Five graduates to be enshrined into GCU Alumni Hall of Fame
By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau
There are no shortage of achievements among the five individuals of Grand Canyon University’s 2017 Alumni Hall of Fame who are scheduled to be inducted during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Saturday on the fourth floor of the Student Union.
The distinguished graduates in attendance are Michael Rochelle (1975), pastor of Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas; Kimberly Doolittle-Tobey, ’89 and ’99, a voice for community colleges in national discussions; Tim Carter, ’73, who has been Yavapai County School Superintendent since 2005; and Michelle Knapp, ’91, a former GCU tennis player.
The fifth honoree is Jackie Schiller, 2007 and 2016, who is a decorated member of the U.S. Marine Corps. He is retired from active duty and serves as the Senior Military Instructor at Round Rock (Texas) High School, but is unable to attend Saturday’s ceremony.
The Hall of Famers were selected for their professional achievements, commitment to live out the GCU spirit and Christian ideals, and their contributions to the community, said Liz Conwell, alumni relations manager.
“We were especially struck by the leadership and compassion of this year’s inductees and the incredible impact they’re making on their communities,” Conwell added.
As part of the annual Homecoming/Canyon Day festivities, guests are invited to hear their stories and become inspired when the University’s Office of Alumni Relations recognizes the outstanding inductees. The ceremony includes complimentary beverages and light hors d’oeuvres.
“You never know how to respond when people say they want to recognize you. Of course this is humbling and I am excited,” said Doolittle-Tobey. “It’s nice to hear that people recognize the work that you’re doing and how it is impacting the community.”
Here’s a snapshot of each new member:
When Rochelle was named to GCU’s Alumni Hall of Fame for the College of Theology, he had a lot to be thankful for.
“GCU gave me the security and stability that I needed coming from a very dysfunctional home,” Rochelle said. “It was the first place that I had seen in a very long time that made sense in the area of community, care and support.”
Rochelle was abandoned by his parents before his senior year of high school. His mother had remarried five times and struggled with alcoholism, and Rochelle lived with his pastor in Las Vegas before he arrived at GCU with no parental or financial support.
GCU provided a scholarship and the education he needed to minister his own church, Shadow Hills in Las Vegas, where he has served as senior pastor for the past 31 years. It also gave him the opportunity to meet his wife of 44 years, Mary, who graduated from GCU in 1974.
Rochelle served as class president and participated in the Christian service council on campus. He became a resident assistant, and worked at a gas station and jewelry store to get by on his own dime.
One of his greatest takeaways was developing lifelong friendships, including a special bond, with his now brother-in-law, Mitchell Laird.
Despite the painful experience in his early life, Rochelle wonders where the time went.
“God has been gracious,” he said.
Ever since Doolittle-Tobey began working as a student at GCU, she knew she wanted to make a difference as an education advocate.
“My heart has and always will be for the first generation college student, because I was one,” she said. “The only reason I got to GCU was because someone advocated for me, so that has become my natural pathway.”
She currently works for Rio Salado College as director for Field and Student Teaching Experiences, where she makes it a point to reach out to non-traditional students and first generation college students. She is also executive director of The National Association of Community College Teacher Education Program.
“I have an opportunity to be the voice for the impact that community colleges can play in impacting the teacher pipeline across the country,” Doolittle-Tobey said. “We also talk about what it looks like to establish strong partnerships with universities so that students can (transfer) into a university to finish a degree.”
Doolittle-Tobey and her husband, Tim, have also nurtured and encouraged youths from high poverty areas within Central Phoenix and Glendale. They serve on a committee with Central Phoenix Young Life and raise funds for youths to attend camp where they’ll hear the Gospel.
The Yavapai County School Superintendent believes there is no greater service than in the field of education.
Carter has been Yavapai County’s superintendent since 2005 and has served as a public educator for 43 years. He further influences his profession on the Governor’s Classrooms First Initiative Council and was honored by the Arizona Capitol Times as the 2010 Educational Leader of the Year for public policy.
Carter has revolutionized and transformed the school district into an Education Service Agency that provides special education, technology, policies, professional development and workforce services to 26 school districts, 24 charters schools and 96 campuses.
“I hope I am living life in such a way that God is proud of me,” Carter said.
Knapp’s story at GCU began during her senior year of high school, when she was recruited in 1987 by former GCU women’s tennis coach Marlene Bjornsrud.
Knapp, who grew up in Colorado Springs, came from a tight-knit, competitive and athletic family. Her father, Dave, was a football and swim coach. Her mother, Janie, and her sister, Racquel Newman, were tennis players. On the weekends, they hosted family doubles tournaments.
“I arrived at GCU not knowing anyone. Being 18, that was scary and difficult but if I could do it all over again, I would because in the end, I felt that I could find a family there,” Knapp said.
Knapp graduated magna cum laude. She feels overwhelmed by the Hall of Fame honor.
“What an honor — I’m so excited,” Knapp said. “I had some great professors at GCU and I learned great things from the books, but the life lessons made the difference.”
Knapp still plays tennis a couple of times a week, holds an endearing relationship with Bjornsrud and has also learned to play golf.
Contact Jeannette Cruz at (602) 639-6631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.