Mardan Award Dinner Hails Gen. Lyon

Only one award was given out at the annual Mardan Award Dinner Saturday night at the Hotel Meridien in Newport Beach. It went to Gen. William Lyon, a residential developer and chief executive officer of AirCal Inc., for his “outstanding community achievements and service to youth organizations.” Joseph Milligan and Steven Adler, who were students at the Mardan Center of Educational Therapy in Costa Mesa 18 years ago, didn’t receive awards, but they stole the limelight as they told the 350 guests about how the school helped them overcome learning disabilities.

Milligan and Adler, both 28, gave David Eisenman, Mardan founder, and Sylvia Oster, a teacher at the school for 23 years, credit for helping them conquer difficulties in reading comprehension and visual perception as well as early behavioral and emotional problems.

Teachers as Friends

Of his teachers at Mardan, Milligan said, “The one thing that stands out in my mind is that I felt they were friends, and they were teaching from the heart.”


Eisenman noted that when Adler and Milligan returned to the public school system in the sixth and seventh grades, respectively, they were functioning at grade level. Today, Adler, a UCLA graduate, is executive vice president of Adler Shoes. Milligan, who has a bachelor’s degree in business from USC, has organized major rock concerts at USC and produced the movie “Young Warriors” in 1984.

The event Saturday raised $60,000 for the Mardan Center, according to Chris Klein, head of Mardan development. And during the program, Carol Hoffman, president of Mardan’s board of trustees, announced an additional $10,000 had been donated by the Argyros Foundation in honor of William and Willa Dean Lyon.

Bill Bell, master of ceremonies, called on three of Lyon’s friends--Harry Rinker of the Rinker Co.; Kathryn Thompson, president of A & C Properties, and Gen. James Dalton--to join Lyon’s daughter, Susan, and son, Bill, in a “mini-roast” before the award was presented.

Yearns for Leg Room


Rinker, a friend of Lyon for more than 30 years, quipped, “Why is it that at 6-foot-5, I can’t get enough leg room on AirCal?”

Thompson, who works with Lyon on the boards of several charitable organizations, said, “The reason you are so successful and willing to give back so much is the woman behind you, Willa Dean.”

Dalton, a retired Air Force general, praised Lyon’s leadership in the Air Force. “He took the right path, never trading integrity for expediency and never losing his sense of humor.”

Susan Lyon, a former teacher at Mardan, was the first to introduce her father to the school’s program. “My dad was very understanding and compassionate in what I was doing. He became very involved in the school financially and in many other ways. That’s how we got here tonight,” she told the group.

A message from 12-year old Bill Lyon was delivered by tape. “He is very special,” said Bill of his father. “He always finds time to do things with me on the weekends and at special school activities. I’m very proud of my father, his accomplishments and his helping of others.”

George Argyros, a business associate of Lyon at AirCal and owner of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, chaired the event. “We’ve had more success with AirCal under Bill’s leadership than we’ve had in Seattle,” he said. “I don’t know how to get Bill to make the transition (to running the baseball team), but I’m working at it.”

Received Logo Replica

After the general and Willa Dean Lyon received a memento of the evening from Carol Hoffman (a miniature replica of the Mardan logo), Lyon thanked the Mardan award committee and guests, saying, “Behind every successful man, there’s a surprised mother-in-law.”


Lyon said he supported Mardan because “I saw a place in her (Susan’s) heart for what the school does.”

Hoffman and Eisenman both said they would like to see further expansion of the early intervention program, which identifies behavioral and emotional problems at the preschool level.

“The sooner we get them (the students), the sooner they go back into the (public school) system,” Hoffman said.

Proceeds from the award dinner will help provide scholarships for Mardan students, Hoffman noted. The school now has 77 students ages 6 to 18 and 18 preschool students. The school offers specialized programs for children with normal intelligence who have learning disabilities sometimes coupled with behavior or emotional problems.