Lyon College plans will reshape downtown Little Rock

As the sound of bagpipes greeted visitors, Lyon College laid out ambitious plans for its new campus in downtown Little Rock.

The Batesville-based liberal arts college announced in April of this year they’d be starting an  Institute of Health Sciences that would include dental and veterinary schools in Little Rock.

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Then came the news in May that Lyon had entered into an agreement to purchase the Heifer International campus that sits adjacent to the Clinton Presidential Library. The Heifer campus has multiple buildings with a total of 94,000 square feet, mostly in a four-story building that was completed in 2006.

Now it is June and Lyon’s plans are coming into a sharper focus as school president, Dr. Melissa Taverner, was in town last Saturday to have a meet and greet with alumni and stakeholders to discuss both those upcoming plans as well as the school’s sesquicentennial celebration that will be held this fall.

Taverner, who replaced Dr. Joey King earlier this school year, has moved quickly to make her mark at Lyon and what’s planned will reshape downtown Little Rock.

The dental and veterinary schools will each have incoming freshman classes of 150 students with a projected start in the fall of 2024, roughly two years away.

Both programs will be four-year schools, but Taverner said, the last two years, or final three semesters will be held off-site as students enter into clinical rotations.

That would mean by year three, with faculty and staff, the campus head count would be roughly 800, or about the same number of people in Batesville, and doubling the college’s total enrollment.

Taverner, cup of coffee in hand, said Heifer Village, the one-story structure by the main building and currently home to event space and a gift shop would become the new school’s student center, while the Lyon would occupy the first two floors of the main building with plans to eventually take over the third floor as well. The fourth floor would remain as office space for Heifer and the Clinton Foundation.

The number of students would mean a need for walkable housing as well as nearby places to eat that would serve the campus community. 

The addition of the dental and veterinary schools fill a dramatic need for both in Arkansas. The state currently ranks 51st in dental health and 49th in the country in vet-to-population ratio.

>> First in an ongoing series