Napa Valley College will honor and celebrate the life of one its pioneers for physical education and athletic programs Saturday night.
The late Mary Georgiana “Georgie” Lyon, who worked at the school from 1944 to 1978 as a teacher and coach, will be inducted into the NVC Athletic Hall of Fame at a dinner and ceremony at the Napa Valley Marriott.
The second annual class also has Dick Vermeil, Robert Maglione, Dennis Fechter, Steve Dodd, Ken Tronstad and Howard Jamison.
A social hour will start at 5:30 p.m. with the dinner at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are now being accepted.
Each of the inductees will receive a medal. The primary goals of the NVC Athletic Hall of Fame are to recognize individuals for outstanding athletic contribution and to illuminate the school’s athletic tradition. A Hall of Fame section is displayed in the foyer of the college gym.
“She would be so delighted, really,” said Peg Shedd, a longtime friend of Lyon’s. “She would have been very, very pleased to be inducted into the Napa Valley College Hall of Fame.”
In the early years of the college there were no women’s athletic teams. Lyon was an adviser to the Women’s Athletic Association, which provided competitive athletic opportunities for Napa College women against other community colleges.
She helped to plan and design the P.E. and athletic facilities, including the gym and swimming pool, when the campus was moved to its current location. Her teaching, advising, coaching and leadership were instrumental in paving the way for women to have the opportunities that they have at NVC today.
“You can almost trace the history of Title IX through her career,” said Kevin Luckey, NVC’s athletic director/dean of physical education and athletics, who established the Hall of Fame. “By the time she was finished, through efforts of women like her, women’s sports were beginning to form. That made it possible for what is happening today.”
Lyon was born in Lakeport, graduated from Healdsburg High School, received a bachelor’s degree in 1943 from Chico State University, and a master’s degree in 1957 from San Francisco State University. She retired as a professor of physical education from Napa College.
During those years, she coached team sports, including field hockey and basketball, and instructed students in many individual sports, including fencing, tennis, badminton, and swimming.
She started a program of recreational activities — sailing, hiking, and backpacking in the Sierras. Also, she conducted first aid classes for Napa Evening College, and taught swimming, life-saving, and badminton for the Napa Recreation Department. On weekends she played on one of eight teams for the Northern California Field Hockey Association from 1944-1947, playing in Pacific South Field Hockey Association tournaments representing the North.
During summers, she was water front director for various Girl Scout camps and instructor for the National American Red Cross Aquatic School in Idaho. She was chairperson of the water safety services for the local Red Cross chapter and also taught swimming at Napa High School.
“She devoted her whole life to P.E. and sports,” Lyon’s nephew, John Lyon of San Diego, said. “She was a pretty cool lady.”
Georgiana Lyon loved the outdoors and all sports, according to Peg Shedd, a longtime friend, who makes her home at Spring Lake Village in Santa Rosa.
“Her NVC students responded to her teaching skills and enthusiasm and she was proud of their accomplishments,” Shedd said. “Many enjoyed the benefits from continuing with their favorite sport in later years.”
After retiring in 1978, Lyon continued to participate in professional organizations, including CAHPER (California Association of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation). She also continued to volunteer with the National American Red Cross, and served as a board member of the Napa Chapter. In addition, she continued and enjoyed traveling and playing golf at Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park, Napa Valley Country Club and other courses.
In 1990, Lyon was inducted into the Chico State University Athletic Hall of Fame. She was a three-sport athlete in college, playing basketball, field hockey and tennis at Chico State from 1941-1943.
She was a WAA board member at Chico and was chair of the women’s physical fitness campaign in 1943. She held records for the softball throw in physical fitness tests.
After one year at Hanford High School, her professional career took her to Napa College.
“Georgie valued highly her experience at NVC,” said Shedd. “She is remembered by many as an understanding, generous, resourceful, competent leader and friend.”
In 2000, Lyon sold her home in Napa and moved to Spring Lake Village, a retirement community in Santa Rosa.
She passed away in April 2010 after a brief illness at the age of 91.
“She was just so enthusiastic about her teaching,” said Shedd. “Everything she accomplished, she more or less accomplished with her own will power and enthusiasm.”
Shedd will attend the Hall of Fame dinner with Lyon’s nephews, Jim Lyon of Hood River, Ore., John Lyon and Jim’s daughter, Sarah Lyon.
Sponsors for the event are being sought. Call the NVC Foundation Office at 256-7170 for information on sponsorship or reservations. Tickets can also be purchased by going to napavalley.edu/studentservices/athletics/pages.