GCU News Bureau
U.S. Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday after a long battle with brain cancer, was a frequent visitor to Grand Canyon University and was greatly admired by GCU executives, staff and students.
The University released this statement:
“Our thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies go out to the family of Senator John McCain. He was a true American hero and one of the most influential people in Arizona’s history. During Senator McCain’s visits to Grand Canyon University, our students, faculty, staff and veterans treasured the time spent with him. We are forever grateful for his service and leadership.”
McCain particularly enjoyed sitting courtside for basketball. One of his last campus visits was on Aug. 11, 2016, when he stopped by during his re-election campaign and said, “the greatest event I’ve had so far is attending a Lopes game.”
Three GCU students who worked in McCain’s office as interns were there that day, sitting in the front row and wearing their McCain T-shirts.
“He’s got a great personality,” said one of them, Isaac Steiner. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him not smiling. He definitely has a great spirit about him.”
GCU President Brian Mueller, who estimated he had visited with McCain at least a dozen times, said on that day, “Obviously, he’s a successful politician, but he’s just a good person. I think that’s how you last in that business for that long. He’s very genuine. He’s authentic. He’s a family guy. He’s lived a very honorable life, obviously.”
Almost six months earlier, on Feb. 22, 2016, McCain attended the GCU basketball game. The night before, he did a special roundtable discussion before a live audience in the Student Union with another man who’s among the most famous Arizonans ever, Jerry Colangelo.
Of his failed presidential runs, McCain joked, “Arizona might be the only state in the Union where mothers don’t tell their kids that someday they’ll grow up to be President.”
He also told a story from his days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam that says a lot about American sports passion. When a new prisoner of war arrived in 1969, McCain said the first question everyone asked was whether the New York Jets had won the Super Bowl a few months earlier.
McCain said of GCU basketball, “Haven’t we got a gem here with Dan Majerle and the Lopes? I really appreciate the Havocs.”
That was before the Havocs displayed huge cutouts of McCain and the GCU Dance team did a special number in his honor at the basketball game the next night. He sat in the second row close to the Lopes’ bench after meeting with the University’s executive team and with the GCU students who are interns in his office.
On Feb. 21, 2014, McCain was in Ethington Theatre for 90 minutes in the morning to address a standing-room-only audience of more than 400 students, many of them veterans. He praised GCU for offering expanded opportunities and quality education at a lower cost to many students who otherwise could not afford college.
“This is a great experiment in education,” he said. “It should be an example to other institutions, not only in Arizona, but throughout the country.”
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