Cheers, tears for new Hall of Fame inductees

February 25, 2017 / by / 0 Comment

Story by Laurie Merrill
Photos by Brandon Sullivan

GCU News Bureau

Four of the five outstanding graduates GCU inducted into the 2017 Alumni Hall of Fame.

There was laughter, a few tears and references to the Bible. But above all else, there was a stirring sense of honor Saturday during Grand Canyon University’s Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony. 

The inductees were Michael Rochelle (1975), pastor of Shadow Hills Church in Las Vegas; Michelle Knapp (1991), former GCU tennis star with a career in marketing; Kimberly Doolittle-Tobey, (1989 and 1999), a voice for community colleges in national discussions; and Tim Carter (1973), Yavapai County School Superintendent.

Dr. Jackie Schiller II, (2007 and 2016), a U.S. Marine Corps member now serving as Senior Military Instructor at a Texas high school, also was inducted but could not attend.

Debbie Rickey, associate dean of the College of Education, hugs alumna Kimberly Doolittle-Tobey.

In his opening remarks, GCU President Brian Mueller said commending such distinguished graduates is in keeping with God’s desire that we “keep remembering what I have done through you.”

“They are a wonderful blessing to (the Valley), the state of Arizona and the greater country,” he said.

Mike Vaught, vice president of athletics; Dr. Debbie Rickey, College of Education associate dean; Dr. Jason Hiles, College of Theology dean; and Dr. Michael Berger, College of Doctoral Studies dean, described how each alumnus had contributed to the greater good as they introduced them. Liz Conwell, alumni relations manager, was the emcee.

When Doolittle-Tobey accepted her ward, her eyes welled up when she spoke of how  “the Lord wants to find us as faithful,” and that “I hope I have been faithful.”

She was the first in her family to get a college degree.

Michael Rochelle, an honored alumni, and Mary, his wife of 43 years whom he met at GCU. (Photo by Laurie Merrill)

“My parents, who didn’t finish the ninth grade, said, ‘You can do it,’” she said. “You showed me through God’s love that everything is possible.”

Carter, an only child whose dream of becoming a jockey ended after his body outgrew his ambition, always knew he was going to college.

“No doubt I made a good decision here,” he said. “If you are a GCU graduate, folks out there are interested in you” and not just because of the education. “They know you are good person.”

Kimberly Doolittle-Tobey, ’89 and ’99, had a village of loved ones supporting her as she was inducted into the Grand Canyon University Hall of Fame.

GCU gave Carter more than a degree — it also gave him life-long friends and his wife of 43 years.

“That’s what GCU is all about, it’s about being a family,” he said.

There were no computers, cell phones, online programs or even microwaves when he was here, he said.

“The world has changed. I changed with it, and GCU has, too,” he said.  

Rochelle also met his wife of 43 years at GCU. She was dating his roommate, and Rochelle said he knew his roommate and thought she could do much better.

He recalled visiting churches around the state to practice his sermons.

“I credit GCU with what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he said, and added, “the past is prologue, the best is yet to be.”

Former GCU Tennis star Michelle Knapp (right) is joined by the coach who recruited her, Marlene Bjornsrud. (Photo by Laurie Merrill)

Knapp had been recruited to play tennis at GCU by Marlene Bjornsrud, who attended the ceremony to honor her protégé.  

“I will always strive to honor her in whatever I do,” said Knapp, who won 106 singles matches and was named to the All-American first team her sophomore-senior years. “Thank you for pushing me and believing in me. Thirty years later, you still make a difference.”

After the ceremony, her former coach said Knapp’s character made her stand out.

“We were looking to find athletes with compassion, character, consciousness and integrity,” she said. “It’s easy to find players with skills. It’s the other intangibles we sought.”

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected]


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