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GCU celebrates growth, excellence of Honors College

A plaque commemorating the first Honors College graduates will be displayed in Building 33. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

By Jeannette Cruz
GCU News Bureau

Grand Canyon University leaders, faculty and students gathered Saturday for the Honors College Launch, a celebration of the growing program and the academic excellence of its students.

The Honors College presented President Brian Mueller with an award for impact and innovation.

“This is a big night for us,” President Brian Mueller told the student body, faculty and staff. “When I think about the nine colleges that we have now and the 220 academic programs, it’s overwhelming how we have been blessed and what God has done. But the most overwhelming thing for me is the students that have come here.”

Mueller recalled how the idea for an Honors College, which has nearly 1,200 students, double its size from when the program began in 2013, grew out of the “unbelievable talent and brainpower” of students who were arriving on campus. He also acknowledged that while students play an impact in their surrounding community, the mission is to prepare the next generation of worldwide leaders.

“If you’re going into business, or finance, engineering, computer science, or biology, your goals are all the same – to identify real problems in the world that create poverty and create partnerships, programs and real measurable results that eradicate poverty,” Mueller told the hundreds of students. “What people are going to find out is that as a result of what you’re doing here, the Christian worldview makes a difference.”

Dr. Antoinette Farmer, dean and vice president of institutional effectiveness. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

Dr. Antoinette Farmer, dean and vice president of institutional effectiveness, introduced its new advisory board and team. Brittany Holen, a recent graduate and former GCU women’s golfer, spoke warmly about her experience as a member of the Honors College.

“Throughout my time as a student, I had the honor and privilege of meeting many of the Honors students. And for those who haven’t met them, I tell you, they really do have a spark that sets them apart, and I have no doubt that they are on their way to accomplishing great feats,” she said.

At the end of the ceremony, Assistant Dean Breanna Naegeli presented the members of the inaugural class with a plaque (to be placed inside Building 33) recognizing the 44 graduates who started and finished in the Honors College program. Mueller was also presented with an award to recognize his impact and innovation in helping start the college.

Brittany Holen , a recent graduate, shared her perspective about the Honors College. (Photo by Darryl Webb)

“If it weren’t for these 50 students who blindly walked into an Honors experience of courses that were freshly developed, with faculty that were hired for this program and new extracurricular programming, the Honors College would not be what it is today,” Naegeli said. “Any student who walks into our office now knows who these individuals are.”

So why wait until now to formally introduce the Honors College?

“Since we’re now large and have students graduating and entering the world and the workforce, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate where we’ve come and where we’re going,” Naegeli said.

After the festivities, Honors College students Vincent Delcato and Dylan Murphy expressed their appreciation.

Delcato said the recognition was a great commemoration of all that he and his peers had accomplished. For Murphy, the moment was a reminder of walking into his first Honors class.

“There’s this photograph of us all meeting for the first time at a networking event, and I don’t think that we ever expected the program to grow to 1,200 students and then get awarded for it,” he said before joining his peers for another photograph in front of the silver plaque — this time to mark the end of their journey.

‘Power couples’ talk at Honors Dean Speaker Series 

Karl and Carla Gentles, managing partners of the Goode Wright Gentles Agency, were invited to share their perspective on healthy relationships and careers.

The promise of relationship advice also drew students to the “Gamma Mu’s Power Couples” Dean Speaker Series event in Antelope Gym, in which the the Honors College hosted two couples who revealed their journey to a successful career and marriage.

The hourlong event was moderated by Zachariah Mikutowicz, Honors College program manager, who led the conversation with questions prepared by students. The panel shared the stories of how they met, how their career aspirations dictated the kind of person they were looking to marry and how they negotiated their relationship with their career schedules.

Karl and Carla Gentles, managing partners of the Goode Wright Gentles Agency, a public relations, event production and brand strategy agency, said students need to evaluate whom they select as a romantic partner. In some cases, if we are paying attention, God sends us people who fit with our business mode and lifestyle, Karl said.

The couple met at a business reception in 2008. Karl had just left the firm he worked for to pursue his own agency, and Carla was an experienced event planner.

“I knew that as an event planner I liked to create experiences for other people, and so I knew I needed someone that was OK with living life out loud because of my personality and my chosen field,” Carla said.

Commander Kevin Robinson, a 35-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, and Michele Hayard, interim dean of the Mayo Medical School at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, shared the story of how they met and how they appreciate their differences.

Karl said, “Carla was charismatic and she was outgoing – two necessary traits in public relations – and I knew that she could hold her own in any situation.”

When Commander Kevin Robinson, a 35-year veteran of the Phoenix Police Department, and Michele Hayard, interim dean of the Mayo Medical School at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, were asked how they met, it was immediately clear that the story would be a good one.

Exchanging laughs, Hayard said, “He tells it best.”

Robinson explained how Hayard walked into his life at a time when he had reached the conclusion that he would never marry. Then, when he learned what she did for a living, he thought he stood no chance.

“I thought – a doctor is going to want to put up with a goofy cop for five, maybe six minutes,” Robinson said.

Meanwhile, Hayard, a single mother of three at the time, found that in between her hectic life and work schedule, Robinson was exactly what she needed.

“I always say that I am the gas and he is the brakes,” she said.

Robinson said he appreciated the numerous trips to medical conferences with Hayard.

“I get to tag along with her, and everyone always asks me what kind of medicine I practice,” he said, adding, “I’m still trying to convince Michelle to let me borrow a stethoscope just so I can say I’m a surgeon or something.”

As Robinson approaches his retirement from Phoenix PD and Hayard continues her research in the treatment of breast cancer, Robinson is proud to admit one thing: “This sophisticated physician and this goofy cop? We blend.”

Contact Jeannette Cruz at jeannette.cruz@gcu.edu or (602) 639-6631.

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