Maj Gen William Lyon, USAF [Ret]
A Life of Achievement
General William Lyon, without question, has led an achievement-filled life. Even more impressive is the fact that General Lyon’s many accomplishments are wide ranging, as he has made his mark as a successful businessman, a decorated member of the military and an active supporter of the community.
More than 50 years ago, William Lyon started building homes for returning military personnel and others attracted to the Golden State. This modest effort evolved to become William Lyon Homes, Inc., which is now one of the nation’s largest private homebuilders. Headquartered in Newport Beach, William Lyon Homes has constructed more than 100,000 new residences in Arizona, California and Nevada.
General Lyon’s business success isn’t limited to homebuilding. During the 80s, General Lyon established a multifamily real estate company to further diversify his real estate holdings. Today, three privately-held companies, Lyon Capital Ventures, Lyon Realty Advisors and Lyon Management Group, acquire, develop and manage over 10,000 units. In 1981 he and a partner purchased AirCal, a regional air carrier based in Newport Beach, California. General Lyon served as their Chairman & CEO until 1987 when he merged AirCal with American Airlines. His love of flying then led him to purchase Martin Aviation, a fixed based operator, at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California, as well to establish the Lyon Air Museum. Most recently, General Lyon, along with other investors, opened Commercial Bank of California, which he chairs.
William Lyon generously shares his business expertise by serving on the boards of several companies, including Fidelity National Title Group, Inc. and Woodside Credit. He is a retired director of American Airlines.
During General Lyon’s distinguished military career of more than 35 years, he flew combat missions in Korea, as well as several assignments in Europe, the Pacific, and North Africa during World War II. General Lyon received numerous awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (with three oak clusters), and the Presidential Unit Citation.
General Lyon’s military contributions further extend to serving as Chief of the Air Force Reserve from 1975 to 1979. In this position, he was responsible for managing a $700,000,000 budget as well as the activities of some 53,000 Air Force reservists.
William Lyon’s military affiliations further include his service as board chairman of the United States Air Force Academy Research and Development Institution, chairman (and later chairman emeritus) and director of the USAF Falcon Foundation, as well as a member of the Air Force Academy Foundation.
General Lyon is the current chairman of the American Air Museum in Britain.
William Lyon has always been an active supporter of community organizations. He currently serves as a director on the Segerstrom Center For The Arts Board (having been a former chairman of that board). General Lyon is the founding chairman of the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, and past chairman of Boy Scouts of America, Orange County Council. Additionally, he has served as board chairman of the Alexis de Tocqueville Society of The United Way.
General Lyon attended USC in the 40s and currently serves as a Lifetime Trustee. Additionally, he serves on the board of USC Marshall School of Business and is a member of the President’s Cabinet of Chapman University.
Given his long history of achievement, William Lyon has deservedly received numerous honors, including: the United States Air Force Academy Distinguished Service Award (November 2005); Ernst & Young’s National Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Real Estate category, November 2005); Operation Smile’s Corporate Humanitarian Award (October 2005); USC Marshall School of Business Leadership Award (September 2005); Distinguished Public Service Award presented by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (May 2005); Chapman University’s Presidential Medal in Business and Entrepreneurship Award (2004); and, Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Southern California (May 2002).
A Los Angeles native, William Lyon, and his wife, Willa Dean Lyon, have five children and six grandchildren.