Unsung Hero: Carol Lyon, St. Johnsbury Academy

Lyon’s financial savvy has helped St. Johnsbury Academy secure emergency funds and emerge from the pandemic with a balanced budget.

Aug 30, 2021


The Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award is given to business officers who have made extraordinary contributions to their schools and exemplify exceptional integrity, knowledge and motivation. At the end of each school year, new Unsung Heroes receive their award from their head of school, often at a significant school occasion such as a board meeting or an all-school ceremony. What makes these Unsung Heroes so special? The highlights below come straight from their colleagues' nominations.

Title: Assistant Headmaster for Finance
School: St. Johnsbury Academy, St. Johnsbury, Virginia
Years in Position: 19
Years in an independent school business office: 32

Superpower: Meticulous and strategic financials. Lyon is renowned in the St. Johnsbury community for her precision and speed in the business office. When Head of School Sharon Howell was applying to work at the school, she recalls the search consultant saying, “I have never been paid more quickly by any business officer than I was by Carol Lyon.” Howell reports: “Carol has not missed a single deadline or even asked for an extension on a project, and her ability to attend to detail while keeping the big picture in mind is some sort of superpower. She is meticulous and has perfect integrity, and everything she does is without drama or fuss.”

Beyond the numbers: Above all else, Lyon “understands that the role of a business officer at a school is different from that at any other institution. The numbers represent people's children, and that's all the more reason to cherish every dollar we have, to make the school great for them.”

Grant Guru: In 2020, Lyon led the Academy through the PPP loan process and a substantial loan that was subsequently fully forgiven. Those funds and state grants allowed the school to retain all 220 employees through the pandemic.

Humble colleague: Lyon is “an exceptionally modest, practical and completely unpretentious person,” according to Howell. “She lets others take the stage, but she will also take the stage to thank the people who work hard for her. Except for when it comes to preparing tax returns, I have never heard her say ‘I’ rather than ‘we.’”

Caring heart: This past year, Lyon stepped forward when a student at a neighboring school passed away suddenly. She purchased gift cards to the local bakery for every staff member at the school and had the head of school write hand-written notes to go with them. “Carol inspires, amazes and impresses me,” said Howell.

See a full list of the 2021 recipients and read more about the Will J. Hancock Unsung Hero Award. NetAssets.org will post additional profiles of Unsung Heroes throughout the fall — check in to learn more about other recipients. 



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