Homecoming Weekend celebrates the past and present

The line for the GCU vs. Seattle U men's basketball game started forming hours before the game began.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Hall of Fame Slideshow/ Homecoming Slideshow

Homecoming is just one of many Grand Canyon University events President Brian Mueller looks forward to.

But one feature in particular stands out to him: the Alumni Hall of Fame. It kicked off Homecoming Weekend on Friday afternoon in the Havoc House.

Four alumni were inducted into this year’s Alumni Hall of Fame and were hand selected by the Office of Alumni Relations.

Associate Dean of Nursing and Health Care Professions Dr. Tami Wisely (left) handed Hall of Fame inductee Michael Herring (right) his Hall of Fame award alongside Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations Cherylann Galdi (center).

This year’s Hall of Fame inductees:

  • Dr. Linda Buscemi, Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology, 2018, Chief Clinical Officer and Co-Founder, TapRoot Interventions & Solutions
  • Marty Caldwell, Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science, 1976, Chief Foundation Officer, YoungLife
  • Michael Herring, Master of Business Administration and Master of Nursing Leadership, 2014, Chief Executive Officer, Banner Gateway Medical Center & Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Steven Sheets, Bachelor of Arts in Christian Studies, 2005, President and Chief Executive Officer, Southwest Behavioral & Health Services

“These alumni stand apart and proudly represent everything GCU stands for between their professional achievements, committing to living the GCU servant leadership lifestyle and contributions back to their community,” said Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations Cherylann Galdi.

It was a prime opportunity for Mueller to reflect on the continuous growth of GCU and connect with alumni who were impacted by the University — even before it was considered a university.

“The feeling about this place is special,” said Mueller. “When I talk to people from the '60s, '70s, '80s, what they say is not any different than from when I talk to students of today.”

Alumni Hall of Fame inductee Dr. Linda Buscemi is driven by her passion and the contagious feeling of seeing her impact on the world.

He referenced the New Testament to the alumni and their supporters at the induction ceremony, pointing to Matthew 7:24 as the formula of the University’s success.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

Yes, the architecture has changed, the campus-grounds acreage has expanded, new buildings have been torn down and others built. But as different as it is, it is very much the same, Mueller says.

Alumni Hall of Fame inductee Marty Caldwell (right), with wife Susan, had to hop on a plane to Ethiopia for YoungLife immediately after the ceremony.

“I will say, this place was built on the rock. There were winds and there were storms over the years. It wasn’t always easy. And yet, this place survived. It continues to survive and all of a sudden, God allowed it to thrive,” he said. “I believe he did that because it was built on the rock, and that never changed. And we are the recipients of that.”

The 2023 Alumni Hall of Fame inductees (from left) Marty Caldwell, Dr. Linda Buscemi, Steven Sheets and Michael Herring.

Caldwell, whose mission is to introduce adolescents to Jesus Christ and help them grow in their faith, did not grow up with a faith-based household.

If you told him he would enjoy church, he’d tell you he “wasn’t a Jesus person,” but Dr. DC Martin, a past theology professor at GCU, laid the foundation of his future.

“I didn’t think I’d be all that interested in learning the Bible, but the way he taught and the joy of which he taught, I was willing to take any class by him,” he said. “Although I didn’t initially plan to, I ended up getting a Bible minor. He sparked my love for Scripture and influenced my faith.

“He was a great influence on me, and now I can influence the world in what I do.”

Longtime season ticket holder Shirley Jackovich says she dances and cheers like no one is watching, something her late husband Joe encouraged.

The festivities and reflections continued at the tailgate on the Quad, where food and drinks were served, kid’s carnival rides were running, and specially designed shirts were given as part of an alumni-exclusive section of the tailgate.

Among the returning alumni and families visiting was Shirley Jackovich. She attended the tailgate and Homecoming game in honor of her late husband and GCU alumnus Joe Jackovich, who graduated in 1976.

You may know her as Shirley, but GCU students refer to her as “Grandma Lope.” You’ll find her — or hear her cheers from the nosebleeds of GCU Arena with heart shaped glasses, purple metallic beads and a signature '80s updo with blond ringlets.

Freshman Katie MacKenzie gets her face painted in preparation for the men's basketball game.

"Joe taught me not to care what anybody thinks. I just kept cheering and opening up more and more, and suddenly I’m Grandma Lope,” said Jackovich. “It’s one of the great things my husband did — he helped me be more open.

“It was hard coming to GCU when he first passed away. I closed up a bit but gradually have started to open up again. I love coming to these games as a reminder of him — and of course, I love Thunder, too.”

Matching Jackovich’s Lope spirit was Joy Bailey (class of 1983), who showed up to the tailgate sporting freshly dyed GCU purple hair.

Young kids were not the only ones who enjoyed the Mind Winder ride at the tailgate. GCU students made up a large part of those in line awaiting the ride.

Bailey is a usual visitor to GCU’s campus as a Lopes and Ethington Theatre season ticket holder, but she is constantly in awe of the growth of GCU, especially on days like Homecoming.

“It sure was a lot different than it is now. There are only two buildings now that were here when I was a student,” said Bailey. “I’ve watched it expand over the years, and it’s cool saying, ‘Wow, they took this down and added this.’ When it comes to Homecoming, the energy of the Arena is amplified. I'm really looking forward to being a part of that atmosphere.”

Senior Alexis Zertuche and the GCU Dance Team get the crowd pumped up for the men's basketball game during the Homecoming Tailgate.

Equally as excited for the GCU vs. Seattle U men’s basketball game was Lance Holeman — but not for reasons you may think.

“My favorite thing for me is watching you guys — the student section. We’re seated right across from the Havocs,” said Holeman. “It’s just as entertaining as watching the game.”

He earned extra grandpa points for taking his four grandchildren to Homecoming for his son, who is an alum and works at the Lopes Club. Holeman spent a great amount of time in the Mind Winder carnival ride line with his grandchildren.

The Society of Women Engineers provided the carts while the students personalized the carts' design.

“I love coming to GCU,” chimed Holeman’s 7- year-old granddaughter, Isabella Holeman. “My favorite part about today was the food. I got pizza and a hot dog.”

Making another return to this year’s roster was the Associated Students of GCU’s Derby Cart Races. The Society of Women Engineers built the nine carts that competed in the races.

Taking home first place in the third and final heat was the Multicultural Club, with Megan Lee-Watanabe behind the steering wheel and Amani Kibinda pushing the cart.

The Multicultural Office's Megan Lee-Watanabe (center) and Amani Kibinda pose alongside Thunder with the championship trophy during the annual Derby Cart Races.

Homecoming wrapped up on Saturday with Breakfast with Thunder, where alumni and their families were greeted by Thunder and enjoyed various activities, such as coloring pages, photos with Thunder and spending time with GCU Dancers and Cheerleaders.

Another option for those seeking a more relaxing activity away from the buzz of Homecoming was golfing on the GCU Golf Course, where alumni got an exclusive alumni rate to book a party and make a couple rounds.

Contact staff writer Lydia P. Robles at 602-639-7665 or [email protected].

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Related content:

GCU News: Tailgate, Hall of Fame inductions highlight Homecoming

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