When you watch world-class athletes performing feats of outstanding strength, dexterity and strategic thinking, the excellence you witness is the culmination of superb coaching, dogged practice, and often financial support that frees them to concentrate on perfecting their skills. This certainly is the story of recent York Kinesiology graduate and outstanding athlete Alexandria Town (BSc’18).
"Receiving the Mary Lyons Award lifted a huge weight off my shoulders” — Alexandria Town
One of York’s most decorated women’s athletes, Town honed her wrestling skills figuratively standing on the shoulders of a woman she never met — Professor Mary Lyons, one of York University’s Athletics builders.
In 1967, York hired Lyons as the inaugural Coordinator of Women’s Interuniversity Sport. Through her leadership she grew the program from six to 14 sports by her retirement in 1993, and helped York establish one of the best reputations in women’s university sport.
Jennifer Myers, York’s Director of Sport and Recreation, says “Mary’s work formed the basis of the sport system we have in place today. She will always be an integral part of the fabric of sport at York.”
During Lyons’s tenure, she was the academic advisor, coach and confidant to thousands of student-athletes. Later she reflected, “I recognized how many students made sacrifices to complete their education, fitting in academics, athletics, and often part-time jobs.”
After Lyons retired, she wanted to continue to have an impact on students’ lives. With assistance from a financial advisor, she bought a $87,000 life insurance policy and made York its beneficiary. Upon her passing in 2014, her policy had grown to $144,365. Following her wishes, the funds were endowed to form the Mary Lyons Excellence Award in support of high performance student-athletes.
“Having to finance my own education was extremely taxing, so receiving the Mary Lyons Excellence Award lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and allowed me to focus on my training. I’m extremely grateful for this help. I hope to repay Mary’s generosity by representing Canada at the 2020 Olympics!”