TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — December 13, 2011 -
Florida State University senior Jared Lyon, a U.S. Navy veteran who is widely credited as the driving force behind Florida State’s inaugural Student Veteran Film Festival, as well the university’s new Veterans House, has been named Student Veteran of the Year by a prestigious national advocacy organization.
Student Veterans of America (SVA) — a coalition of student-veteran groups on college campuses across the United States and overseas — presented Lyon with the award at its 2011 national conference in Las Vegas. The organization, which has 526 chapters, provides military veterans with the resources, support and advocacy needed to succeed in higher education and following graduation.
“I am so pleased and proud of Jared who is very deserving of this honor,” said Florida State President Eric J. Barron. “Through his own initiative and passion for this issue, he has become a national leader in making sure returning veterans succeed in college. As a veteran, Jared understands the challenges they face, and he has motivated our university and now others across the country to give veterans the support they need to transition from soldier to student.”
Lyon serves as president of Florida State’s Collegiate Veterans Association (CVA), which is an SVA chapter. He said he is not alone in accepting the award.
“I do so on behalf of all of my brothers and sisters in arms at the CVA,” he said. “The award means a great deal to me and speaks volumes for what the CVA has accomplished at Florida State.”
Adam Goldstein, associate dean of students, stressed that Florida State University’s pledge to become the most “veteran-friendly” campus in the nation is a direct result of Lyon’s enthusiasm and efforts.
“It’s very appropriate and fitting that Jared won this award,” Goldstein said, noting that Lyon “has a rare ability to connect with all sorts of people.” He added that Lyon became incredibly driven after attending the SVA national conference last year at his own expense.
“He came back inspired,” Goldstein said. “He returned to our community, did his homework, and then set up a meeting with President Barron. That meeting put everything into motion.”
Air Force Col. William W. “Billy” Francis II, director of FSU’s newly established Veterans Center, had the chance to observe Lyon’s enthusiasm and hard work up close.
“I was very happy for Jared . . . one of the most satisfying emotions in life is to see someone receive recognition/reward for outstanding achievement,” Francis said. “Jared and the Collegiate Veterans Association blazed new trails for student-veterans this year, and their work culminated in his recognition as the most outstanding student-veteran in the United States.”
Lyon, 29, who is graduating from Florida State this week with a degree in interdisciplinary social science, served in the Navy from 2001 to 2005 as a submariner and diver on multiple deployments.
After leaving the Navy in 2005 with an honorable discharge, he went to work for Northrop Grumman Corp. in Melbourne, Fla., as an electronic systems administrator while completing his associate degree at Brevard Community College. Lyon then worked as the manager of Florida operations for the Major League Baseball team the Washington Nationals for three seasons before leaving to continue his education at Florida State.
In addition to serving as president of FSU’s Collegiate Veterans Association, Lyon is president of the Sigma Phi Epsilonmen’s fraternity, a Garnet and Gold Scholar, a Ruck Scholar, a Seminole Torchbearer, co-chairman of the Student Veteran Film Fest Planning Committee, and a voting member on Florida State’s Veteran Center Advisory Board. He also served on the FSU Veterans Center Director Search Committee, serves as surgeon of District 2 for the Florida Department of Veterans of Foreign Wars, and is the junior vice commander for Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3308 in Tallahassee.
Lyon’s work on behalf of veterans at Florida State is part of his life’s mission, he said.
“As our nation welcomes home our returning warriors from their service, it is imperative that our university and others like it be prepared to serve those who have served our country,” Lyon said. “Part of that is improving the graduation rate of veterans; FSU will lead the charge to answer the call to improve the graduation rates of our returning student-veterans, as well as addressing issues they may experience during their transition.”
Lyon recently accepted a job as the Entrepreneurship Bootcamp for Veterans with Disabilities national program manager for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University.
He begins work on Jan. 3, 2012, just weeks after his graduation from Florida State.
“I am incredibly excited to make a difference in the lives of veterans on a national level,” said Lyon, who hopes to eventually earn a master’s degree in public administration. He will continue to be involved with Florida State and said he is “honored” to remain on Florida State’s Veterans Center Advisory Board as an alumnus.
“We have a long way to go, but the commitment we have made is unlike anything else happening at a university of our size and scope,” Lyon said. “We are different because we care, we are different because we are attempting to change the culture of our campus and above all we are different because from the president to the student body, FSU is committed to making our student veterans truly feel like they are a welcome part of our family.”