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The visionary

Updated: Jan 10

Melissa Taverner moved to Arkansas in October 2017 when she accepted the position of provost and dean of faculty at Lyon College in Batesville.


Before coming to Lyon, she was an associate professor of biology for 22 years at Emory & Henry College, a well-known liberal arts school in southwest Virginia.

Taverner is a Virginia native.


Last April, Lyon announced it was developing plans for the state’s first dental and veterinary schools in Little Rock as part of its College of Health Science. The college is partnering with a private company, OneHealth Education Group.


In May, it was announced that OneHealth is purchasing downtown Little Rock’s Heifer International campus to house the schools. Heifer International will remain, leasing space from OneHealth. A founding partner of OneHealth is Merritt Dake, previously chief executive officer of Rock Dental Brands.


“Soon after I got to Lyon, we began having serious discussions about the future of the school,” Taverner told me. “People mentioned that the time had come to add graduate programs, so we began to examine where the gaps are in higher education in Arkansas. What were the greatest needs?


“We also asked ourselves what were our strengths and how could we play to those strengths. Well, we’re really good in science and math. And Arkansas has a real need for dentists and veterinarians. It seemed to fit.”


Taverner has an exciting vision for Lyon. And I’m glad that vision includes downtown Little Rock.


I’ll have more in my column Wednesday on the Voices page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I hope you’ll check it out.

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