Major Gen. William Lyon, USAF (Ret.) and his wife Willa Dean Lyon recently gave the division of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Keck School of Medicine a $2 million gift to fund wound healing research and programs that provide free reconstructive surgery and education for impoverished children worldwide.
According to Randy Sherman, holder of the Audrey Skirball-Kenis Chair in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and chief of the division, $1 million will be earmarked for Keck activities related to international service and teaching.
Numerous USC faculty currently work in conjunction with Operation Smile, a nonprofit organization that surgically corrects facial deformities in children abroad and provides educational opportunities for medical professionals to attain self sufficiency in their own countries.
Sherman, a longtime Lyon family friend and physician, and founder of the Southern California Chapter of Operation Smile, said that the gift acknowledges the cooperation between the university and the volunteer group in delivering vital services and education to the international community.
Operation Smile has performed more than 50,000 reconstructive surgeries on children since its founding 20 years ago, in dozens of countries including India, China, Brazil, Panama, Colombia, Morocco and Kenya.
“We’re overjoyed with the gift. General Lyon has been a constant supporter of USC and Operation Smile, whose work he has helped underwrite in the past,” Sherman said.
“This gift recognizes that USC plays an important role in elevating the effectiveness of the organization through a strategic university partnership.”
Sherman explained the remaining $1 million of the gift would be used next year to aid in the recruitment of an NIH-funded basic scientist to lead the efforts in wound-healing research.
William Lyon is chairman of the board, president and chief executive officer of the Newport Beach-based real estate development group, the William Lyon Companies. He is also a life trustee of USC.
A Los Angeles native and USC graduate, Lyon served as a pilot in the Pacific, European, and Middle East theaters in WWII. During the Korean War he flew 75 combat missions and after rising through the ranks was promoted to Major General in 1974. In 1975 he was appointed by the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force as Chief of the Air Force Reserve in Washington, D.C.
Four years later, General Lyon retired from the Air Force with more than 35 years of service. During his career he received 17 awards and decorations including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal of two oak-leaf clusters and the Presidential Unit Citation.
General Lyon and his family have been involved in numerous charitable organizations.
He has served as chair of the Boy Scouts of America, Orange County; chair of Orangewood, a home for dependent children; and chair of the Orange County Performing Arts Center.