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CCC alum Cornelius Lyon sitting with his book

To Handcraft Kindness

Cornelius “Pepsi” Lyon ‘64 knows what it’s like to bridge the gap between wanting an education, and pursuing an education. After high school, he joined the United States Air Force and began a 1-year deployment in South Korea. While serving in South Korea, and later at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota, Cornelius realized he wanted to improve his reading skills when he returned home to Elmira, N.Y. He vowed that he would attend college one day, which led Cornelius to the newly established classrooms of Corning Community College.

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Cornelius with a handmade sculpture
Cornelius stands in CCC's Atrium Gallery with one of his handmade sculptures

“I was determined to further my schooling after the military,” said Cornelius. “I didn’t read much prior to the military, but once I started engaging with books in South Korea, I told myself that I wanted to be imaginative and college educated. That’s what led me to Corning Community College.”

Cornelius took a variety of drama, English, and poetry courses at CCC. He earned an art degree from Corning in 1964, transferred to Mansfield University to earn a bachelor’s degree in education, and later received a master’s degree in English literature from Elmira College.

“If I hadn’t come to CCC, I would never have had the opportunity to move forward with my schooling and become a reading teacher for the rest of my career,” said Cornelius, who retired from teaching at Watkins Glen Middle School in 1999.

Cornelius continues to remain active in a variety of creative fields in his retirement, and never stops learning.

“I own a sculpture garden called, "The C Lyon Sculpture Garden,' that the community can visit for free by appointment,” he said. “My goal is to fill the garden with 800 sculptures created from mediums like metal, bamboo, fluid acrylic, contemporary glass, and more. So far I have produced 747 sculptures, some of which have been featured in Corning Community College art exhibitions.”

Cornelius feels as if his garden is a contribution to the community, and has participated in other art forms that give back. He has handcrafted guitars to donate to veterans, and has written and hand-bound his own poetry and song books to provide to colleges.

Currently, the 80-year-old devotes time to creating his own glass marbles at the Corning Museum of Glass. When an individual does something generous for him, Cornelius hands that person a marble to keep.

His only request is this:

“If someone does something kind for you, pass it on.”