Leaders praise Pearse Lyons as ‘a larger than life figure’ in Kentucky and beyond.

The death of Alltech founder and president Pearse Lyons on Thursday at age 73 bought tributes from leaders who praised his vision and success as a businessman, scientist and philanthropist in Kentucky and around the world.

“Pearse was a builder,” Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said. “A builder of ideas and projects and people. A man of imagination, vigor, and enthusiasm. He was one of those rare, larger than life figures who had an influence far beyond our borders.”

“While he never lost his Irish brogue, he will always be remembered as one of the Commonwealth’s greatest treasures,” Gov. Matt Bevin said. “He could have chosen to build his vision anywhere, but he chose Kentucky and dedicated his life to championing the Bluegrass state. He will be greatly missed by all of us who were fortunate enough to have crossed his remarkable path.”

“He was without question the single brightest entrepreneur and marketing mind I’ve ever been around, and I’ve been around a lot of them,” said Jim Host, a prominent Lexington entrepreneur and marketing executive who had been a friend of Lyons since 1977. “He was a genius. He will leave a big hole in Kentucky that will be hard to fill.”

“I loved Pearse like a brother,” said Everett McCorvey, director of University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, who worked closely with Lyons and whose program was a major beneficiary of his philanthropy. “Pearse loved life. He loved meeting people and he never met a stranger. One of the reasons why we have so many wonderful singers at UK now is because of the Alltech Vocal Scholarship Competition.

“Pearse loved Kentucky,” McCorvey added. “In the hundreds of events that I have shared with Pearce, Deirdre and Alltech, all over the world, the singing of ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ started each event or ended the evening. I am just so thankful that he and Deirdre made Kentucky their home and allowed so many people to shine by offering us their light.”

“I lost a really good friend,” said UK basketball coach John Calipari. “Just was a great friend. Great friend of the state. Most of us will not know all the things he’s done until they start coming out now. People will start talking about what he’s done for them personally. Because a lot of it was heart-to-heart stuff.”

“Pearse will be remembered for his many accomplishments as a scientist and innovator, as a businessman and philanthropist, and as husband and father. In each of these, he excelled,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “Pearse and Deirdre founded Alltech in 1980 with an ambitious goal: they wanted to help farmers feed the world. For the Lyons family, Kentucky is an adoptive home, and I think I can speak on behalf of all Kentuckians when I say that we’re glad he chose to build his life and his businesses here. He will surely be missed.”

“We’ve lost an energetic genius who inspired countless people around him,” said David Adkisson, president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. “He created an international enterprise from his base in Kentucky and our state will forever reap the benefits.”

“Dr. Lyons was a compassionate and committed community leader and global entrepreneur,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “He was a philanthropist, ardent supporter of the university, and deeply committed patron of the arts. Most notably, his support of UK Opera Theatre brought artistic expression and music performance to the community, and students supported by his generosity have shared their remarkable talent with audiences across the world.”

“Dr. Lyons was not only a strong advocate for Kentucky and the Bluegrass, but through his visionary leadership, Alltech transcended business and industry to become a global leader in finding solutions to the world’s most pressing issues,” said Bob Quick, president and CEO of Commerce Lexington. “We will greatly miss his optimism, involvement in the community, and his ability to see opportunity where challenges persisted.”

“We encourage whiskey lovers around the world to raise a glass of Town Branch Bourbon today and toast the enduring legacy and amazing spirit of Dr. Lyons,” said Rob Samuels, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and president of Maker’s Mark Distillery.

“The vision and support of Dr. Lyons and his wife, Deirdre, enabled the Kentucky Horse Park to host the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games,” said Tandy Patrick, chair of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission. “Dr. Lyons’ energy, enthusiasm and belief that anything is possible will continue to be an inspiration to us all.”

“Pearse and his family have been dedicated to bettering the lives of all Kentuckians,” state Attorney General Andy Beshear said. “I am confident that his work will continue.”

“Dr. Lyons was, at root, a visionary and an ambassador for Kentucky,” said state Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles. “The institution he built, the jobs he created, and his boundless zeal for our state lit a spark that spread into a wildfire of innovation for Kentucky agriculture, from animal feed to our beverage, fuel, and industrial alcohol industries.”

“I don’t know of anyone who was more innovative, who was more committed to excellence, or who was a better ambassador for the commonwealth,” said state House Democratic Leader Rocky Adkins of Sandy Hook. “He made a true difference in all of our lives, and the legacy he established through Alltech will be felt for generations. He will be deeply missed.”

Tom Eblen: 859-231-1415, @tomeblen