Campus saddened by loss of biochemistry professor
By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau
If anyone radiated joy, it was Dr. Tiffany Mealman.
She was happy and always positive, even though she came to work some days in pain, even though the medicine she was taking drained her, even though she could have been anything but happy.
Mealman, the lead faculty in biochemistry in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology, never faltered in her positive attitude or her unwavering faith in God, and she never failed her students even though she spent her entire teaching career at Grand Canyon University fighting cancer.
Mealman, who was just 33 years old, lost that cancer battle Sunday night.
A viewing will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Messinger Indian School Mortuary, 7601 E. Indian School Road. Funeral services will follow at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Scottsdale Bible Church Grace Chapel, 7601 E. Shea Blvd. The CSET faculty also is organizing a Celebration of Life gathering for 11:15 a.m. Feb. 7 in the courtyard outside of the College of Theology chapel, and a campus-wide Celebration of Life service to remember the students and staff lost during the school year is being planned for April 17.
“She dealt with this for five or six years now,” CSET Dean Dr. Mark Wooden said of Mealman’s cancer. “But it was just the way she kept her attitude up.”
Biology, genetics, and human anatomy and physiology professor Dr. Darien Hall, who attended the same high school as Mealman, said of her colleague and friend, “She worked through being sick. She wore a portable chemo bag. But she was always happy. She was such an amazing person.”
CSET instructor Rebecca Socia remembers Mealman teaching classes during her chemotherapy sessions: “She never let it get her down. Even at the very end, she saw an end to the suffering and was happy to go home and be with the Lord.”
Mealman, who was born on Sept. 16, 1984, graduated from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale before heading to Seattle Pacific University, where she earned her bachelor of science degree in Chemistry in 2007. She did her graduate work at the University of Arizona, receiving her Ph.D. in Biochemistry at age 28.
Despite being diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2012, she continued her academic pursuits. It was just a year later that she started her career at GCU.
“When I first met Tiffany, she was in my office applying for an adjunct faculty position,” CSET assistant professor Dr. Mark Wireman said. “Based on her interview, it was clear that she was a perfect fit for GCU – caring, academically sound, clear (in her) communication (skills) and willing to work hard.
“She was able to connect with many of our students, not only on an academic level but on a mentorship level as well. Tiffany did share with me later that her dream was to work at GCU, and she was floored when we offered her the full-time faculty opportunity. She shared with me that it was God’s plan.”
Instructional assistant Daniel Ruiz also knew of Mealman’s love for GCU: “Dr. Mealman shared her story with me and how she ended up working at GCU as a God-given blessing. She felt called to serve, and that’s exactly what she did.”
She also didn’t shy away from speaking about her condition, sharing her journey with her students.
“I think it was her relationship with the students (that was important to her),” said Wooden.
Mealman revised the biochemistry course so it was more beneficial for the students, and she was the lead for Chemistry 101, taken mostly by nursing students.
“I watched Dr. Mealman inspire dozens of students in the three years I knew her, but her inspiration and legacy went beyond the classroom,” instructional assistant Jordyn Allen said. “She strived to help everyone grow, not only academically but professionally and spiritually.”
Forensic science professor Dr. Melissa Beddow remembers Mealman celebrating her five-year mark of living with cancer, an important milestone for her.
“She loved to travel and took a big trip last summer to celebrate that,” Beddow said.
Sadly, it was just a few weeks afterward that she started to feel worse than she had in some time.
Mealman hadn’t been with her students or friends and co-workers in CSET for some months before her passing, though she stopped by the office a couple of times to visit. Those visits helped to give her GCU family some closure, Beddow said.
Beyond her positive attitude and her dedication to her students, Mealman will be remembered for her strong faith.
“She was such a strong child of the Lord,” Wooden said.
Ruiz said Mealman taught him “to live your life to the fullest and to trust and love God above all things.”
Beddow said Mealman always would take the time to stop and talk, even if she was busy or wasn’t feeling well. She always spared a moment, “and she would always come back with, ‘God is good.’”
GCU Today senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LanaSweetenShul.