Asmus is on the money, and students will cash in
“There is a real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Slaven Gujic
GCU News Bureau
Dr. Barry Asmus talks about economics the way Norman Vincent Peale discussed positive thinking. There’s magic in the message, and more students at Grand Canyon University are about to find out how that marries with enthusiasm.
But not just when he’s talking about the positives of a free market and limited government.
In what he considers the perfect conclusion to a storied career, this fall Asmus, 75, will teach ECN 449, a two-credit class based on one of his nine books – “The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution,” co-authored with Wayne Grudem. Separately, he also will mentor 10 students chosen by the Colangelo College of Business faculty.
It’s hard to tell which one he’s more excited about: teaching the class, mentoring those other students on a weekly basis for a year … or just being at GCU.
“They’ve just got an upgraded student body here,” he said. “I have taught at universities throughout the United States, and I’m glad I’m going to end my career as a professor at Grand Canyon University.
“Nothing could make me happier than to share with them the wonderfulness of America and the blessings of this country, of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but also to share the component of faith. Without faith there is no redemption. Without faith, there is no long-term hope. Faith is just a critical cornerstone, and that is just what I am. It’s been hard to hold that back over the last 30 years.”
He has had to withhold it in speeches even though he has taught Sunday school for nearly 40 years. He has had to suppress it (but admits it sometimes came out) even though USA Today ranked him as one of the five most requested speakers in the United States.
Enough of that. He has done it all – former senior economist with the National Center for Policy Analysis, testified before the House Ways and Means Committee regarding our income tax system, featured speaker at a privatizing Social Security conference for Western European leaders, twice voted University Professor of the Year. Finally, he can be himself. It’s a relief.
“Jesus changes me on a daily, weekly, monthly basis, and I’m so thankful for that,” he said. “I want to bring that into the classroom to make sure that the students are plugged in spiritually so that they, too, can be spiritually changed from the inside.”
Asmus wound up at GCU for a lot of reasons, but not just because his beliefs align so closely with those of the University. In reality, he’s here because GCU President Brian Mueller is such a good public speaker, too.
They were two of the presenters at a conference in downtown Phoenix a few years ago, and Asmus usually steals the show when it comes to rating the event’s dynamic speakers. This year, however, audiences rated Mueller ahead of him.
“I always got the No. 1 rating,” Asmus said. “I bring a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of content to it.”
Not afraid of a little competition, Asmus called Mueller and told him that the next time they both were speaking at a conference, it would be a different story.
And then Asmus finished second again.
The mutual respect piqued their interest in joining forces, and when Asmus finally grew weary of writing book manuscripts from 5 a.m. to noon six days a week and traveling all over the world, he called Mueller and told him he wanted to teach at GCU.
“He has the value alignment with the college and the university to approach economics from a Christian perspective,” said Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean. “It’s just a great match, and we’re blessed to have him. To have people like Dr. Asmus who want to be involved with our students is just outstanding.”
Asmus lectured at several classes in the spring semester, and this month he is addressing MBA students on three occasions – the next two are at 5:30 p.m. Thursday and next Wednesday.
In his first session, his listeners learned very quickly that Asmus doesn’t mince words when he talks about the free market vs. socialism and what he calls “all the other systems that haven’t worked.”
His passionate argument for capitalism includes several favorite phrases, such as:
- “Helping people become helpless is not an act of kindness.”
- “Poor countries need a sewing machine way more than they need a sweater.”
- Regarding socialism, he said sarcastically, “There’s no end to the good that people will do with other people’s money.”
It’s more than a little surprising to learn, however, that Asmus was a huge proponent of Keynesian economics, which advocates strong government intervention, in his first five years as a professor. Then P.J. Hill moved his conservative economic views into the office next door.
They started talking about economics, of course. “I lost so many of those arguments,” Asmus said, “I just got tired of them and started using many of those arguments myself.”
Years later, he’s making those same arguments with a passion that’s as remarkable as his easy-to-understand examples. He can rat-a-tat-tat statistics with the best of them, but what sets him apart is his down-home style.
This is a man who doesn’t talk down to anyone. Rather, he prefers a more conversational approach – and readily invites students to challenge him. He’s ready … with a smile.
“I love the millennials. I just love the age group. They are so bright, they are so sharp,” he said.
Particularly at GCU, he added. He was blown away last semester when students would line up after every class he taught to thank him for changing their lives. He said that had never happened, not once, in his 17 years of teaching Young Life.
He would come out of those classes and feel equally mesmerized by the campus sights and sounds of what he called GCU’s “electricity” – the likes of which he has never seen at another university.
Then he would get in his car, drive home to Mandy, his wife of 55 years, and say, “I know why I’m living. I’m living to be a professor at Grand Canyon University and help, I hope, hundreds of students find their purpose.”
Norman Vincent Peale never had it so good.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].