Resting in peace

Jan 312010
Authors: Matt Miller

Between the years of 2001 and 2004, a man sat in a lawn chair in the Lory Student Center Plaza handing out pamphlets. Those who passed recognized his white fishermen’s hat and his calls for peace but didn’t know that this protestor was a veteran, a monk and a philosopher.

Dan Lyons, peace activist and former CSU professor, died in his home Wednesday at the age of 79.

After 34 years of teaching logic and ethics courses at CSU, Lyons retired in 2001 and became a fixture on the Plaza by campaigning for the peace movement.

For three years, his protests opened conversation among the students and faculty at CSU and fueled a debate about free speech on campus.

“As a philosopher he felt he had the duty not to just write articles that no one reads, but to go out and do something,” philosophy professor and colleague Bernard Rollin said.

Lyons, who had been opposed to every war since the 1970s, would hand out hundreds of pamphlets a week to students. He was also well known for taking his messages to the Internet through his blog.
“He wanted people to think, to use their head,” said Holly Stern, wife of Lyons’ fellow peace activist Joe Stern.
As a political activist, Lyons worked as the faculty advisor for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. On Earth Day in 1970, Lyons buried a car as part of the environmental movement to show his dislike of the combustion engine.
From 1951 to 1953, Lyons served in the United States Army in Korea.
After his time in the war, he became a Dominican friar at St. Thomas Aquinas Priory in River Forest, Ill. He had always been driven by religion and at age 16 hitchhiked around the country in search of a church to study.
His experiences in Korea and the priory shaped his views on United States warfare.
After he studied at the priory, he received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Chicago.

“He modeled what an intellectual should be,” Rollin said of Lyons’s work as an activist. “He was a kind of Socrates figure.”

Lyons was the author of two books: “Strutting and Fretting: Standards for self-esteem” (1991), co-authored with CSU colleague Jann Benson and “Democracy Rights and Freedoms: What are they? What good are they?” (2000).

“I never knew him to falter from his basic principle,” said long-time colleague and former CSU professor Benson. “That what’s good for the many is better than what’s good for the few.”

CSU philosophy instructor Phil Turetzky, a student of Lyons’s in 1970, remembers his classes as clear and always filled with knowledge and humor. He added that Lyons never used notes and always taught from what was in his head.

Those who worked and lived with Lyons remember him as an intellectual, a comedian, a hell raiser and a philosopher.

“We’re talking about a guy who can inspire you to go out and fight injustice; then tell you filthy jokes,” said Rollin, who was encouraged by Lyons to do protesting of his own.

Lyons is survived by his wife of 46 years, Mary, and his three children Jean Lotus, Thomas Lyons and Sarah Lyons.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Feb. 6 in the LSC West Ballroom. Donations can be made to the Food Bank for Larimer County and the Mission at Catholic Charities of Northern Colorado.

Staff writer Matt Miller can be reached at

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