John Lyda named George Fox's Volunteer of Year

John Lyda was named Volunteer of the Year at George Fox.It’s difficult to go anywhere on George Fox University’s Newberg, Ore., campus and not see some of the volunteer work of John Lyda, named the school’s Volunteer of the Year for 2011 at a banquet on campus Wednesday, May 25.

The 1958 George Fox graduate has worked officially and unofficially for his alma mater since 1973. His paid work came to an end in 2000 after 18 years of service, many as superintendent of new construction, but he remains a fixture on campus. As a volunteer for the last 11 years, he’s continued to assist on a variety of building and construction projects.

“My dad set the example – I remember him coming home from church camp being filled with joy over the volunteer work he was doing,” Lyda said. “I figure, if God gives me these gifts, I want to use them. I can’t work seven days a week or even five, but I get out and help when I can.”

“Retirement” has slowed Lyda down. Instead, he’s recently helped with some significant campus building remodels at the Villa Academic Complex, Lemmons Center, Center Street House and Fry House.

In addition, he’s assisted with campus projects that include the creation of a new high jump area near the track, siding of the Little Red Schoolhouse, landscaping near the Munn House, work in Hess Creek Canyon, and, most recently, supervision and construction of the just-completed gazebo in the canyon.

Lyda was assistant director of buildings when he joined the campus in 1973 and, four years later, was named superintendent of new construction. He took a hiatus from building projects in the 1980s, as he taught briefly and then served as building manager at Newberg Friends Church, before returning to the university. When he retired, he became one of the first recipients of a new university honor, administrator emeritus.

Lyda’s contributions have saved the university untold thousands of dollars, according to director of plant services Clyde Thomas. “Every time I call him he’s always willing to come in,” Thomas said. “He loves to come in and be available to us.”

While Lyda has put George Fox high on his list of priorities, he’s also volunteered to help other organizations and groups with his talent. He regularly leads hymn singing at Friendsview Retirement Community and, as a president (two years) and project coordinator (five-plus years), he’s directed the local Volunteers on Wheels organization as it assisted with construction projects all over the region and throughout the world.

Lyda, 74, also has volunteered as a member of the City of Newberg Planning Commission and the Transportation Committee, with Tween and Family camps at Twin Rocks Friends camps, and at the Newberg Friends Church in positions ranging from boys Sunday school teacher and youth group sponsor to assistant clerk of the Monthly Meeting.

Supporting John in his volunteer work is his wife, Janet, whom he met at George Fox and married in 1956. She also joined the George Fox staff in 1973, beginning and ending in the registrar’s office, completing her career in 1999 as records specialist. The couple has four children: Jack, James, Jerrie and Julie, all George Fox graduates.