Freshman farewell fills parents with mixed emotions

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

GCU cheerleaders fired up the parents as well as incoming freshmen at orientation. (Photo by Travis Neely)

For every freshman arriving at Grand Canyon University amid a phalanx of cheering Welcome Week volunteers, there is at least one parent whose spirits might not be vibrating on the same frequency.

The significance of the Move-In milestone – when young adults are pushed from the nest to start anew at a college or university – is directly proportional to one’s perspective. At the very least, it can be poignant and memory-filled, a time to reflect and wonder where all the time went.

For a parent sending off the last of a large brood, a celebration might be in order. For those saying so long to an only or first-born child, more than a few tears might be shed.

GCU President Brian Mueller welcomes the freshmen and their families. (Photo by Travis Neely)

“This may be harder on your parents than you may think,” Dr. Tim Griffin, GCU's Pastor and Dean of Students, told the students at orientation Monday in GCU Arena.

Even the most reflective parent couldn’t help but be distracted by the cheering volunteers who hauled belongings from cars to residence halls while upbeat music played over loudspeakers and Thunder, the University's mascot, pranced about.

And it’s hard not to feel reassured when President Brian Mueller announces that GCU has the 14th-safest campus in the country and the largest club sports program, and that the incoming freshman class has the highest GPA to date.

“This is becoming one of the strongest student bodies in the country,” Mueller said.

Earlier, Mabel Hutchison leafed through materials on the second floor the Student Union at the Parent Hospitality Corner, which was set up especially for the week with coffee drinks and snacks, campus maps and GCU Parent Council volunteers to answer questions.

Hutchison’s family of five, including her husband and three children, are missionaries in the Philippines. Leaving her oldest boy, Luke, who is studying engineering, isn’t going to be easy. They probably won’t see him again until Christmas.

Mabel Hutchison

“It’s going to be hard not having him with us,” Hutchison said. “We are a very, very close family.”

Hutchison is comforted knowing that Sovereign Grace Bible Church preachers will check in on her son, and she also looks forward to staying in touch via FaceTime, a video app that allows two-way communication.

“It’s so much easier with the technology today,” Hutchison said.

Todd Henderson and his wife, Sheri – two of the 10 GCU Parent Council members – greeted visitors with warmth and were prepared to dispense friendly advice.

“We are here to be supportive,” Henderson said. “Some will experience anxiousness. They will wonder, what does this mean for my child, for me? Will my child by OK? We offer reassurance that their child will be taken care of and will have a network of support.” 

Anne Henderson from Michigan (middle), with her son Alex, who is a freshman, and her daughter, Lauren.

Parents can even request prayers for their children, he said.

Anne Henderson of Michigan was sitting in the hospitality corner with her freshman son, Alex, and her daughter, Lauren, the youngest of five.

Alex’s three older brothers went to school near home and all remain a short drive away. Alex, in a way, is the first to leave home.

“All of his brothers are in awe that Alex is actually doing this,” Henderson said.

Henderson said it will be emotional for her to go back home without her son.

“But at the same time I am filled with excitement,” she said. “I know that this is exactly where God wants him.”

Teri Friesen of Dublin, Calif., was accompanied by daughter Hannah, the oldest in her family.  

“She’s very ready to move in,” Friesen said. But at the same time, Hannah said, she knows she will miss her friends and siblings.

Michelle Jenkins, whose son David is a GCU freshman, is moving to Phoenix.

“It will be a lot easier after I meet my roommate and when classes start,” she said.

One parent whose spirits soared was Michelle Jenkins, parent of freshman David. Jenkins doesn’t plan on actually saying so long to David.

“I’m psyched, I’m really stoked,” Jenkins said as a grin glowed across her face. “I’m moving here, I put my youngest son in school near here and I want to get a job here.”

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].


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Bible Verse

(Moses addressed Israel, reminding them of God's deliverance of them from Egypt, and His commands given to them:) "You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out (from bondage and delivered you.). The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear." (Deuteronomy 7:19)

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