December 1, 2020

Deirdre Lyons: A Light For Her Community

Deirdre Lyons: A Light For Her Community

By Bobbi Silver
People who know Deirdre Lyons know she is a force of strength and love. Through the successes and tragedies that she has experienced, she is guided by her Catholic faith and the command to love one another.

Deirdre has experienced significant losses in recent years with the passing of both her husband, Pearse, and her daughter, Aoife. Even with the weight of this pain, she strives to give back to her team members and the community. Deirdre and her son, Mark, now work together to manage the day-to-day operations of Alltech, the animal nutrition company she co-founded with Pearse in 1980. Mark serves as president and CEO, while Deirdre is the director of corporate image and design.

Family and business
Deirdre grew up in Dublin, Ireland, where she attended Catholic school. She met Pearse in her senior year of high school and fell in love with his boundless energy and their shared belief in possibility. Church and state in Ireland were closely linked, and there was a law mandating that women could not go to work if they were married. This was written in the constitution. Deirdre decided to focus on her career and took a clerical job in order to save money to go to college.

Pearse and Deirdre were married in 1972. In 1974, they moved with their infant daughter Aoife to England, and their son Mark was born in 1976. During the oil crisis in 1977, Pearse was issued a distinguished scientist visa and was invited to the United States to work on ethanol alcohol production. In 1980, Pearse’s vision shifted to developing organic, nutritional products for animals and crops.

Deirdre and Pearse used their life savings to found Alltech, focusing on smarter, more sustainable feed solutions for agriculture. Deirdre recalls this as an uncertain and challenging time because they did not have a lot of money and she greatly missed her family in Ireland. The couple worked diligently to raise their children and get the business off the ground with the goal of making revolutionary changes within the agriculture industry that would benefit animals, consumers and the environment. The company now employs more than 5,000 people in more than 120 countries.

Deirdre affectionately refers to the global team as her family. Together, they are committed to supporting the company’s vision for Planet of PlentyTM — a future in which the agri-food industry is able to produce enough nutritious food for all while preserving the earth’s natural re- sources. Deirdre feels this work is an extension of her faith in following Pope Francis’ guidance for care and concern for the environment.

In a significant step toward supporting a better future for our planet and improving our communities, Deirdre and Mark signed a letter to the secretary-general of the United Nations committing Alltech to the UN Global Compact. In addition, Alltech committed to nine UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that align with their core business, including Zero Hunger, Good Health and Well-Being, Quality Education, Gender Equality, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land and Partnership for the Goals.

Stewards of the future
Deirdre and Pearse shared a passion for giving back to their community, particularly through education. Their generous support has positively affected faith organizations, elementary and high school education and universities. Deirdre feels investing in people is important because she believes in the power of recognizing a person’s potential and their ability to lift themselves up with a little help. This sentiment is reflected throughout the culture of Alltech

“When someone joins the staff at Alltech, they become part of a family, and we invest in their personal and professional growth,” says Deirdre. “We want to know people’s ambitions and help them to achieve their goals.”

The company does this through education initiatives and opening growth opportunities for employees, their families and their communities. The family also has a passion for introducing science to students at a young age.

“We do not want children to wait to get involved in science until high school, when it can seem too challenging,” Deirdre says. Deirdre and her team have invested in designing science labs in many of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lexington.

pearse deidre

Deirdre says helping others is part of their family fabric, noting, “I love seeing how people are impacted, and I hope they will then help someone else in return.” The family’s philanthropic endeavors are selected based on their alignment with agriculture, education and entrepreneurship — cornerstones of Alltech’s business and culture. Supported by the Pearse Lyons ACE Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Alltech and the Lyons family remain actively involved in charitable activities locally and around the world.

In Haiti, three schools were constructed in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, ensuring the education of more than 1,200 children. In Serdan, Mexico, Alltech team members support the children in a local orphanage, providing mentorship and sponsoring projects that improve their care and invest in their future. Partnering with a customer in the Philippines, Alltech is helping to rebuild an elementary school that was destroyed in an earthquake. More than 900 students now have a designated “classroom of hope” where they have access to new computers and science equipment.

Culture of service
In the U.S., Alltech has responded to the urgent needs of communities struck by natural disasters, including the Iowa derecho and Texas floods from Hurricane Harvey. At home in Kentucky, Deirdre recently initiated support for GreenHouse17, a nonprofit committed to ending partner abuse. Local support also includes the Alltech Vocal Scholar- ship Competition, which provides vocal students the opportunity to attend the University of Kentucky and join the UK Opera Theater to pursue their dreams.

From creating literacy programs in Brazil and providing milk to underserved children in India, to donating hand sanitizer to frontline personnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lyonses’ spirit of giving is reflected throughout Alltech and in every corner of the world.

“Being Catholic has shaped who I am as a person and who we are as a company,” says Deirdre. “It is natural for me to continue to live out the meaning of what my faith teaches me: To love everyone and to help others.”

Pearse had many sayings he shared with those around him, but one they heard the most was when he posed the questions, “What are the five most important words? Five words: How can I help you? Four words: What do you think? Three words: After you, please. Two words: Thank you. One word: We.”

Deirdre Lyons deeply mourns the loss of her husband in 2018 and her daughter in 2019. Yet, she maintains the quiet dignity and persistence that characterize her family’s desire to help others and be generous, as the Catholic faith calls us to do. Her example of how to live as a faithful steward is one to admire — and serves as a reminder that even in great suffering, we can love one another with a servant’s heart.