Business college mourns loss of revered colleague
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
When Dr. Barry Asmus arrived at Grand Canyon University in 2017, teaching high-level economics to students wasn’t his only priority.
“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,” he said at the time.
“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 brought that sort of passion to everything he did, especially the convictions expressed in the book he wrote with Dr. Wayne Grudem, “The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution.”
His passion is what kept coming up when Colangelo College of Business (CCOB) faculty members learned recently that Asmus died at age 78:
- “I got a chance to interact with him a couple of times, and in those interactions I walked away filled with peace and love as he poured into my life spiritually. God used him to bless my life, and I am sure he did the same to many – I will cherish him for this and for the opportunity I had to interact with him.” – Eduardo Borquez
- “I loved the energy and the message of freedom that Barry brought to the world. I will miss him greatly.” – Tim Kelley
- “What a great thinker and sincere soul. Loved that guy. The world will miss him.” – Dan Reis
- “A huge loss and a life-changing gain for anyone who was lucky enough to know him or have the privilege of reading his work.” – Robert Vera
When he joined CCOB as a Distinguished Professor of Economics, Asmus taught ECON 449, which carried the same “Poverty of Nations” title as his book. He also led groups of students in Bible studies and mentoring, was a guest speaker in master’s classes, was a substitute teacher in Kelley’s economics classes and co-taught ECON 220 with Krystal Slivinski.
“He was,” said Dr. Randy Gibb, the CCOB dean, “an amazing human being.”
Slivinski saw better than anyone just how amazing Asmus was. It started from the day she met him — he was waiting for her in her office.
“Here’s this tall guy with a huge smile and he said, ‘I know we’re going to be friends. I’ve been looking at the books on your shelf, and I’ve got all the same ones,’” she recalled.
Slivinski was even more stunned when Asmus, who was from what she calls the “chalk-and-talk era,” wanted to learn from her teaching style, filled with videos and group activities. He would talk to the class for a while and then turn to her, saying, “Let’s do one of your fun things now.”
Together, they created a reading group of 10 high-level students who would meet once a month. Asmus would bring dinner, lecture for an hour and then lead a discussion. “He just wanted to love on the students,” she said.
As Asmus’ health declined, Slivinski visited him and brought him books, excerpts and articles in The Wall Street Journal. Just talking about economics revitalized him.
“We were close right up until the very end,” Slivinski said. “His passing was not unexpected, but I still get choked up. I miss my friend. I miss being able to learn from him. I was so humbled that he wanted to learn from me.”
Asmus was born on Jan. 18, 1942, in Brush, Colo., to Edward and Esther Asmus. He studied economics at Colorado State University and earned his doctorate in economics from Montana State University.
While teaching at Boise State University in 1983, Asmus was asked to replace famed economist Alan Greenspan as guest speaker at an American Bankers Association convention. That began a 35-year career in public speaking that took him around the globe.
He also was a Senior Economist at the National Center for Policy Analysis, co-hosted a nationally syndicated radio show called “Perspective on the Economy,” testified about tax reform before the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and was nominated for an H.L. Mencken Award for “Crossroads: The Great American Experiment,” a book he co-authored with Donald S. Billings.
Asmus taught Sunday school for adults, was an elder at Scottsdale Bible Church and served on the Young Life National Board of Trustees.
He is survived by his wife, Mandy, to whom he was married for 57 years, plus two children and four grandchildren.
“He was our friend,” Gibb wrote in an email to CCOB faculty. “He was passionate about teaching, enthusiastic for economics, rule of law, free market capitalism, and all things related to his faith – which he thanked his wife for with funny stories. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak many times.
“One of my favorite stories was how his parents came to the U.S. from Russia and ended up in Colorado, and because of ‘rule of law,’ even though his parents had nothing, they eventually owned hundreds of acres.”
Slivinski summed it up well when she said:
“Working with him was an absolute joy … an absolute joy. I always looked forward to seeing him – seeing him with students in particular. If you want to talk about servant leadership, he was always interested in serving the other person and putting the students first.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].