Older students keep learning through Golden Lopes

Golden Lopes winners Janet Teeguarden and Donn Merrick (from left, holding plants) celebrate with Dr. Tim Griffin (far left), Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students and University Pastor, and Jerry Colangelo.

By Lydia P. Robles
GCU News Bureau

Inspired by attending classes as an older student at Vanderbilt University, Homer Drew wanted to create a program accessible to the community of lifelong learners at Grand Canyon University.

The result: The GCU Golden Lopes program was born after Drew talked with GCU President Brian Mueller about activities GCU could offer for students 55 and older.

Homer Drew sees the new program as an opportunity to help older learners keep their minds sharp.

They were celebrated earlier this month at a luncheon where two full-tuition GCU scholarships were awarded to Janet Teeguarden and Donn Merrick in a drawing. The program is designed to give older students a chance for a meaningful educational and life experience.

“One of the attributes that I have learned in my lifetime is that as you grow older, there are two things you need to do. One is to do exercise, and the second thing is to keep your mind sharp, keep it alert and use it,” said Drew, father of GCU men's basketball coach Bryce Drew. “So, by having different classes here at GCU, it helps the seniors mentally and even physically walk around the campus and see the life of our students.”

The lifelong learners enjoyed a complimentary lunch and a keynote address by Jerry Colangelo, namesake of the Colangelo College of Business.

Attendees got an inside look at what classes the program would offer, such as financial investing, cybersecurity, Christianity, self-care and grandparenting. GCU student volunteers showcased a virtual tour of student life on campus.

The event included the music of the Thundering Heard Pep Band and GCU’s a cappella ensemble, Critical Mass, as well as Frank Sinatra and other greats.

After their meeting, Drew and Mueller wanted to do something creative to encourage learners 55 and older to continue their education so decided to offer two scholarships, which can be gifted to a child, grandchild or family friend and to current or future GCU students. The scholarships are valued at the current rate of tuition and are renewable for up to four years.

Eligibility requires scholarship recipients to be currently enrolled or be a student before the start of the fall semester of ground classes in 2039 or the start of online classes in August 2039.

Jerry Colangelo delivers the keynote address.

For current GCU students, the scholarship is effective starting in January.

Teeguarden and Merrick were grateful for the opportunity to financially support their loved ones.

“I was in shock.­ I mean, I never win anything, and all of a sudden people were calling my name for this big prize,” Teeguarden said.

One of her three grandchildren, AJ Riley, is graduating from Birmingham Southern University in May with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and Teeguarden will give him the scholarship money to obtain a master’s from GCU.

“He’s pretty excited about the opportunity to go to grad school,” she said. “He had not planned to go to graduate school because of the cost. But the fact that the cost is taken care of and the online option is there, he’s getting pretty excited about the opportunity.”

For Merrick and his family, this opportunity started as an inside joke.

“My wife, Audra, signed us up for the luncheon, kind of kidding with me that I’m old enough to qualify,” he said.

Then his name was called.

“They called the first scholarship winner and I just looked at our ticket and said, ‘They’re going to call our ticket,’ and sure enough they did,”’ he said.

Merrick proudly gave the scholarship to his daughter, Delaney, a GCU freshman majoring in biology. Her goal is to become a physician assistant.

Six courses for older learners began Oct. 18.

After the luncheon, future Golden Lope students signed up for six classes, which began Oct. 18:

  • Men of the Bible
  • Keeping up with the Grandkids
  • How to Write a Memoir
  • Women of the Bible
  • Self-Care and Nutrition
  • Cybersecurity for Older Americans

Classes run from 9:45 to 11 a.m. on Mondays in the College of Education Building. A different set of courses will be offered during the spring semester, and a link for future sign-ups will be available soon.

Another contribution to the program: Volunteers from the GCU faculty provide the instruction.

And the best part of all is that this population of learners shouldn’t feel any anxiety about taking classes again.

“The great thing,” Drew said, “is that there are no tests, no homework and no grades. They get to come and just be a lifelong learner of new and different things in their life to keep them active.”


Related content:

GCU Today: What's the No. 1 thing you've learned from Jerry Colangelo?

GCULopes.com: Podcast with Homer Drew


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Bible Verse

David said to Michal, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when He appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel — I will celebrate before the Lord. (2 Samuel 6:21)

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