Charles H. Dyson
A Legacy of Hard Work, Entrepreneurial Initiative, and Philanthropy
Charles H. Dyson was born in New York City in 1909, the same year the academicunit that has since become the Dyson School was established at Cornell University. The son of an English father and Irish mother, he took night classes in accounting and business law at what is now Pace University while working days to help his family during the difficult years of the Great Depression.
Dyson’s career began at Price Waterhouse but shifted radically during World War II. He served as a special consultant to the Secretary of War, an architect of the International Monetary Fund, and a colonel in the Air Corps. For his service, some of which shaped monetary policy still in effect today, Dyson received a Distinguished Service Medal and was made a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
In 1954, Dyson purchased a company with borrowed funds and only $8,000 of his own money—a pioneering type of deal that became known as a leveraged buyout—and launched the Dyson Corporation. In 1957, longtime friend Frank Kissner joined him as a business partner, followed ten years later by John Moran. The Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation is now one of the largest private corporations in the United States and an international leader in leveraged buyouts.
Charles Dyson served on a number of boards of charity, health care, and arts organizations, and he gave generously to support them. Of particular note is his relationship with Pace University, whose College of Arts and Sciences is named in his honor. As chairman of Pace’s board, he donated tens of millions of dollars, acted as a primary fundraiser, and helped guide the school’s transition from a technical institute to a college and then a university. Today the Dyson Foundation grants millions of dollars each year, primarily to safety-net programs for residents of New York’s Hudson Valley.
Charles and his wife, Margaret, who passed away in 1990, raised four children: Cornell trustees emeriti John Dyson ’65 and Robert Dyson MBA ’74; former Dyson School Undergraduate Program Advisory Council member Peter Dyson; and the late Anne Dyson. Of their 10 grandchildren, four are Cornellians: Leigh Dyson Geller ’94, Eliza Dyson ’98, Karen Dyson ’06, and Brian Dyson ’11.
Charles Dyson passed away in 1997 at age 87, leaving a legacy of hard work, entrepreneurial initiative, and committed philanthropy that his family upholds proudly.