Hall of Fame inductees epitomize GCU’s spirit
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
At most college reunions, the phrase “My, how you’ve changed!” can be heard repeatedly as old friends renew acquaintances.
But Grand Canyon University is not just any university. Here, the phrase has an entirely different meaning.
When six new members were inducted Saturday into GCU’s Alumni Hall of Fame, the physical changes on the main campus frequently were referenced. The view out the window from the gathering spot, the fourth floor of the Student Union, toward The Grove, the massive new complex of freshman residence halls, is just one example why.
But there’s more to it than that. And the one thing the inductees emphasized is that, while the look of the University certainly has changed, its values have not. If anything, they said, they are even more impressed with how it is carrying out its mission for its students and the community.
Take it from two of the new Hall of Famers, one an employee and the other a member of the board of directors.
Dr. Nicholas Markette, the inductee from the College of Doctoral Studies, supervises 24 dissertation chairs and also has been a teacher in the Colangelo College of Business since 2008. He said he tells his students about all the construction projects, “If you don’t like it, just wait a week and it will change,” but the one constant in his work has been far more important.
“I don’t have to hide my faith here,” he said. “And I bring it to my classroom. It just is who I am. You can’t separate from it, and here I have that freedom. I teach organizational ethics, and how do you get into ethics without incorporating the truth? This university gives you that opportunity to do it and bring value to students. It’s just a great place to be.”
In addition to sharing his faith, Markette has a joyous approach to teaching that was reflected in the sense of humor he displayed during his induction speech when he said, “I don’t think I’ve seen so many purple ties in one place before” and joked that after looking at the accomplishments of the 2015 Hall of Fame inductees, he thought that “you had to be big enough to stop a locomotive.” His strength is his spirit.
“I always go into my classroom thinking, ‘What would I want if I was a master’s student tonight?’ or ‘What would I want if I were a doctoral student tonight and I’ve been working all day and I’m wondering if my kids have eaten dinner? I’ve got all these plates spinning — what would I want?'” he said.
“I would want to have fun. The premise I bring into the classroom is, there are people in other countries who would kill to be able to pursue their master’s or their doctorate, so let’s have fun, let’s enjoy this and embrace God’s gift, because that’s what it is. Not enjoying it would almost be somewhere between a sin and a tragedy.”
Dr. Jim Rice, the College of Education inductee, has gotten to see the inner workings of the University’s growth through his membership in the board of directors. He was asked if the special spirit is evident in those meetings.
“It is,” he said. “You have a visionary (President Brian Mueller) who’s the leader. You have people like Dr. Stan Meyer (chief operating officer), Dan Bachus (chief financial officer) and Dr. Hank Radda (University provost) on the leadership team. You’ve got people like Jerry Colangelo involved. You’re in awe.
“When you’re in the boardroom and you’re given a spreadsheet with the financial condition of the University and see how healthy it is and how we’re attracting more kids to this University, you know it’s something special.”
The special feeling was felt by the other four inductees as well Saturday.
John Davis, the athletics inductee for his stellar golf career at GCU, said he felt it by being on campus again even though it has changed so dramatically from when he was here regularly around the turn of the century. “There’s something about just walking from the parking garage to here,” he said. “I had that feeling today.”
Max Fose, representing the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said he is “awestruck” by the growth but appreciates even more what the University did for him. “They challenged me to be a better person, a better man, and that’s still with me today,” he said.
Dr. Brian Bucina, the College of Science, Engineering and Technology inductee, said he wouldn’t have believed in 1998 that GCU could look like this today, but “the one thing I believed in 1998 is that we would have had the success our graduates have had.”
Andy Unkefer, representing the Colangelo College of Business, pointed out that, even with all the new bricks and mortar, the foundation of the University hasn’t changed.
“It really hasn’t,” he said. “We used to have really fantastic Chapels. Our teachers prayed in class with us. Nursing students were in demand. The baseball team was very good. And a former pro basketball player who coaches the team once played for the Suns.”
All of those features are still in place, of course, right down to Dan Majerle following in the hoop footsteps of Paul Westphal. But people still can’t get over the growth.
Asked if he had any inkling of what was he was signing up with when he transitioned in 2008 from master’s graduate to instructor, Markette said, “I don’t know that I saw this vision, but I knew something good was coming. I just sensed it in my heart. I think it just points to this: If God is the focus, the rest just naturally falls where it needs to fall.”
My, how it has changed, and yet so much has stayed the same.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.