Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Memory of Prof Mark Lyons

Professor Mark Lyons, the Director of Research at the Centre for Social Impact, died on 4th November 2009.

Mark was known among those who worked with him as an extraordinary person: generous with his time, his ideas and his encouragement. Patient and interested in the work of new scholars or third sector workers, Mark was always able to suggest a text or paper to read. He devoted himself unstintingly to the development of nonprofit studies in Australia and abroad. Australian nonprofit sector study has been deeply enriched by Mark’s work. Although he will be greatly missed, his outstanding contribution will live on.

Scholars from around the world sent their tributes as news of Mark’s illness spread. They told a consistent story of warmth and openness. Here a just a few of the comments: ‘…your contribution to our sturdy band of researchers and scholars was made with great intelligence, the best of will, and a persisting goodness of spirit and good humour’; ‘your personal contributions and the students you mentored paved the road for legitimising the field of nonprofit studies in Australia’; ‘you have been a teacher and mentor to many and a true friend to the lucky ones’; ‘you were a thoughtful colleague whose contributions have benefited all of us in this field’.

Mark was a pioneer in the study of the nonprofit sector. In the early years of the third sector movement, Mark was dubbed “Mr Australia” by his colleagues around the world. Certainly he represented the sector almost single-handedly in the 1980s when the first Centres for non-profit study emerged. As international comparisons of aspects of the sector increased, Mark remained a strong proponent of the Australian presence. He was the Foundation Chair of the Australian and New Zealand Third Sector Research (ANZTSR) organisation, a Foundation Director of the International Society for Third-Sector Research (ISTR), and made a strong contribution to the development of third sector research in Asia.

Mark’s research and teaching career began in 1972. He became the inaugural Director of the Centre for Community Organisations and Management at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) established in 1990, and later Professor of Social Economy, also at UTS. Mark was a major force in the development of third sector studies in Australia, producing the definitive text on the sector, The Third Sector: The Contribution of Nonprofit and Cooperative Enterprises in Australia published in 2001. His extensive series of articles explored most aspects of the sector. For most Australian researchers he was the first and last person to talk to about non-profit enterprise.

Mark was diagnosed with cancer soon after he joined the Centre for Social Impact. He was extraordinarily brave as he fought his illness and continued to work productively at CSI until he was forced to retire in October. His final paper on measuring social impact in the third sector, written with Gianni Zappala, has just been published by the Centre.

At CSI we remember Mark with great warmth and affection. We learned a great deal from Mark’s willingness to share openly his experience and deep understanding of not-for-profit organisations. All of us at the Centre are filled with sadness.

Mark is survived by his wife, Carolyn, and sons Bede and Benedict.

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