Campus Growth Wows Alumni in Return for 2012 Homecoming
By Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Photos by Tim Winzeler
Standing in a corner of the Arena only a few hours before tipoff, the most successful basketball coach in GCU history seemed locked into a state of amazement.
“This blows us old-timers away,” said Ben Lindsey, who won 317 games in 16 years as coach of the Antelopes, including two NAIA championships. “So much has been done in the last five years. And it’s being done first-class, even the little stuff.”
Lindsey, on hand Saturday afternoon for homecoming and the 50th reunion of his graduating class (1962), had ample agreement among the 16 classmates who turned out for the occasion. Records show that 59 students graduated in 1962.
June (Richmond) Ingle, who made the trip with her husband, Tom, from San Antonio, hadn’t been back on campus since ’62, when she was the only female student who owned a car.
“This (growth) is wonderful,” said Ingle, whose 31-year teaching career took her to New Mexico, Alaska and Texas. “I had driven by in 2000, and it was amazing even then.”
Verlyne (Henry) Meck of Buckeye, a longtime high school librarian, organized the gathering at the Arena’s Antelope Reception Center and brought a number of yearbooks and keepsakes she had saved from her years at what was then Grand Canyon College.
There was a letter from Phoenix Mayor Samuel Mardian Jr., who judged a campus beauty contest and wrote to the school afterward, saying “the beauty of the contestants made a selection extremely difficult.”
There was a laminated copy of the school newspaper, Canyon Echoes, which put out an April Fools’ Day edition in 1960 with a story headlined “Tuition Ended.”
And there was a copy of a certificate from Sept. 21, 1947, when Meck, as a little girl, made a donation of $1 to a yet-unbuilt “Arizona Baptist College,” which became GCC in 1949.
“I can do the scrapbook thing,” said Meck, a former Arizona state champion tennis player who recruited the college’s team by going through the women’s dormitory and asking if any of the residents had ever held a racquet.
Lindsey, who lives in Gilbert, played basketball for Grand Canyon and still holds the record for most field goals in a game (18). In the 1961-62 season, he was the star of a 14-8 team, averaging 23.2 points per game. He became the school’s head coach shortly thereafter, at the age of 25. Later in his career, he coached for one season at the University of Arizona.
Ingle, originally from Durango, Colo., said her father preferred that she attend a small, private college instead of a public university. Grand Canyon fit the bill.
“I came to look at it and loved it,” she said. “We were really small-time back then, but it was good…. I’ve had many student teachers over the years who I wish had had the preparation I had here.”
Ingle recalled an audiovisual class — progressive at the time — that taught the prospective teachers how to run their own classroom equipment.
Linda (Barker) Webb of Tucson, who began as a teacher after graduation and later went into real estate and sales careers, said the best thing about the Class of ’62 was its camaraderie.
“We had the Lord in common,” she said, “and it was a great time. The teachers, we knew them personally. We weren’t just faces to them. They had an interest in us.”
Also on Saturday, six alumni were inducted into the GCU Hall of Fame in a ceremony at Ethington Theatre. The inductees and highlights from their remarks:
• Dr. Robin Baker, Class of 1980, College of Arts and Sciences: Baker, the president of George Fox University in Newberg, Ore., is the brother of GCU’s director of athletics, Keith Baker, and is among 40 members of his immediate and extended family to have attended GCU. “We not only were educated in this place, but we were mentored in ways that lasted a lifetime,” he said.
• Marci Salmon, Class of 1989, College of Education: Salmon, the wife of former GCU and pro baseball star Tim Salmon, has taught in the Paradise Valley School District and done extensive charity work. “Grand Canyon was known as the school to go to for (a teaching career),” she said.
• Jared Stauffer, Class of 1999, College of Christian Studies; MBA in 2008, Ken Blanchard College of Business: Stauffer is the founder and CEO of Brinkster, employing 35 people with 50,000 customers in 200 countries. He grew up less than a mile from GCU. “Only a semester into being here, I helped the new freshman girls into the dorms — and met my wife,” he said. “GCU’s principle of servant leadership is a huge part of who I am.”
• Shirley Righi, Class of 1995, College of Nursing: Righi is a clinical director for Scottsdale Healthcare, where she has served in multiple roles for more than 20 years. “At Grand Canyon, I found out that mediocre was not OK,” she said. “I got my foundation here, and I tap into it every single day.”
• Christine Weidinger, Class of 1970, College of Fine Arts and Production: Weidinger, a former international opera star, now teaches voice in Durham, N.C. “I auditioned for a big university and they laughed me off the stage,” she said. “I needed a scholarship to go to college and got it at Grand Canyon. It was the most fortunate day in my life…. (GCU instructor) Marlene Delavan was very patient with me. Being sick was not an excuse (to miss voice class), although being dead might be.”
• Kevin Warren, Class of 1986, Ken Blanchard College of Business: Warren, who played basketball at GCU, went on to earn an MBA from Arizona State University and a law degree from the University of Notre Dame. He is in his eighth year with the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings as vice president of legal affairs and chief administrative officer. “A 22-ounce leather ball and a pair of sneakers allowed me an opportunity,” said Warren, who brought his graduation Bible to the Ethington stage. “All my dreams and desires were planted on this campus.”
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.