Lopes fans! ARE YOU READY … for Dr. Danuser?
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
As Paul Danuser walked into Commencement last year, a question was painted on the wall.
Are you ready?
It’s Danuser’s signature rallying call as public address announcer at basketball games — “Lopes fans, ARE YOU READY?”
“Man, they painted that on the wall,” Danuser said. “That’s cool.”
He’s known as the voice of Grand Canyon University, and it’s what he added each year when University leaders went around the room to ask faculty what they’ve been up to.
He can add a new accomplishment this year. His title now is Dr. Paul Danuser. He can tell them that in August he defended his dissertation and earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration.
“I didn’t want to just be the guy that announces sports,” he said.
For those who know him outside of the Arena, Danuser was never just the exuberant PA announcer. He’s a teacher going into his 39th year, and his colleagues in the College of Education say the students love him.
But a longtime goal of the Assistant Professor had been to complete a doctorate that he first decided to pursue 10 years ago.
It wasn’t easy, especially considering his roles outside the classroom, sometimes working four games a week, whether soccer, volleyball or basketball, then sitting across from his wife, Kellea, at the kitchen table with dueling laptops as they both worked on their doctorates.
“Some people fly through it; I didn’t,” Danuser said. “It’s really hard to continue with the academic part when you are doing all that. But now that I’m finished with it, it’s worth it – the roadblocks and agony and everything else. It made me stronger.”
He wants to be an example of lifelong learning to his students. He’s never been one to sit still.
“Paul is always looking for the next thing, always asking himself, “How can I get better? How can I learn more, and how can I improve on what I’m doing?” said Kellea Danuser.
He was a teacher and coach for many years at numerous secondary schools after his graduation from Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn., when he took a brief detour into an area that also honed his announcing voice: He moved to Phoenix in the ‘90s to work the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift on Christian radio for $5 an hour, including weather and traffic updates “at 1010 on your radio dial.”
“I realized that was not enough,” he said, “and I ended up back in the classroom.”
He became a teacher at Mountain Pointe High School and also taught online courses for the University of Phoenix. “I put on a tie to teach high school English, changed into shorts to coach softball and then a suit to teach at the university.”
Nine years ago, he brought all that versatility to GCU and quickly got involved.
“I tell this to kids who are going to be teachers. The work part is what you do in the classroom and preparing and grading work. The fun part is getting to know the students outside the classroom,” he said. “I never wanted to be the teacher that showed up five minutes before the start of the day and left five minutes after the end of the day.”
Kellea said one of her husband’s joys is knowing so many of the students. She said he’s even officiated in a couple of weddings for student-athletes.
But all the while a goal of finishing his doctorate lingered.
“He and I are two of the older full-time professors, the ‘grandparents,’” said Dr. Lisa Bernier, a colleague in COE. “He is watching the rest of them achieve these things, and then I got my (doctorate) and I think he had this feeling, ‘Is this ever going to happen?’ We just kept encouraging him.”
It didn’t detract from his place on campus. Students often mentioned his name as a positive influence, Bernier said, one of the faculty members who “has been down the road a little bit and followed the Lord.”
The gentle soul who also can roar with Arena enthusiasm was delighted but humbled when he finally earned his doctorate.
It’s little wonder Danuser’s dissertation, “Self-Efficacy and Servant Leadership Through Tutoring and Mentoring: A Qualitative Case Study,” focused on students. He found in studying tutors of high school students through GCU’s Learning Lounge that the students showed growth in interactions, self-efficacy and leadership.
“The effects of this program are going to be felt for generations,” he said. “I’m so impressed with what students are doing, and we can inspire other universities because a lot of them are also around low-income areas.”
He hopes to use the credibility that comes with his new title as entry into more presentations and publications to share the GCU story.
To COE Assistant Dean Emily Pottinger, it’s no surprise. She has seen Danuser jump headfirst into new challenges.
“Paul is a great example of a continuous learner and is open to changes in the field of education,” she said, including changing technology and its use in the classroom. “He’s always on board. Even though he has been in the field a long time and has so much experience, he is open to new things. I love that about Paul.”
Danuser always says a prayer of thanks before announcing each game “for letting me do this.”
He feels the same way about teaching, saying his drive comes from the energy of the campus and its students.
“I had a friend ask me about retirement. I have no desire. I want to work for 20 more years and have the opportunity to be a leader,” he said. “I’ve got so much to share. I’m not brilliant, I’m not this intellectual giant, but I’ve got 39 years in the classroom and I can keep learning and keep contributing.”
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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