philanthropist.
Lyons was given a CBE in 1967 and then a Knighthood in 1973 for “public and charitable services and services to the arts.” However, he was stripped of these awards in 1991 following his conviction of share-trading fraud and involvement in the Guinness takeover of Distillers.
Despite this, he was informed by John Major that his “good works will always be remembered.” His belief in York and its music department was such that donated money to the University when it was only within its first decade of existence. York is currently the youngest University to be in the Times Good University Guide top ten for music.
Despite his love of the arts, Lyons was prevented from learning a musical instrument by his father. He was inspired by his wife – a professional singer – and felt compelled to help fund many other notable musical institutions such as the Leeds Music Festival. Lyons also chaired the Shakespeare Exhibition in 1964 in Stratford-on-Avon.
The University of York Symphony Orchestra held the Mahler concert last Wednesday in his memory.