Building momentum: GCU's top stories of 2018-19

The Colangelo College of Business Building opened last year and was officially christened in January.

GCU News Bureau

Choosing the top 10 stories of the Grand Canyon University academic year is always a difficult exercise, and 2018-19 was no exception.

There’s always something to do with construction, of course. There is academic achievement. There are some sports highlights.

But this year had all that and more, including life-or-death moments that evoked memories of the past and preserved memories still to come.

Here, then, is how the GCU Today staff voted from a list of 25 candidates. Spoiler alert: The opening of Taco Bell, so widely celebrated by students, didn’t make the top 10. Now that’s a busy year:

The 10-court Canyon Activity Center opened in 2018-19.

1. CONSTRUCTION: Colangelo College of Business Building and Canyon Activity Center open, Building 18 is demolished to make way for Student Activities Services Building, College of Theology and College of Nursing and Health Care Professions trade buildings, College of Fine Arts and Production gets its own building, two more residence halls open and three more are being built.

And that’s a lot of construction. The biggest additions, in more ways than one, were the CCOB Building, which held its grand opening in January with great fanfare, and the Canyon Activity Center right across the street, which opened a few weeks later (and added an outdoor hockey rink in March). But right down the street are all those new residence halls, and the Promenade was a busy place as well with all the movement and, lately, with the five-story SAS Building going up. Grand Construction University, indeed.

A grand new cornerstone of Colangelo’s GCU legacy

Just like that, Canyon Activity Center is a big hit

GCU, Coyotes team up on new rink, and students win

Kiln joy: Farewell to a hot spot on campus

Going up! The inside stories of a building project

CONHCP, Theology make the switch

New home sets stage for more Fine Arts growth

Mechanical engineering graduate Tayler Holden celebrates at commencement.

2. COMMENCEMENT: Record number of graduates features first engineering and Students Inspiring Students graduates plus Jesse Dalla Riva’s amazing story.

Commencement is always a big deal, but this year it graduated to even higher status with its milestones and memories. Not only did GCU set a record for number of grads; there was so much to celebrate this spring.

GCU to confer largest graduating class in 70-year history

Commencement celebrates sense of community

First graduates complete the engineering circuit

Sean Oliver and Yenni Sanchez Perez became the first Students Inspiring Students graduates. 

Grads bring Students Inspiring Students full circle

Family photo frames fabulous four-year feat

As party celebrates Dalla Riva, prayer reverberates

The men's baseball team honors Dave Brazell.

3. MOURNING: GCU legend Dave Brazell dies.

During GCU’s first 50 years, no one was more renowned than the longtime baseball coach and athletic director. He still attended GCU events in his final years before his death in October at age 93.

GCU icon Dave Brazell passes away

Brazell’s life, love celebrated

Baseball, Brazell family are still in perfect pitch

4. COMMUNITY: Learning Lounge at Milwaukee Brewers’ spring training facility opens; three Academic Excellence Sites established, in particular Westwood Elementary School; Academic and Career Excellence (ACE) centers expanded.

Jose Monarrez, a learning advocate in the Learning Lounge, speaks to students at the new Learning Lounge in the Milwaukee Brewers’ complex.

GCU’s academic assistance for local K-12 students has been in place for six years, and it went to the next level when the new Lounge opened in Maryvale. The offerings on campus also were expanded with the opening of additional ACE Centers.

Brewers’ Learning Lounge celebrates opening day

GCU partnership with Brewers is in full swing

Academic Excellence program embraces schools

GCU is all in with assisting Westwood Elementary

GCU and Westwood: Teacher training accelerated

GCU’s Learning Lounge boosts Westwood

First-Year Experience, ACE Centers aid new students

Men's soccer wins the WAC Tournament to advance to the NCAAs.

5. MEN’S SOCCER: First GCU team sport to make NCAA tournament in Division I era.

The Lopes provided an early indication that the season might be something special when they upset No. 12-ranked Wisconsin in the season opener before a record crowd at GCU Stadium. A week later, they defeated No. 20 Creighton and were ranked among the top 25 teams in the country. But the biggest moment of all was winning the WAC Tournament to advance to the NCAAs.

Lopes knock off No. 12 Wisconsin

Come again? Lopes nab 2nd upset

Lopes crack top 25

Wins, tears flow for champs

Penalty kicks end season at NCAAs

6. NURSING: Big results on big exam.

The hard work of the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions was rewarded when recent graduates posted a 98.21% first-time pass rate for the first quarter of 2019 on the notoriously difficult National Council Licensure Examination, or NCLEX. The state average was 95.16%, and GCU’s score was a significant step up from its 91.5% first-time pass rate in 2018.  

GCU Nursing posts 98.21% 1st-time pass rate on exam

GCU Softball is ecstatic over its win against No. 1-ranked Florida State.

7. SOFTBALL: Lopes shock No. 1-ranked Florida State.

The softball team had another fine season, finishing 33-24, and nothing could be finer than becoming the first GCU team in the Division I era to knock off a team ranked No. 1 in the country. But Florida State isn’t just any No. 1 team – it’s a perennial power and won the national championship last year.

Upset! Lopes stun No. 1 FSU

Smiths double joy, impact

The Varsity Overwatch team helped put GCU on the Esports map this year. (Photo by Gabriel Christus / ESPN Images)

8. ESPORTS: New facility opens, and team competes in big national event.

Talk about putting something to good use. The rise of esports on campus, highlighted by the opening of the new facility in the Technology Building, was punctuated in May when an underdog GCU team upset No. 2-seeded University of California, Irvine, to advance to the ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship, then came ever so close to defeating Orange Coast College in its first match in Houston.

GCU team’s season ends in edge-of-seat match

Game on: GCU clicks into the rise of esports

Dance took first place in Game Day performance and was second in Division I Jazz at the Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships.

9. DANCE/CHEER: National title, runner-up finish.

The Dance and Cheer teams have been consistent top finishers in national competitions, but this year they took the next step. Dance took first place in Game Day performance and was second in Division I Jazz at the Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championships, and Cheer achieved its best finish ever – runner-up in the Open Co-ed Game Day event.

GCU spirit on display in Dance team’s national title

Cheer team finishes runner-up at nationals

Camden Gianni reunited with GCU head coach Matt Werle and athletic trainer Deborah Storm, who saved his life on the Lopes' home court with the help of special assistant to the head coach Dennis Flowers.

10. BIGGEST SAVE: Trainer, coach come through in clutch for volleyball player who collapsed on court.

Camden Gianni’s life was saved by the quick thinking of athletic trainer Deborah Storm and special assistant to the head coach Dennis Flowers. When Gianni suddenly became ill and had a seizure, they sprang into action and, utilizing the automated external defibrillator Flowers grabbed from the Antelope Gym lobby, revived his heartbeat.

Lopes save Lope’s life on court


  • Men’s basketball comes within one game of NCAAs again.
  • Habitat for Humanity partnership surpasses 200 homes renovated.
  • Jerry Colangelo statue is unveiled.
  • Tuition stays frozen for 11th straight year.
  • GCU again makes Best Campuses list, this time finishing seventh.
  • And, yes, the opening of Taco Bell -- a "Live mas" moment on campus, but no match for the big stories of 2018-19.


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GCU Magazine

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