CONHCP's 'most dedicated person' retiring

Story by Janie Magruder
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau

In 27 years at Grand Canyon University, Dr. Cheryl Roat has never done anything halfway. Her office door was wide open for students in the College of Nursing and Health Care Professions, her eyes were wide open when observing new faculty and her heart was wide open to God’s plans for her life.

This week, He is leading Roat into retirement, and it’s a bittersweet time for the hundreds of faculty and staff and thousands of nursing students in purple scrubs whose paths have crossed hers.

“She has been the most dedicated person in the history of the college,” said Dr. Melanie Logue, GCU’s interim chief nurse administrator. “She has always cherished her students and demonstrated unwavering dedication to her calling as a nurse and nursing educator. She has been a mentor to me personally and a true inspiration.”

Roat, 65, who has been teaching future nurses for 42 years, worked for five CONHCP deans in four different offices in three different buildings on campus and was interim dean for nearly six months in 2004. She has represented GCU around the world, traveling to Mongolia, China and Guatemala with faculty and students on mission trips.

Roat possesses the keenest institutional knowledge of the nursing program, was here when Grand Canyon College became a University in 1989 and has contributed greatly to the CONHCP’s reputation and growth.

True to form, she even helped deliver a baby in the old skills lab in Building 19. Roat helped the nursing student who was in labor onto a hospital bed, directed someone to call 911 and asked the obstetrics and pediatric nurse practitioner faculty for help.

“It was a fast delivery,” she said.

Casting a wide net of influence

Logue went into pediatric nursing after her graduation from GCU because of Roat’s influence.

“I didn’t have a particular area of interest before then, but I felt that Cheryl prepared me well and gave me a lot of strong guidance. I felt very comfortable with what I was learning, and she helped me find my niche,” Logue said.

Hija Mae Bautista, who will graduate with a BSN Thursday, said Roat is known among students for her open-door policy and for listening to their academic concerns, personal issues and, well, life.

“She was always positive, encouraging and empowering,” Bautista said. “She did her best to be an advocate for her students and also faculty. She is a woman whom I highly respect and consider a strong mentor.”

Most recently, Roat has encouraged Bautista to pursue her dreams and become a nurse practitioner.

“I do not have much experience in leadership yet,” Bautista said. “However, I know it takes a great leader and role model to have such a fantastic nursing program. Clearly, Dr. Roat illustrates reputable leadership, teamwork and dedication.”

Roat was among the first people Maria Quimba met when Quimba joined GCU’s faculty in 2007. Quimba, now an assistant dean, quickly grew to associate the nursing program with Roat the way one might associate New York City with the Statue of Liberty and really great bagels.

“She’s a fixture here,” Quimba said. “She’s always been tied to the College of Nursing, and she saw the transfer of it from Good Samaritan Hospital, where it was located, to having an online program, a military program, and she’s always been that steady force, the historic roots of this institution.”

Among her many roles, Roat has helped nursing students interested in the military manage their time in coursework and in ROTC. Not only did she tour several U.S. Army bases to learn about the organization, she also suited up and went through the trenches — or at least the skies — with her students.

“Donning the uniform and jumping out of an airplane is not what people are cut out to do in administrative roles,” Quimba said. “But Cheryl said, ‘I’ll do it.’ She couldn’t wait to learn what it was like, to live their life and recognize what they were sacrificing.”

And in the process, Roat earned the respect of military officials and forged a deep relationship with the ROTC Sun Devil Battalion.

“She has a tremendous respect for the men and women in uniform and wants to understand their struggles,” Quimba said. “But she also does that with other students, those with significant family burdens, the non-traditional students, the athletes, the community college students who want to be nurses. She has a unique sense about figuring out how to make it work for them.”

And Roat was thorough in her classroom observations. Faculty member Kristen Bright had just joined GCU in January 2013 when Roat sat in on her pediatric simulation lab. When it ended, Roat complimented her on the critical thinking and clinical skills Bright had demonstrated and her overall great job at teaching the material.

“And then she said, ‘ But you need to look at their socks. Some of them don’t match,’” Bright said. “It was a uniform code issue, and if she noticed their socks not matching, who else — a physician or a family member — would notice their socks someday?”

Reflecting Christ at every turn

Bright also has a special place in her heart for Roat because she recommended Bright for her current position as director of the CONHCP’s BSN pre-licensure program. Roat is a good mentor, and Bright is soaking up those qualities in order to pass them along to others.

“She’s always had open arms and an open heart and an open door,” she said. “She’s all heart and soul, and her love of GCU and her love of the program and her love of students is phenomenal.”

Roat also will be remembered for her servant attitude, Quimba said. She often invited people to come into line in front of her, held the door for them or took time to ask sincerely about their day.

“She’s very in tune to others, and she remembers the person — students names, faces and the dates — better than most of us,” Quimba said. “She always tries to figure out what it’s like to be in the shoes of another person.”

Roat was a constant in a sea of change for GCU’s nursing program and has been such an integral part of it that her name is synonymous with “GCU nursing,” Logue said.

Quimba agrees. “In many respects, when people think about the college, they think about what she’s built as a foundation. I think that is the part that we will miss the most, that, and seeing her in her office, sitting at meetings. It’s that familiarity and steadiness that you come to expect.”

For young leaders like Bright, Roat offered a comfort zone in which they could be themselves, make mistakes and learn from them. “She always found the positive in every situation, and I think that’s what I’ll take from being around her the most,” Bright said.

Logue added, “I don’t know that you can replace her because she’s such a big part of our history. But we can learn lessons from her, and we’ll always appreciate her commitment. It’s a new dawn where we’re moving, and she’s been an important part of the story.”

Roat ends that chapter on Friday, her last day at work. She’s retiring to spend more time with her husband, Ron, and their three children and six grandchildren. She’s a season-ticket holder for Lopes men’s basketball and has rarely missed a play in Ethington Theatre, so look for her to be hanging around campus next year.

“I appreciate the opportunities, privileges and benefits I have had at GCU, the wonderful faculty, staff and students I’ve worked with,” she said. “My life would not have been the same without my journey here. Being a Christian and having attended a Christian university, I always wanted to teach at a Christian university. The freedom to pray with and for others and share my faith has been a joy for me.”

And for us.

Contact Janie Magruder at 602-639-8018 or [email protected].

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