By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
It was definitely not love at first sight when Ginger (Class of 1958) and her husband, Jim Carter (class of 1957), met at Grand Canyon College.
It was all part of God’s plan that they met at all, since Ginger hadn’t originally planned to travel to Arizona to go to college. She wanted to stay in her home state of New Mexico, and Jim didn’t get his baseball scholarship until August 1953, right before classes started.
But something about Jim stuck in the 1955 Homecoming queen’s mind. Fast forward to Grand Canyon University’s Homecoming 2020 weekend, and the couple were spending the weekend reflecting on their time as students and also celebrating their 62nd wedding anniversary.
“Jim and Ginger are a product of GCU, and I’m proud of it,” Jim said. “God put me on this campus to be here when she graduated. It’s been timing all along.”
With Ginger being the oldest living GCU Homecoming queen, she was asked to crown this year’s queen at the basketball game.
“I was surprised when they asked,” she said. “I’m glad they’re keeping up Homecoming court.”
Alumni Relations Specialist Brianna Bell and the Alumni Relations Department rolled out a series of new events, including Campfire and Cocktails, the Alumni Reunion Mixer and the Golden Lopes.
“We’re really trying to build out some lasting traditions at the University, and a reunion is something that I think resonates with a lot of people,” Bell said. “We really just wanted to build those connections, have the different age brackets of alumni to meet and mingle and kind of have sort of like a networking event, but really based on who you are, where you’re at now and try to give alumni a reason to travel back home.”
Bell says it’s also a way for online graduates to still feel connected to the University.
Homecoming weekend kicked off Friday afternoon with the GCU Hall of Fame ceremony. Alicia Shields, Rex Collins, Theresa Killingsworth, Shor Denny, Rick Calcutt, Pete Gorraiz and T.C. Dean were inducted. Family, friends, and GCU staff and faculty filled GCU Arena Hall to celebrate with the inductees.
“It was awesome,” Shields said of the ceremony. “It was great to have everyone here. My family flew in, and to have Dr. Lisa Smith (Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions) present to me, it was great.”
Meeting the other inductees was also special to Shields.
“There were some amazing people that were inducted,” she said. “I feel honored.”
The festivities continued at Friday night’s Campfire and Cocktails, which featured appearances of several different generations of Lopes, a signature “Purple Rain” Cocktail and a s’mores table. Lopes could partake in outdoor games, eat some dinner and mingle with other alumni, all while enjoying the campy vibes of the event.
Shelby Drushel (class of 2019), Olivia Gabrick (class of 2019) and Emily Snyder (Class of 2018) were just a few of the alumni to enjoy the festivities. The friends were not only celebrating their first homecoming as alumni but Gabrick’s last few months before leaving for pharmacy school.
“I think this is really cool because GCU — the community on campus (and the college atmosphere) — is something so unique … so I think it’s really cool that they also carry that over into the alumni events,” Gabrick said.
“It’s so different hanging out now,” Drushel said. “We all lived in Roadrunner so we would just walk down the hall and see each other daily. Now it’s like, ‘Hey when can everyone hang out?’ and trying to coordinate things and stuff, which is why these events are so nice.”
Saturday’s festivities started with the annual Brunch with Thunder and trailed into Bell’s newer events.
The 0’s and 5’s Reunion Mixer offered students an opportunity to look over older GCU documents, such as yearbooks and photos, as well as enjoy finger food and chat with each other about their fondest memories of campus.
One of the alumni at the mixer, Nicole Torrez from the class of 2000, has made an effort to attend as many homecoming weekends that she can.
“I’m not really big into social media or Facebook, so I’m just trying to connect with people who graduated in my same year and get to know others,” she said. “It’s great to meet some of the alumni staff, who work here at Grand Canyon, who are putting on the events …
“It’s great that they’re doing these kinds of things.”
No homecoming weekend is complete without a basketball tailgate, and this year, it took a little extra time to celebrate the school’s longest living alums. Alumni of 50 years and more had their time to shine at the Golden Lopes celebration as tailgaters applauded the Lopes who came before them. The Golden Lopes were given a pin to commemorate the milestone.
Alice (Burghout) Baker, Class of 1954 and Grand Canyon College’s first certified teacher, was one of the many Golden Lopes pinned at the tailgate.
“It makes me proud,” she said, about being named a Golden Lope. “We had very wonderful years those very first days of Grand Canyon. … Our daughter has graduated from here, and many of our nieces and nephews, so it’s kind of like a bigger congregation when we all get together.”
Mimi Marcotte (class of 1957) and Randy Donahoo (class of 1955), were two other Golden Lopes present of the event.
“We were very excited and honored,” Marcotte said.
Donahoo said it was an experience that meant a lot to him, being recognized with several other of GCU’s earliest graduates.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or firstname.lastname@example.org
GCU Today: Homecoming to feature new events for alumni