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Ranch donated by real estate developer helps university mission

September 30, 2021

Iconic real estate developer Rusty Lyon Jr. wanted to help future generations pursue their educational and professional dreams. One way he did is through what he knew best – real estate.

Lyon was a real estate visionary who began his career at his father’s brokerage, Russ Lyon Realty, after serving as an Air Force pilot during the Korean War. He founded Westcor Companies in 1964 and has developed over 12 Valley shopping centers during his career. Lyon embarked on hospitality development and is credited with the design and construction of the Boulders Resort and Spa and others.

The primary residence of La Cienega Ranch, a 77.25 acre property donated to the ASU Foundation which was recently sold.

He ran Westcor for almost 40 years before selling it to shopping center developer Macerich in 2002. He then retired to spend more time at his 77.25-acre La Cienega ranch at the foot of the Mogollon Rim near Payson, Arizona. The ranch was a place to relax and escape the metropolitan hustle and bustle for Lyon, his wife, Rosie, and their children and grandchildren.

Rosie Lyon passed away in 2008, and after her husband’s health deteriorated in 2016, the family donated La Cienega Ranch to the ASU Foundation for a New American University to benefit State University. from Arizona. Rusty Lyon died a few months later.

The foundation’s real estate subsidiary, University Realty, recently sold the ranch which included nearly 15,000 square feet of living space among seven houses, a barn with horse stalls, a helipad, a pond and a group ramada for $ 4.5 million.

Real estate donations are on the rise for universities because of the many benefits they offer to alumni and other donors. In fiscal years 2016 to 2020, U.S. public and private colleges and universities received more than 3,630 real estate gifts worth $ 928.3 million from donors, according to survey data from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

“Donations of real estate can provide donors with income, tax benefits and the opportunity to make a difference,” said Brad Grannis, portfolio and asset manager for University Realty. “There are several options for donating real estate, depending on when you want to transfer ownership and whether money is owed there.”

Over the years, Grannis has helped the ASU Foundation receive several real estate gifts, which have funded scholarships and enrichment opportunities at ASU.

For the Lyonnais, donating the ranch to ASU made the most sense.

“It all depends on the succession of each one, but it can certainly have tax advantages,” said Scott Lyon, one of the sons of Lyon and founder of Westroc Hospitality. “Back then, the market was pretty soft, and it’s such a tight market for who would buy a property like this. If they (my parents) sold it, they would have to pay capital gains taxes. . If they kept it in the family, we would have to pay inheritance tax on the value of the ranch and not be able to sell it on time before taxes were due. They removed a burden on the family from the ranch. inheritance perspective. “

Lyon’s support for ASU

Lonnie Ostrom, former president of the ASU Foundation, has fond memories of the Lyonnais and their ranch. He and his wife, Martha, became good friends with the Lyons and visited their ranch periodically where they played bridge and enjoyed the amenities of the property.

“They were really humble and down to earth people,” Ostrom said. “They were very rich, and you would never know it.”

Ostrom remembers taking development officers from ASU’s Teachers College – now Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College – to the Charleston restaurant for lunch, and he invited Rosie Lyon to join them.

“She always brought coupons,” Ostrom said. “I would say, ‘We’re paying for it,’ and Rosie would say, ‘I know, but that’ll make it a little less. “She had a great sense of humor and they loved ASU.”

The Lyonnais were longtime ASU supporters who donated to athletics, WP Carey School of Business, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Arizona PBS, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and other units and programs.

Rosie Lyon received a degree in elementary education from Arizona State College, the precursor to ASU. She was inducted into the ASU College of Education Hall of Fame in 2004, and received the Alumni Service Award in 2006 and became a life member of the ASU Alumni Association. She served on the executive committee of the ASU Leadership Campaign from 1995 to 2001 and was a member of the Adopt A Devil program.

Rusty Lyon served on the board of directors of the ASU Foundation and University Research Park and has been active with the university for some time, Ostrom said.

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