Graduates past and present are being honored this month at Indian River High School. The celebrations began last week, when the newly reinstated IRHS Alumni Association welcomed Susan Lyons, a member of the Class of 1973, to the IRHS Hall of Fame.
“This year’s selection was very easy,” said Principal Mark Steele at the ceremony May 23. “All five individuals [on the selection committee], without conversing with one another, came back with a common name.”
From doctors and judges to farmers and the strongest man in the world, these graduates went on to serve the community, Steele explained of the roster of more than two dozen names on the school’s Hall of Fame wall.
Alumna Ruth Ann Marvel said the ideal Hall of Fame candidate demonstrates leadership, service, character, community impact and IR pride.
“There’s not another person that I could think of that has such an impact on our community,” said Marvel. “She’s keeping it local, and I think that is just so important.”
Marvel said the Hall of Fame can inspire current students to achieve great things, while the alumni association keeps graduates connected and informed.
“There’s so much positive good news about the school that needs to be out in the community,” Marvel said.
As publisher of the Coastal Point newspaper, Lyons has long worked to connect the community.
She grew up on Cedar Neck Road and graduated from the fledgling IRHS in 1973, soon after the district consolidated.
Until then, Ocean View students had attended Lord Baltimore School for all 12 years of their primary and secondary schooling.
“Our classes saw a lot of change coming in,” Lyons recalled. “It was good. You got to meet a lot of new people.”
Lyons never went to college, figuring she would take over her grandparents’ retail store.
“I’m probably one of the few people on that [Hall of Fame] wall that didn’t go to college. And that means a lot to me,” she said.
Lyons remembered her two favorite teachers, physical education teacher Lois Wilder and Martha White, an English teacher, senior advisor and school newspaper advisor.
“Both of them were very strong-willed women that just instilled in me that, if you worked hard, you could do anything you want to be,” Lyons said. “When I started in the newspaper business, the only women that were in this business were single. I was the only person married in my office with kids.”
She joined the newspaper business as an advertising representative in 1982 and loved it immediately. Lyons worked her way up to advertising manager before starting the Wave newspaper in the mid-1980s. She founded the Coastal Point newspaper in 2004 with partner Darin McCann.
“I learned the role of a newspaper in the community,” Lyons said. “I realized how tied together we all are in this community.
“We, as a community paper, have been in the thick of it all. We have been the observers, the informers, and a platform for individuals to speak their mind. But the biggest thing I’ve learned in this business is that one person can make a difference.”
Lyons joked that many high school seniors were eager to move away from rural Sussex County.
“But at some point, you’re going to realize that you really live in one of the best places in the country… You’ve got this all at your fingertips. You need to enjoy it, embrace it and protect this area. This area is more special that you think.”
Now in her 30th year in the newspaper world, Lyons has won numerous awards from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association; served many years with the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce; was named 2008 Chamber Business Partner of the Year; and is a member of the Barefoot Gardeners, Bethel United Methodist Church and Beta Sigma Phi sorority.
She takes pride in supporting local business and nonprofit groups, and she aims to connect people to accomplish things behind the scenes.
“It’s important to keep those small businesses healthy and keep working together, keep our community strong … and help the community grow.”
As a local newspaper, Lyons said, “Nobody else does what we do. Without these two newspapers in this town, nobody would know what was going on in the towns … somebody has to be a watchdog for even the small towns.”
Lyons said it was an honor to be included in the Hall of Fame with people who are so well-respected in the community.
“I was pretty shocked and pretty humbled. I’m a person who kind of likes to stay in the background of things. But you never know where life is going to lead you, and one day I ended up working at a newspaper office.”
From the first day, Lyons said, she knew she would love her career, “and I think that’s important for anything that you do.
“It’s a career you’re never away from, one that I could never have done with out the support of my family, and friends, and great staff.”
Lyons thanked her husband of 34 years, Andy, and her parents for their longtime support. Lyons’ own three children attended Indian River, and she may see all five granddaughters in green and gold. She also thanked her friend and business partner, editor Darin McCann, and the newspaper’s staff.
Steele commended the Coastal Point for its “extremely fair” sports and editorial coverage of IRHS.
There are now 27 members in the IRHS Hall of Fame. For more information on Indian River High School Alumni Association, which was restarted in September of 2011, visit the “Alumni” link at www.edline.net/pages/Indian_River_High_School.