Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
It was just a normal day at the gym when Dyllan Taylor received an email that would shake his world. He glanced at his phone to see a request from his dean to be the Commencement speaker for his graduating class.
“I was just floored, I couldn’t even continue (with the workout),” said Taylor, a Grand Canyon University biology and Honors College graduate with an emphasis in pre-physical therapy.
He had never given a speech to a crowd the size of the one that would fill GCU Arena, but he knew it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
“I was absolutely shocked when I found out I was chosen,” he said. “In some ways I understood, like I worked really, really hard over these last four years. But at the same time, I don’t want to catch myself thinking that I’m better or any harder working than any of the other people that busted their buns over this really long, hard journey that is getting a degree.”
In his Winter Commencement speech on Friday night, Taylor shared everything from his GCU experience to life lessons he’s learned along the way. (See a slideshow/video here).
“I kind of went for like a formal informality, like more of a casual, honest kind of speech,” he said. “I just related what I was thinking about the people, school, what’s important and what the school did right.”
Taylor, who discovered his calling to the field of physical therapy as a kid, grew up lifting things and learned that he could fix every strain and ache with enough research. Paired with the love he developed for GCU’s campus and Christian community during his Discover GCU trip, the College of Science, Engineering and Technology's Pre-Physical Therapy program was a perfect match.
He said, “It seemed like a place where I could learn what I needed and grow my faith.”
During his time on campus, Taylor participated in Club Acapella, Opportunity Community and Justice for Kids’ foster kids ministry, and worked as a resident assistant in the Willow apartments.
As he looked over the crowd for the first time before speaking, Taylor added an extra layer of relatability to his time on the GCU Arena stage.
“Oh man, there’s a lot of people out there,” he said with a chuckle as he got to the podium. “I really struggled to get started on this speech, not because I was procrastinating -- I’m usually the guy that teachers like because I turn everything in early; I struggled with this speech because this is nowhere near what I’m used to doing.”
Yet in his 4 1/2-minute talk, he captivated the audience like a professional.
It was the perfect representation of his journey as a Lope and the culmination of all the support he received from loved ones and peers over the past several years.
“I know I wouldn’t be here without the niche group of dorks I found to play Dungeons & Dragons with until 2 a.m. once a week,” he said to the packed crowd. “Just like I wouldn’t be here without the deep philosophical discussions and athletic competitions that some of us took part in in the middle of class.
“Although this may sound hyper specific to me, I bet if you ask the person next to you about some bizarre, wonderful thing that happened to them while they were here, you’ll probably be a little surprised by the answer.”
As his speech neared its closing, Taylor hoped to leave his fellow graduates with one final assignment to work on moving forward.
“I want to encourage all of you to hang on to those relationships that matter,” he said. “When we take off these goofy costumes, some of us may never set foot on this campus again. But it is the unique people that you intentionally form bonds with that will carry you on to the next step.”
After all, Taylor says he is a firm believer that “you can’t go and do anything this big or crazy alone.”
As he begins to tackle the next chapter in his journey, with plans of taking a gap year before going to physical therapy school, he, too, will continue to build and cherish the relationships he created at GCU, specifically, with his fiancée, Allannah Scarbro, who he proposed to in August.
With the couple both graduating on Friday -- Scarbro walked the stage at the Friday afternoon ceremony to receive her degree in nursing -- the celebratory weekend worked as an opportunity for their families to meet for the first time.
Of the opportunity to speak at Commencement, Taylor felt one overpowering emotion: “I’m just absolutely honored,” he said.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].
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