Simmons dazzles at efficient Winter Commencement

By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau

World renowned pianist/speaker/inspiration Jade Simmons said she loves appearing at Grand Canyon University so much, she has been here more than any other college.

The work done overnight to prepare for Winter Commencement on Friday was another reason why.

Jade Simmons delighted the crowd at Winter Commencement by inviting two students at each ceremony to play the piano with her. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

Given less than 12 hours to transform GCU Arena from the roar of a sold-out basketball game to the cultured ambiance of two graduation ceremonies, teams of employees worked so feverishly they were ahead of schedule.

The work began at 11 p.m. Thursday, led by the Operations crews,  and was scheduled to finish by 10 a.m. Friday, two hours before the first guests were to arrive. Instead, everything was in place by 9 a.m.

“Everything ran very efficiently,” said Jennifer Girl, Director of Campus Events for University Event Services.

When Girl arrived at 2 a.m., the basketball floor had been stored away and the carpet for Commencement was ready to be installed.

The University Event Services team got there at 5 a.m., the rented piano was in the door at 6 and the sound checks were in motion by 8.

It was so efficient, GCU President Brian Mueller took time out of his talks at each ceremony to thank all the workers who made it happen.

“You heard a lot of stories at Chapel about Jesus turning water into wine and Him walking on water and calming the storm and helping heal blind and deaf people,” he told the graduating students. “I’m not saying this next feat is in that same divine category and proof of divinity, but it was an amazing feat.”

Another amazing feat is the way Simmons takes hold of an audience as she tells her story and performs her piano magic.

Workers toiled overnight to ready GCU Arena for Commencement just hours after a basketball game. (Photo by Mathew McGraw)

But Friday, in her seventh and eighth commencement ceremonies at GCU, she added a new twist: She chose two graduates at random in each ceremony to come up and play with her even though they had little or no piano experience.

It drove home her points about being bold right now and taking every opportunity to evolve and improve and do things no one else is willing to do.

That’s her story. That’s why she said, “I am only assigned to rooms full of world-changers.”

Such as the ones at GCU.

She also spoke at the Spring and Fall Commencement ceremonies in 2017.

“Do you know why I keep coming back?” Simmons asked. “Because this university emphasizes purpose like no other.”

Even when the purpose is behind the scenes.

? See below for a slideshow of Simmons photos by photographers Ralph Freso, Mathew McGraw and Elizabeth Tinajero.

Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].

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