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History Repeats Itself in The Lyons Family: Three Brothers, Three Schools, Shared Passion for the Past

History Department Head Joseph Lyons grew up with a love of history and shares his passion with his two brothers, David Lyons and John Lyons. David Lyons has been the Head of the History Department at St. Mark’s since 1995, and John Lyons was the Department Head at Groton for six years.

They all followed in the footsteps of their father, Thomas Lyons, who was a history teacher at Andover. All three brothers spoke at their father’s memorial service a few weeks ago.

“It’s the life we grew up in, and it’s a good life. We talked a lot about politics and history in the house, and there’s just something about the study of history that engages all of us. We’re all interested in trying to understand the world in which we live,” Mr. Lyons explained.

“Ken Burns said the other day, If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know who you are, and you don’t know where you’re going,’” Mr. Lyons said. “I think that really resonates with all of us, and there’s just a sense of curiosity in our household about why things are the way they are, and history has been the discipline that has helped us explore that question.”

Mr. Lyons is most interested in nineteenth and twentieth-century history. He has taught a wide range of topics, including courses on the Supreme Court, dissent in America, colonial history, and European History in the International Baccalaureate. He currently teaches Modern Times and U.S. History at Deerfield.

“I think in history you have to wrestle with facts and various perspectives, and try to come to a sound, logical synthesis of them ultimately leads to the ability to make good judgments,” Mr. Lyons said. “Without memory you would have no identity. How we remember the past helps shape our identity both individually and collectively.”

Mr. Lyons and his brothers are bringing their passion together and are taking students from St. Mark’s, Groton and Deerfield to Europe this summer where they will tour the western front in World War II.

Of his brothers Mr. Lyons said, “In terms of our passion for history, interest in politics and political outlooks, we’re pretty much the same. Not surprisingly, we’re all best friends too.”

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