Duarte returns to campus to host ‘GCU Lope Show’
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Caleb Duarte’s final week of college was wrapping up from his home near San Jose, Calif. He had returned to his hometown because of the pandemic and was reflecting on how he found his purpose at Grand Canyon University and considering what to do next. He’d been something of a big deal on campus.
“I became, like, ‘The Host of GCU,’” said Duarte, who served as the affable, witty emcee for the University’s largest student-run events, such as Lip Sync and Mr. GCU, and hosted a monthly talk show called Canyon Night Show.
After all that, now what?
He was playing a lot of video games, playing with the dog, thinking, when the phone rang on April 19. It’s GCU. They wanted him to fly him back to Phoenix. They had an idea.
“The next thing I’m having meetings every day with senior management,” Duarte said. “It was a culture shock, from playing with the dog and playing video games to coming up with content and logos.”
The content for “The GCU Lope Show with Caleb Duarte,” a talk show that drops 7 p.m. Fridays on YouTube, is filmed from a room in Roadrunner Apartments with a backdrop of time-honored college staples — Doritos, M&M’s and a foam finger.
GCU leaders wanted to create a show to inform prospects, the incoming class and continuing students about GCU “in smaller, more digestible tidbits” that is light-hearted and uplifting, said Sarah Boeder, Executive Vice President of Operations.
“As a recent GCU grad who has a breadth of experience in this show format, Caleb was the perfect person to format and run with this new opportunity.”
The cherub-faced Duarte had grown a corona-beard, which supplied a good opener for the May 8 show, a Zoom take-off with Dean of Students Dr. Tim Griffin, who told Duarte, “We need you.”
“Clean up. Get rid of the beard.”
Cut to Duarte lathering up his face, then shaving it off while weeping, “Goodbye, old friend.”
The clever opener may be symbolic. Duarte was amid our great national pause in quarantine and just like that was clean shaven, wearing a tie and on track to his dream of being a talk show host.
He’d come to the dream at GCU his sophomore year after joining the Canyon Activities Board and landing the spot as a Lip Sync host, leading his transition from a Sports Management major to a new purpose in entertainment and communications.
“Why do I want to do it? It’s fun, I just enjoy it, along with the desire to entertain people and get closer to the Lord, which happens to be what I want to say when I make people laugh.”
He’d often heard that if you want it badly, it’s probably not what the Lord wants of you. But he also thinks that “if the Lord keeps putting something in front of you, you need to say yes to it.”
“What I want to do in life I want it to be a form of worship. I worship the Lord when I’m entertaining. For me, God has given me a talent not many other people have.”
The first show continued with Duarte behind a desk, like his hero Jimmy Fallon, introducing clips that showcased the heart of GCU, such as how seniors showed their spirit and creativity by marching down Lopes Way in an impromptu graduation march after learning students would vacate the campus in March because of COVID-19.
He interviewed a future Lope, Erik Yost, and told him, “Dude, I’m in my apartment doing a talk show, so I’m living the dream.”
Another interview showcased Griffin at a safe distance on the guest couch, describing his many titles, which also include Pastor and Vice President of Student Affairs. “A lot of what you do is like campus dad,” Duarte told him. “I personally know that from experience.”
The duo’s give-and-take at numerous GCU events and film spots, including pies in the face and trotting across campus on stick horses, are always entertaining.
“I would say so. He would probably roll his eyes,” Duarte said.
Duarte ran through memorable times with Griffin at GCU and asked what he would say to students.
“College is a great stage in life,” Griffin said. “Students get moved in and a lot of times they are a little hesitant about what they ought to get involved with. I think you modeled it for a lot of college kids, and that is, right out of the gate … jump in with both feet. It will make your college experience everything you’re hoping it will be.”
Duarte will host new episodes through May, and campus leadership will determine if it continues through the summer and after. Friday’s episode will be all about the Havocs, the spirited student club know for exuberance at basketball games.
“It was a very safe first episode. With everything going on in the world, I wanted to show the heart of GCU and why we are doing it,” Duarte said. “It honestly comes naturally, not because of any talent I have, but when you love GCU as much as I learned to love it, it’s naturally easy to want to put content out there that shows off GCU.
“I was blessed with a college career that really helped me find my true purpose and walk my faith. That’s my heart for the show — to show people that GCU can be that place.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.