Hall of Famers surprised by honor despite success
Editor’s note: Reprinted from the April issue of GCU Magazine. For the digital version of the magazine, click here.
By Ashlee Larrison
The 2021 inductees into the Grand Canyon University Alumni Hall of Fame have a lot in common. In particular, their newfound fame hasn’t gone to their heads.
Rachel Winkler thought the email informing her of the honor must be spam. In her mind, she is “just Rachel.”
Dan Snyder had to take a second look to confirm that what he was reading was correct.
“I think my initial reaction was kind of like ‘What is this?’ to ‘Are you kidding me? This is so cool and amazing,’” he said. “And, to be honest, that feeling has kind of stayed with me since.”
Garth Bailey was so surprised, he reached out to an old friend, 2017 GCU Hall of Fame inductee Kim Tobey.
“I said, ‘What is this, Kim? This is just really wild,’ and so she told me a little about it,” he said. “Somebody decided that I was worthy of this somehow. It’s very humbling.”
Scott Van Newkirk just said he felt incredibly flattered.
And the four have other similarities. They all have made considerable contributions to their fields and their communities, of course – those are two of the key prerequisites for being considered. Three of them changed majors while at Grand Canyon.
And all of them feel gratitude when they reflect on their time at GCU.
In Winkler’s case, she met her husband, Eddy, on campus. They have two children – Ethan, 22, and Annie, 16.
“I owe my entire family to Grand Canyon University,” she said.
Winkler intended to become a math teacher when she came to GCU. Instead, she used her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics, which she received in 1997, to become an actuarial analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, where she is now a Vice President.
But her time in the College of Education still was a benefit.
“I really got exposed to a lot of really fantastic people, educators and faculty who showed me what it meant to be a teacher,” she said. “I realized that I wasn’t meant to educate children but that I had the heart of a teacher that I brought with me into my professional life.”
Winkler has played a vital role in providing health care options for Arizonans during the COVID pandemic. She also has been involved with the nonprofit Tumbleweed, which serves homeless youth, and she has been assisting with vaccine dispensing at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Snyder attended GCU on a baseball scholarship and was focused on a future in the sport when he began classes in 1995. He wasn’t sure which academic program would suit him best and eventually settled on business.
“I’m kind of a numbers guy, so I thought finance and accounting might be fun,” he said. “As I got into the general studies of business, I did like the accounting and finance, but it was actually the marketing that kind of drew me.”
That love of marketing would lead to his 1997 degree and graduation. Today, he is Vice President of Mergers & Acquisitions for American Express Global Business Travel.
“I think some of the hard work and commitment that my parents and my family instilled in me, which kind of compounded with my studying at Grand Canyon … it just kind of built that path for me,” he said. “I was lucky enough to find myself under some leaders who kind of took a chance on me. I wanted to work hard and show my commitment to them and make them look good, and I was rewarded with opportunities.”
After graduating in 1981 with a B.S. in Mathematics, Bailey started his career at Goodyear Aerospace as a Scientific Application Programmer – and paved the way for more Grand Canyon grads.
“My hiring manager, after a year I asked him, ‘So, Bob, what do you think? How am I doing?’ and he looked back, and he said, ‘When I first hired you, I thought all Grand Canyon had was Baptist preachers and baseball players,’” he said. “I was one of the first ones, at least in my company. Over the next several years we had quite a few students who came in from GCU.”
Bailey now is the Chief Financial Officer for Lorts Manufacturing in Goodyear, Arizona.
Van Newkirk also came to GCU for sports. He was on the golf team in the late 1980s and early ’90s.
Growing up in Nebraska, Van Newkirk always was attracted to the thought of living in a warm climate. After he was invited to sunny Arizona to play a practice round with the golf team and meet the coach, he was sold.
“I was like, ‘This is where I want to be,’” he said.
Like Winkler and Snyder, Van Newkirk changed majors. He was enrolled in the premed program but switched to accounting by his second semester and graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s in Business Administration.
Once he had his degree, he was able to combine it with his love of golf. He worked his way up to Head Professional of Desert Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale and now is Executive Vice President and Global Development Officer for Troon, which manages hundreds of golf courses around the world. The moral of his story: Work for the career you want and take advantage of the knowledge you gain along the way.
“I feel like your education is just the start,” he said. “Nothing is going to be given to you, and how you prepare your work ethic through school is going to carry on into your career.”
Contact GCU staff writer Ashlee Larrison at [email protected] or at 602-639-8488.