The use of the nickname "Lyons" can be traced as far back as the early 1980s, when Wheaton was serving as a leading college for women and athletics sponsored just eight varsity programs (it now sponsors 21). The nickname honors Mary Lyon, a pioneer in American education who acted as a consultant to the Wheaton family at the founding of the Seminary in 1834 and established the curriculum.
Wheaton Seminary offered young women the means to pursue serious study at a time when women's educational options were few. Lyon created the seminary's first curriculum with the goal that it be equal in the "English branches" - science, philosophy, mathematics, rhetoric, history, composition, logic and religious studies - to the curricula of men's schools.
In 1837, Lyon founded Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, which later became Mount Holyoke College. Like Wheaton, Mount Holyoke competes in the selective 10-school New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), and the two are believed to be the only two U.S.-based institutions to bear the Lyons nickname.
Despite having a nickname, Wheaton didn't adopt an official mascot until the college welcomed its first coeducational class for the 1988-89 school year. Former Executive Director of Athletics Chad Yowell and former Dean of Students Sue Alexander, who retired in spring 2008 after 21 years of service, collaborated in the creation of an official mascot, which can be found at many athletic and non-athletic events around the Wheaton campus.