The Doherty Center Origins

History of the Colonel Stephen S. and Lyla Doherty Center for Aviation and Health Research

The Colonel Stephen S. and Lyla Doherty Center for Aviation and Health Research was established to promote scholarship and innovation at Lewis University in the fields of Health and Aviation and to create opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships with business and industry.

The Center’s dual focus—Aviation and Health—reflects the priorities, interests and core values of the Center’s benefactors, Colonel Stephen S. Doherty and Lyla Messman Doherty. 

Doherty Center

Born in 1916 in Murphysboro, Illinois, and raised in Clay City, Illinois, Colonel Doherty earned an Engineering degree from the University of Illinois and graduated from the ROTC as a Second Lieutenant.  Colonel Doherty served in three wars, first in World War II, as a commander of a unit that landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day; his unit built the communications used by the armed forces at that time.  Colonel Doherty also served in the Korean War as a commander of an artillery unit in Korea.  And, following flight training, Colonel Doherty served in the Viet Nam War as a pilot. 

Born in 1910 in Browns, Illinois and raised in Charleston, Illinois, Lyla Messman Doherty earned a degree in Elementary Education from Eastern Illinois Teacher College, which is now Eastern Illinois University.  Mrs. Doherty taught elementary education until she and Colonel Doherty married.  Later, Mrs. Doherty was diagnosed with colon cancer.  She survived several years following her diagnosis and treatment, which included extensive surgery; Colonel Doherty retired from the military to become her full-time caregiver.  Mrs. Doherty died in 1995; Colonel Doherty died in 2004.

Following Colonel Doherty’s death, and in accord with the Doherty’s philanthropic intent, the estate’s trustees, their nieces—Kathryn L. Kelly and Rose Mary Perryman—selected Lewis University as the beneficiary of the Doherty estate.  Mrs. Kathryn Kelly, a Trustee Emerita of Lewis University, served as a highly valued and dedicated member of the University’s Board of Trustees from 1994-2003.  This very generous decision by Rose Mary and Kathryn has resulted in the establishment of The Colonel Stephen S. and Lyla Doherty Center for Aviation and Health Research, a tribute to the lives and legacy of Colonel Stephen S. Doherty and Lyla Messman Doherty.