Described as an innovator, visionary and pioneer, Tom Lyon devoted his life's work to building cooperatives for the future. Cooperatives at the local, state, national and international levels have benefited from his experience, wisdom, organizational skills and professionalism. He formed the first U.S. holding cooperative, Cooperative Resources International (CRI), a cutting-edge business model that preserved member ownership and equity through cooperation among cooperatives. As CRI's first CEO, Lyon grew this new model into a successful business with global prominence.
Lyon always demonstrated a willingness to implement new concepts to make cooperatives more successful in changing business environments. He created the blueprint for Cooperation Works!, the national network of co-op development centers and served on the task force that made it a reality. He also helped create Cooperative Development Services, an organization providing technical assistance for co-op start-ups. A prime example would be Kids in the Kountry, a rural co-op daycare center for which he gathered seed money to launch. Today, it is a successful cooperative and often used as a model for others.
In addition, he is a strong advocate of co-op education. He was heavily involved in the University of Wisconsin system, often building links between scholars and co-op leaders. He was a Trustee for both The Cooperative Foundation and the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership. And, to ensure generation of highly qualified cooperative practitioners, he led the creation of the Ralph K. Morris Foundation scholarship program.