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Donor Spotlight: General William and Willa Dean Lyon

General William Lyon with his wife, Willa Dean

The motto of the U.S. Air Force is "Aim High … Fly-Fight-Win." It’s an ethos that applies equally well to General William Lyon and his wife, Willa Dean Lyon, who have spent their lives focused on high achievement and on fighting to strengthen the fabric of their community.

General Lyon served in the Air Force with distinction for more than three decades—including during World War II and the Korean War—eventually becoming chief of the Air Force Reserve. His rise in business took place on a parallel track: In 1954, he co-founded William Lyon Co., a home construction firm that ultimately helped shape the landscape of suburban America. Within a decade, the company ranked among the nation’s largest home builders, and General Lyon had emerged as one of the most influential people in Orange County.

As the Newport Beach-based company thrived, General Lyon and Willa Dean became active philanthropists, committed to elevating medical research and discovery, with significant investments in fighting cancer and making reconstructive surgery accessible to impoverished children worldwide.

In that vein, the Lyons made a substantial gift to Cedars-Sinai to establish the General William and Willa Dean Lyon Family Chair in Reconstructive and Plastic Surgery. Today, the inaugural chair holder, Randolph Sherman, MD, vice chair of the Department of Surgery and director of Plastic Surgery, is leveraging the Lyons’ support to advance training and research into new technologies capable of treating even the most complicated conditions, from complex extremity reconstruction, breast reconstruction, lymphedema relief and peripheral nerve surgery to gender-affirming surgery.

General Lyon passed away in 2020 at age 97, but with the Lyon Family Chair, Willa Dean continues to build the couple’s lifelong legacy, providing critical assistance to men, women and children across Southern California and beyond.

Learn more about becoming a Cedars-Sinai donor and Why Your Gift Matters.