By Karen Fernau
GCU News Bureau
Homecoming will double for a 50th class reunion for retired principal Richard Koontz and his Grand Canyon University classmates.
Nearly 50 members of the GCU class of 1967 will participate in Friday and Saturday’s festivities at a University radically different from the one they attended.
When their class graduated, the Southern Baptist school with about 1,000 students was named Grand Canyon College.
Today, Koontz, a men’s basketball season ticket holder, recognizes only two buildings from his era.
“Homecoming is a time to take in all the changes, the incredible growth,” said Koontz, a former Avondale educator who lives in Glendale.
“We see the recent changes, but also what stays the same. GCU was and still is a special place.”
Since 2008, enrollment on GCU’s ground campus increased from about 900 to 17,500 students, while online enrollment has grown to roughly 65,000 students.
A 10-year, $1 billion expansion program has included the recent completion of three more residence halls, bringing the total number on campus to 17. In just the past year, the whirlwind expansion also includes a four-story Student Life Building, a 170,000-square-foot College of Science, Engineering and Technology building, two parking garages, a 6,000-seat soccer stadium, renovated GCU Hotel and Canyon 49 Grill, and, most recently, a 325,000-square-foot office building at 27th Avenue that will be home to 2,700 employees.
GCU Alumni expects more than 1,500 alumni and their guests to walk through the reinvigorated campus during Homecoming 2017.
This year’s touchstone for alumni kicks off Friday with a happy hour mixer and ends with Saturday night’s tailgate party and men’s basketball game against University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Along with showcasing the University, Homecoming builds traditions.
“Homecoming places a spotlight on the alumni, honors graduates and builds traditions that keep graduates connected,” said Aaron Walth, GCU alumni specialist.
Equally important, the weekend builds a bridge to nearby neighborhoods.
“GCU is all about community and homecoming is no exception,” he said.
For Patsy and Doug Baker, homecoming weekend also feels a tad like a family reunion. The 1959 graduates have a long line of family members who are GCU alumni.
“There’s no doubting that we are a GCU family,” said Patsy, a retired elementary school teacher.
Patsy and Doug, a former basketball player, were students when they met and married 60 years ago.
“We got married on a Thursday and had a really short honeymoon because the coach told him he better not miss the Saturday night game,” Patsy said.
Like with many alumni, the Homecoming basketball game is always special to the Bakers.
“We attend almost all the activities because we really enjoy talking with old friends and other graduates,” she said.
“And, of course, we love watching the basketball team play.”
The Homecoming weekend also celebrates remembering and creating memories. Share your favorite on Twitter’s #GCUHC17.
The weekend events are open to all of GCU’s 115,000 plus graduates. Register for RSVP events here.
- Kick-Off Party: Meet the Phoenix Lopes Alumni Chapter leadership team, and learn ways to stay connected at a happy hour mixer. Free appetizers are provided by the Office of Alumni Relations. Additional food, adult beverages and soft drinks are available to buy. Details: 5-7 p.m. Friday at Canyon 49 Grill in the GCU Hotel, 5115 N. 27th Avenue, Phoenix.
- Shotgun Golf Tournament: Grab a foursome and enter the nine-hole shotgun tournament. Details: RSVP required. Contact head pro Jesse Mueller at 602-639-8990. Cost: $20, plus tax. $10 for club rentals. 7-9:30 a.m. Saturday at GCU Golf Course, 5902 W. Indian School Road, Phoenix.
- Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony: Meet the distinguished class inducted into the 2017 Alumni Hall of Fame. The ceremony includes complimentary beverages and light hors d’oeuvres. Details: 3-4 p.m. Saturday on 4th floor of GCU’s Student Union. RSVP required.
- BBQ Tailgate & Derby Kart Races: Enjoy a family-friendly barbecue and pregame celebration. Cheer on the annual competitors in the Office of Student Life’s annual Derby Kart Races. The cars are hand-built and driven by students. Details: 4:30-6:30 p.m. Derby Kart races begin at 5:55 p.m. Saturday at GCU Arena Quad.
- GCU Men’s Basketball against Missouri-Kansas City: Bring your screaming voice and cheer on the Lopes at their last home game. Complimentary tickets are available to alumni and guests for those who complete the RSVP form. Details: 7 p.m. GCU Arena.
Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.