By Ashlee Larrison
GCU News Bureau
Presenters told five inspirational stories Saturday at the Grand Canyon University Hall of Fame induction ceremony during homecoming festivities.
Not only was the audience inspired. So were the inductees.
“I really feel humbled,” said Sharky Baker, who graduated in 1956 from what was then Grand Canyon College. “When I look at those others that were inducted, I was thinking, ‘Man, those people have really really contributed to not only the University but to the citizens of the United States,' and I applaud them.”
The event took place in the Library on the fourth floor of the Student Union. The inductees and their accomplishments:
- Baker: Teacher, counselor, coach, principal, district superintendent, longtime GCU supporter, former president of the Alumni Association and the scholarship foundation.
- Reginald Freeman: 37th Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director for Hartford, Conn.; International Fire chief for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas; Civilian Fire Chief for the U.S. Department of Defense and coalition allies in 2004-2008; and member of the board of directors for the National Fire Protection Association.
- Randi (Johns) Riggs: Academic All-America honors recipient; Freshman NCAA Independent Rookie of the Year winner; holder of 12 GCU career records and 10 season records; teacher, coach, social worker and counselor at Copper Canyon High School.
- Hagir Elsheikh: Founder/CEO of HSE Staffing Agency, CEO of Tomorrow's Smiles, advocate for violence victims, TV talk show host, TSO Radio co-host and motivational speaker.
- George Holm: President and CEO of Performance Food Group. Holm was inducted but was unable to attend.
Freeman's resume lists the kind of achievements that amazed Baker.
Freeman graduated from GCU in 2008 with his Master of Science and Executive Fire Service Leadership, all while serving as a civilian fire chief for the Department of Defense in Iraq. He was the youngest metropolitan fire chief in the country when he was promoted to the top job in Hartford and became the first minority to be appointed to the Commission on Professional Credentialing.
Freeman also has served as the Director of Training for the Caribbean Association of Fire Chiefs for the past 12 years. He said the experience has been "very rewarding" and has allowed him to see the not-so-touristy parts of the Caribbean, where he has experienced a "totally different side of life."
"For me to be able to have trained roughly 600 firefighters, including fire chiefs all across the island for the last 12 years, has been truly remarkable," Freeman said.
He credits his professional success to the education he received through GCU.
“If it was not for the education that I got from GCU and my master’s program, I certainly would not have had the opportunity to get the position of the International Fire Chief for Lockheed,” Freeman said. “I wouldn’t have been able to obtain appointments, awards and commissions that I have.”
Freeman also mentors other firefighters across the country in addition to speaking with units in the Air Force and often receives questions regarding advice on where to further their education.
“I always led them to GCU because I know what it’s done for me and what it could do for them.”
Receiving the notice that he was being inducted into GCU’s Hall of Fame, he was shocked to be recognized by the school.
“I would have never thought that I would get that phone call,” Freeman said. “It’s just something that you just don’t think about, but when I did, I was truly humbled and excited at the same time.”
After accepting his award and having the opportunity to meet with his fellow inductees, Freeman said, “I thought the ceremony was absolutely phenomenal. Seeing my fellow inductees and the great things they’ve done since they’ve graduated from GCU has been truly remarkable.”
Freeman was not alone in his opinion.
“I thought it was beautiful,” Riggs said after receiving her award. “I felt very honored to be sitting with the people that I did get to sit with that were honored as well.”
Riggs said hearing the others’ stories sparked a fire in her to push herself to be the best she can be and do more to give back.
“I thought it (the ceremony) was very well put together,” Elsheikh said. “For me to be sitting with so many good, powerful individuals, it really makes you feel like the world is going to be a better place.”
Elsheikh thanked GCU for the beautiful evening she was able to share with the University and her family.
Holm also felt grateful.
"I was honored," he said by phone in the weeks leading up to the ceremony. "... I was just surprised but glad to hear from them."
It was an afternoon of celebrating the accomplishments of Lopes and of recognizing how their core values can really make a difference and influence others to make a difference, too.
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected]
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