75th anniversary book showcases GCU's unique history

“The Grand Canyon University story is unlike any in the world.”

That sounds like a big claim.

But one begins to understand that unbelievable story after reading the first line of “75 Years of Purpose: 15 Years of Transformation.” The 75th anniversary coffee table book will be available Aug. 28 as a softcover for $7.50 in the campus Lope Shop and online here. It also will be available in hardback from the Lope Shop for $25 in October.

The GCU story sounds improbable. It spans 75 years over 120 pages of prose and photographs old and new, compiled by a team of editors, writers and photographers from GCU News and the Office of Communications and Public Relations, with design and additional artwork from the Marketing Department.

An aerial of GCU from the 1950s

Three Baptist pastors slapped down silver dollars to start a college, gladly accepted a jar of 903 pennies from one enthusiastic woman and sent its first president off to the Arizona wilds to drum up more cash to start a small college in Prescott in 1948.

A year later, the dreamers moved the campus onto old cotton fields in west Phoenix and built nine buildings in a few weeks, a fitting display of speed and determination that became a trademark decades later.

An aerial of GCU from 2022

It all started, as the book describes in segments called “Did You Know,” with a kind of spirit that has survived today professors who would teach a class, then head over at lunch hour to help build the gym.

With archival photographs and profiles of some of the most important figures and alumni, the story of GCU becomes truly remarkable after the college of fewer than 1,000 students is $20 million in debt and on the edge of bankruptcy by 2004.

Four years later, along comes Brian Mueller and several of his leaders from the nearby University of Phoenix. He saw something in his mind’s eye as he walked around the campus, a future of classrooms rising, of arenas and ballfields, of a bustling environment of students, inspired by God and purpose.

And that’s where the transformation begins with President Mueller, who writes in the book’s preface:

GCU President Brian Mueller envisioned what the University could be when he stepped onto a modest campus in 2008.

“This commemorative book celebrates those 75 Years of Purpose and delves deeper into the past 15 Years of Transformation to shed light on how GCU became the largest Christian university in the world, changed higher education in the U.S., and put its faith into action in the surrounding community.”

It’s breathtaking, just the numbers.

The book covers the massive construction over the next 15 years as the University invested $1.7 billion in the campus.

Another segment chronicles the growth in its online education programs to service 90,000 students, using nearly $300 million in technology to become a national leader.

Family Weekend in the 1960s

From a campus of 90 acres to 300. From 1,000 ground students to more than 25,000.

From a sparse desert outpost off Camelback Road to 32 campus living areas, 32 dining locations, 312 academic programs.

But the book is more than numbers.

It details a cultivated dedication to service and community, a spirit spreading from the campus to the surrounding community, fixing homes, donating goods, creating jobs.

No longer a quiet little campus, GCU has become a bustling university with a robust on-ground population of more than 25,000 students, an online student population of approximately 90,000, NCAA Division I athletics and more.

A quiet little campus grew into a bustling atmosphere of faith and culture, a community whose soundtrack became skateboard wheels rolling students across campus and praise music in an Arena packed with thousands of students.

From a little hoop gym that professors helped build to NCAA Division I athletics programs playing in a 7,000-seat GCU Arena, complete with screaming students cheering on a team that has played twice in three years in one of the nation’s highest profile events the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament.

It’s all in black and white and living color in the book’s photographs, a “Then and Now” that gives readers a sense of where it all began and amazement at where it’s all led delivering education to people at all stages of life, across the world and right on campus.

It really is a unique story, one to share as the 75th anniversary year begins.

“There’s just this overwhelming feeling of family at GCU, and that’s across everything,” said GCU student Jackson Godwin in the book. “… I tell everyone they should come here.”

Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected]

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Bible Verse

Jesus taught his disciples, saying: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/