Late David Lyons honored with state chamber’s Gilman Bowl
WILMINGTON — In a testament to the legacy in business and civic duty he left behind, David F. Lyons Sr. was posthumously awarded the Gilman Bowl during the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s annual Superstars in Business award ceremony on Wednesday.
Catherine Lyons, David’s wife, was visibly emotional when the announcement was made as she sat with state chamber leaders for an interview for the pre-recorded ceremony. Lyons, now CEO of the Lyons Company, whispered a heartfelt thank you, as her two sons, David Jr. and Tim, were at her side.
“He was a leader in so many ways and set an example,” she said during the ceremony. “That’s a tremendous legacy for people to follow after you and want to pursue the things that were important to you.”
The Gilman Bowl, the pinnacle of the 22nd Annual Marvin S. Gilman Superstars in Business, was established to celebrate a business leader’s contributions to the community as well as their own field. Marvin S. Gilman, an celebrated developer and economist, is lauded as a paragon of Delaware small business.
The identity of the recipient of the Gilman Bowl is traditionally confidential until its presentation at the awards ceremony. But due to the pandemic, the state chamber had to reinvent the ceremony into a live-stream format with remote networking opportunities. To keep with tradition, the Lyons family was invited to the Hotel DuPont for a “small business interview” and surprised with the news.
“Our Dad was such a figure, a force to be reckoned with. The fact that the community is still remembering him, means a lot to us,” said David Lyons Jr. in the interview, his voice choked with emotion.
From modest beginnings in 1984, David Lyons founded Lyons Companies in the back of his father’s dental office after being told to “get his act together and get a real job” instead of focusing on tennis. Over the last three decades, Lyons built the company into one of the region’s largest independent and privately held risk management and insurance brokerage firms with more than 50 employees.
Lyons was a member of the University of Delaware’s Board of Trustees, the board of the American Red Cross and Tatnall School’s Board of Trustees. He also chaired the Garrett Lyons Dental Fellowship for Nemours Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, the New Castle County Ducks Unlimited and served as vice-chair of the Delaware Business Roundtable.
He also chaired the Board of Trustees of the Delaware Council on Economic Education (DCEE), where he founded the “Economic Forecast” event, bringing national economic policy makers together with business leaders in an annual forum covered by the national press.
Carlos Asarta, the DCEE president and the director of the UD Center for Economic Education, said that through Lyon’s personal support, the organizations are able to reach 2,000 educators per year, who in turn, are able to help hundreds of thousands of students become economically literate.
“One of the most powerful tools an individual can provide others is education. To that end, David Lyons Sr. was devoted to educating both children and adults about economics, personal finance, and entrepreneurship via his involvement,” Asarta said in a prepared statement.
The ceremony also honored five companies ranging in sizes and nonprofits as Superstars in Business. This year, winners included AlphaGraphics, a full-service print and marketing services company; Whisman Giordano & Associates, a certified public accounting firm; and Tidewater Utilities Inc., a private water and wastewater utility serving 50,000 customers in Delaware.
In his acceptance speech, Whisman Giordano & Associates President Joseph Giordano credited the firm’s team for care, commitment and intelligent insights. Looking to the future, he told Delaware Business Times in extraordinary times, the plan would be to stay on track and continue working with rising leaders in the firm.
“It’s surprising, but we had planned for 15% percent growth in the next three years. In the last months, we’ve seen 8% growth year over year,” Giordano said.
Tidewater Utilities Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Bruce O’Connor said that after the company’s moment in the sun, it would be back to focus on providing the best water and sewer service possible to Delaware residents and businesses.
“You can be put under a microscope for providing a public service, but it’s about the customers and delivering the best service possible,” O’Connor said.
The Award of Excellence went to Jobs for Delaware Graduates Inc., while Preston’s March for Energy, a nonprofit that provides adaptive bikes across the country to children living with special needs, won the Superstars in Business nonprofit category.
Deb Buenaga, the founder of Preston’s March for Energy, later told DBT that her organization was facing some funding issues with the pandemic. But seeing that the entire world was at a standstill — including children that were unable to go to therapy appointments — it reaffirmed her commitment to the cause.
“When Delaware shut down, we had 63 kids on the waiting list, and we had to answer those applications first. So we shut the portal down, and when we reopened it, we had 22 applications,” said Buenaga, who started the organization after seeing her son’s joy at riding his bike for the first time. “You have kids that want to go outside as we’ve been shut down, so we need to keep up to meet that.”
By Katie Tabeling