The time has come for me to leave. As I prepare for these last few days in Phoenix, I wanted to share a few thoughts with you and perhaps a little of myself along the way. When I came to Phoenix for the first time, it was July and characteristically hot, and all I saw was a drab desert landscape with scores of concrete block walls lining the roadways. Gravel, it seemed, was the motif of the land. I was not impressed. As I leave, I see a city and landscape teeming with life. I have come to respect the desert as one of the most beautiful places on earth. It represents all that is good in God’s universe. Within it reside imminent danger, life where it seems no life could be possible, and an unmatched beauty. I think the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen come from the Sonoran desert. I leave a city full of life, one that has a vigorous heartbeat and a people eager to do great things with their businesses, their lives, and our great country.
When I arrived on campus, I cast the dean’s vision for the Ken Blanchard College. In short, I hoped that we would so deeply impact one another, our students, the University, and the community that when the inevitable departure occurred, we would be able to say we will never be the same for having been together. This vision certainly came true for me. The city of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, and the Ken Blanchard College of Business impacted me and changed me in so many unique and wonderful ways. I leave knowing I will never be the same.
It was on this campus, while speaking to a group of students, that after nearly 50 years, my life’s mission came perfectly and clearly into focus. “My personal mission is to help all those around me to become as successful as they are willing to be.” What a gift this experience has given me. As I have considered all we have accomplished in the college and in the University, I am so very proud to have been a part of it. Our students have encountered great teachers, leaders, and business people. With our corporation being such a vital business, it has been the perfect laboratory for a college of business.
I want to offer just a few highlights to us all. The traditional college has grown from just over 180 students in February of 2010 to an expected count of well over 1,100 students in the fall of 2012. Our nighttime graduate programs have grown from roughly 180 master’s students to well over 325 and we expect close to 400 by the end of 2012. Our online programs continue to thrive and grow. In the past two years, the college has hosted in excess of 25 events on and off campus spreading the message of servant leadership, entrepreneurism, and innovation to several thousand people — students and community members alike. Many more are already planned for 2012-13. I daresay Ken Blanchard has interacted with more students face to face than in all years prior to 2010. Last year alone, he met with over 300 undergraduate and graduate students on campus during multiple separate events. Two board members — Sheldon Harris and Colleen Barrett — have addressed our students face to face and over the digital airwaves. We launched the first intentional “digital capture” of content-delivery events on campus, ranging from Ken’s visits, to Colleen’s time on campus, Jerry Colangelo, and most recently Dan Cathy of Chick-fil-A. These are just a few examples from our college.
Certainly my departure is not on my timeline. I have said and taught since my arrival that my position (any position) is not mine. I have never owned it. It is a season of service. I offer it up willingly and know that God has a wonderful leader in store for the college. I do leave with some sadness, knowing there were things yet to be accomplished, yet I know great things will come to pass for our college and this University. I believe in the mission and purpose of GCU and know that many lives are being impacted for the Kingdom and for our society. I also leave with some joy, that the person you helped change (me) will be able to carry part of this message on to other places, business leaders, and other students.
To the executive leadership team, I offer my appreciation for your wisdom, passion, and focus. To the deans, I offer my heartfelt thanks for your love, support, humor, and friendship. Thank you for helping me to not take myself so seriously. I will miss dancing with the deans, a little. To our Peoria partners, I offer my passion for outreach. May you always walk through every door and speak to every potential student with a boldness and certainty of our ability to change lives through education. To our marketing, Arena, and event partners, my thanks for such a commitment to excellence and a willingness to tolerate the insane pace we moved at the past couple of years. To our curriculum teams, faculty development, student learning services, faculty services, and full time online faculty I offer my gratitude for allowing me to be a part of your organization, sharing and growing together. To all of Academic Affairs, I offer my thanks for always working to keep the main thing the main thing. To our organizational training and development teams, I offer my passion for growing people, helping them to rise to their desired level of personal impact and success. To Ken and the Blanchard “family,” my thanks for loving me and helping me grow as a man and leader.
To the college, I thank you for allowing me to be a part of your lives, to influence and be influenced by you. I will forever remember your commitment to excellence, willingness to work, and focus on the students. I know that in higher education many changes may come to pass in the next few years. One thing will remain constant. Our students will need to be loved and taught. My uncle Dr. J.A. Barksdale once reminded us that when it comes to teaching, “No written work or spoken word can teach like a teacher.” To me, this translates that teaching and learning require an intimacy that creates trust between teacher and student. I am proud to have been associated with such a group of teachers that I may never be so privileged to be with again.
When I trained for my doctorate, I was taught that to call someone a colleague was a sincerely endearing phrase never to be used lightly. I am proud to call all of you my colleagues. May we never forget that 100 years from now, our students will be the only evidence we ever did our jobs.
As a word of encouragement to us all, Ken Blanchard reminds us frequently that the world is in desperate need of a new kind of leadership role model. I have deeply believed we have the chance to be a part of showing that to the world. I continue to believe that GCU and the Ken Blanchard College of Business are uniquely positioned to do that very thing.
My lifelong theological pastor, Dr. Gene Nail, went home just a few months ago. He taught me to pray. I leave us with these words from Ephesians 3:17-21 he so often closed prayer with (emphasis added is mine):
I pray “17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen
I hope and pray we will one day be so privileged to once again serve together.
W. Kevin Barksdale
Dr. W. Kevin Barksdale