When John Lyons, FCRH ’50, attended Fordham, entertainment options were few for him and Beryl, his childhood sweetheart and future wife.
Rams football filled that void.
“Fordham was playing at the Polo Grounds, and you could get a ticket for 75 cents. So for all the home games, I would get the 75-cent tickets, Beryl and I would go up to the Polo Grounds, and after the game, we would take the D train down to Broadway,” Lyons said.
“There was a restaurant on 48th Street just off Broadway—one of these Italian restaurants in a basement. Many times we wouldn’t have enough money for two meals, so we’d get a meal to share, or whatever we could. But we would come out of that restaurant, and as long as we had 15 cents in our pocket, that was a nickel each for the subway, and a nickel for the Sunday Daily News.”
After those collegiate days, when he commuted from Elmhurst, Queens, to Rose Hill, Lyons ascended the corporate hierarchy to become vice chairman of Merck, Inc.
Lyons returned to Rose Hill on Sept. 24 to commemorate the days he and Beryl spent cheering the Rams, and to dedicate a new football locker facility that his generosity helped create.
The Beryl and John Lyons Football Locker Room has opened in the basement of the Rose Hill Gym in a space once occupied by the University’s first swimming pool. The room features more than 90 wooden lockers, widescreen televisions and a theatre-type viewing area for the team. It also includes two sealed lockers with memorabilia to honor Fordham football legends Vince Lombardi and Bill Tierney. At roughly 4,800 square feet, it is more than four times larger than the former room.
The $1.5 million cost was covered by a $1 million gift from Lyons and a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. The remaining $500,000 went to the University’s football fund.
At the dedication ceremony, current team captain and wide receiver Jason Caldwell thanked Lyons for his generosity. “We used to have to meet in the Rose Hill Gym during games since we didn’t have enough space in the old locker room. But now that we have a place to call home, the team’s spirits have been lifted and it makes us that much prouder to be Rams,” he said.
The project appealed to Lyons because, even though he missed out on campus life as a commuter student, football provided a connection to the social aspects of the University. In fact, Don Cameron, a fellow chemistry major, played halfback for the team, and would regale classmates with retellings of games in class.
“He was our own Monday morning quarterback,” Lyons said.
Those classes were where he learned enough to walk into his first job as a research chemist at Merck with total confidence.
“I absolutely knew there was nothing they could throw at me that I couldn’t handle, because Fordham prepares you to handle anything,” Lyons said. “You worked your butt off.”
More than anything, Lyons said he wanted his gift to highlight the memories of his time with Beryl, who died on May 9—just 39 days before their 50th wedding anniversary.
“There are three things that have influenced my life. One is, without a doubt, Beryl; she was my rock. Without her, I was nothing. The second was Fordham, and the third was the United States Navy,” he said.
“I’ve traveled the world and I’ve been in every fancy restaurant in the world, but Beryl and I often said we were never richer than when we had those meals we could hardly afford after the Fordham football games.”
Director of Sports Information Joseph DiBari contributed to this report.