A grand new cornerstone of Colangelo’s GCU legacy
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Jerry Colangelo has shepherded the building of an arena and a stadium in downtown Phoenix, but the look in his eye and the touch of emotion in his throat Wednesday morning told you all you needed to know about what the new Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) Building means to him.
This one’s extra special.
“It goes way beyond bricks and mortar,” he said after the official grand opening of the 150,000-square-foot, four-story structure on the Grand Canyon University campus.
“It’s really about the journeys of a lot of people that have culminated in the building itself because the building is a foundation for sending people out into the workplace who can get the right type of education with the right morals involved, the right basic Christian principles behind them. It’s a wonderful thing.”
The huge turnout of dignitaries for the event was yet another indication of how wonderful Colangelo has been for Arizona in his half-century here. In his remarks, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey shared this commonly held opinion: “It’s been said, ‘What’s the difference between Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Phoenix, Arizona?’ And I would say this: Jerry Colangelo.”
He has had a similar effect on GCU and the business school named in his honor. When Colangelo got involved 10 years ago, the campus was just starting to blossom. The new CCOB Building represents a bloom that continues to flower.
“We’ve been incredibly blessed, but in the middle of all that has been this College of Business and has been the contribution of Mr. Colangelo,” said GCU President Brian Mueller, ever thankful that he reached out to Colangelo after arriving at the University in 2008.
As Mueller, Ducey, Colangelo, economist Elliott Pollack and CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb took turns speaking at the podium, the crowd of Valley business leaders, CCOB advisory board members, and GCU executives, faculty and staff filled the lobby.
High above them on the second floor were perched students who had been let out of their classes to watch the proceedings. That typified two things – the way CCOB students are treated in the “Lopes First” culture the college has created, and Colangelo’s golden touch.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise: The two-story lobby idea was his.
“I love spaces like this,” he said. “I think this space serves a real purpose.”
And that purpose, above all else, is collaboration. Colangelo, Mueller and Gibb all had a hand in the design of the building, but Colangelo made sure he got exactly what he wanted. He and his wife, Joan, had liked the collaborative spaces they saw at another business school, so he saw to it that the first floor of his creation is all about faculty and students having a place to build relationships.
“His big idea was about collaboration and how to get students to commingle with faculty in this big space, and he didn’t want offices to be independent of this commingling space,” said the architect, Caroline Lobo of suoLL. “It was fun to see his vision and be able to put that in building form.”
Gibb wanted the exact same thing. This anecdote demonstrates how important collaboration is in CCOB:
“I had an adjunct faculty ask me, ‘Hey, where is our office?’ I said, ‘This whole first floor is your office. This whole area is for you to work and to meet with students.’ We wanted this open, collaborative, multiuse workspace. We wanted a place where people would be comfortable to come and hang out and meet with teachers.”
Lobo said she met with Colangelo at least a half-dozen times in Mueller’s office to formulate and finalize plans, and Colangelo, Mueller and Gibb “had very specific input of what this building should say and speak to the community. I think we were able to incorporate all those ideas and deliver a vision that was really theirs.”
Colangelo is so delighted with the finished product, he made it a point to single out Lobo and Pono Construction owner Butch Glispie during his talk.
“This project was simple, clean from start to finish and just another example of how things get done here on campus,” Colangelo said later.
Things keep getting done every year. Mueller cited the following annual averages, in a study commissioned by Pollack in 2014, demonstrating the University’s economic and fiscal impact in 2010-19:
- GCU has created an average of 10,490 jobs, $487.7 million in wages, $99 million in construction, $227 million in student spending and $781 million in operations annually during that span. Total economic impact: an average of $1.1 billion annually.
- $73 million in revenues for the city of Phoenix, $86 million for Maricopa County and $296 million for the state of Arizona over the 10-year period, totaling $455 million.
The growth of CCOB, matching that of GCU, has been equally exponential.
It quickly has become one of the largest business schools in the country – enrollment for ground classes, which this semester are almost entirely in the new building, is up to approximately 4,100 students, with another 12,000 online students. There were about 300 ground students and 7,000 online students in 2010.
Students of all types regularly get to hear from industry leaders, and Wednesday morning was no exception. One of the grand opening attendees, Basketball Hall of Famer Ann Meyers Drysdale, dropped in on two classes before the event. She’s a frequent campus visitor.
“There’s such a comfort and such an ease, coming here to GCU,” she said. “God is so present, which I love. If my children were younger today, I seriously would consider sending them here.”
She said she first met Colangelo through her late husband, Don Drysdale, when Colangelo owned the Arizona Diamondbacks and Don was a broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox after his Hall of Fame career as a major league pitcher.
Colangelo has left an indelible impression on her: “There’s such a presence about him, and it’s all for the good. His faith is so strong. He’s always been so positive, and the fact that he’s always helping people – I’m pretty amazed.”
After getting a standing ovation when he was introduced at Wednesday’s event, Colangelo still wanted to shift the focus. He’s not the kind of guy to seek out credit.
“We’re here to celebrate something, but I don’t want too much attention given to me,” he told the audience. “This is about the University, this is about the business school, this is about what this building will represent going forward for many, many generations.”
Starting with the current one. He has built it, and they are already coming in droves.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].