Students give Colangelo a glimpse of his legacy

The command performance of Luis Pena Espinoza (left) and Havilah Houston was typical of the students' presentations Wednesday morning at the Colangelo College of Business advisory board meeting.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

Imagine going to your child’s high school play and watching them nail the lead role with style and verve. Or watching them play basketball and hit the winning shot.

It had to be a similar experience for Jerry Colangelo on Wednesday morning as he watched 17 Grand Canyon University students follow the example he has set in Phoenix and beyond for more than 50 years.

Jerry Colangelo has seen how high the bar of entrepreneurship has been raised in recent years at GCU.

The namesake of the Colangelo College of Business and the college’s advisory board members sat in the Jerry Colangelo Museum as student after student, most of them from CCOB but some from other colleges, as well, walked to the front of the room and spoke without benefit of notes or prompts. (Here's a slideshow.)

They were eloquent.

They were passionate.

They were knowledgeable.

And they gave much of the credit to GCU and, often, its Canyon Ventures entrepreneurial dynamo.

After more than an hour of testimonials, Colangelo gave them one of his own.

“There’s so much enthusiasm that’s involved – and I’ve been around campus this week quite a bit – it’s infectious. It really is,” he told the audience, which included GCU President Brian Mueller. “The kind of work that’s now being done … the bar has been raised so high over the last few years, without question.

CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb loves hearing the students' stories and said he could have picked many more.

“And that’s a great testament to the leadership here and what’s happening on this campus. The faculty is doing a terrific job. Students are grasping opportunities. It’s a great story … a great story.”

It’s a story that CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb wanted to tell in full in the first in-person advisory board meeting in more than a year and a half. He has brought in students to speak to the board before, but not like this – not in the Colangelo Museum, and not 17 of them.

Here’s who spoke and, where applicable, links to stories and items about their accomplishments:

Skylar Aprati (left) and Taylor Anderson
  • Women in Business Club: Belle Rakestraw, Harley Hawkins (GCU Today story about the newest CCOB sensation coming Monday)
  • Sports Business Club: Taylor Anderson, Skylar Aprati (Students enjoy inside look at major sports events)
  • TEDxGCU: Havilah Houston, Luis Peña Espinoza (TEDx verifies students’ pandemic perseverance)
  • STELLAR group: Erik Yost, Camden Marasco (Symposium/Showcase shows range of research)
  • Division I athlete: Ana Alvarez Tostado
  • Internship/jobs: Abenezer Bayou, Carson Foley (Conference develops next generation of leaders)
  • These weren’t just CCOB stories. They were GCU stories.

    Advisory board members heard talks by 17 students during the meeting.

    “This is what we’re all about – the cross-collaboration between colleges,” Gibb said. “I love every one of these kids, and there are so many more.”

    Advisory board members know that well. They’ve hired a lot of them. Case in point: Kyle Brown, President and Chief Investment Officer of Trinity Capital, where the mission is to glorify God through business, a phrase often heard within the walls of the CCOB Building.

    “I love hearing the stories, I love seeing it … and I love plucking students from here,” Brown said.

    Same goes for Beau Lane, Executive Chairman of LaneTerralever:

    “I was telling Mr. Colangelo it’s like a good-news morning, just to hear all the positive things happening with all these young people – the diversity of the group, not only ethnic backgrounds but geographic diversity. Just a very impressive group of young people.

    Lyric Jackson (left) and Talbert Herndon already are doing business nationwide with Grand Launch Media.

    “We employ many GCU students at our agency, and they come ready to work in the real world with great attitudes and great skills and great abilities. So I always get inspired when I come to these events.”

    Among the most successful student entrepreneurs are Herndon and Jackson, whose Grand Launch Media already has 17 contractors, three part-time employees and five interns and produces professional videos for businesses across the country.

    It happened in typical GCU fashion. Herndon had an idea and recruited Jackson when they were freshmen. Then they took it to Canyon Ventures, and here they were Wednesday.

    “We wouldn’t be here without Canyon Ventures,” Jackson told the advisory board.

    Afterward, the marketing major put it this way:

    “I came to GCU, honestly, just thinking, ‘I’ll come here, get my degree, get into my industry, work a traditional 9-to-5 job – just the typical, traditional route.’ There’s nothing wrong with that. But after Talbert convinced me to do this business with him, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is something I can be interested in and something I can do.”

    Jackson talks afterward with GCU President Brian Mueller.

    The way Jackson and Herndon presented themselves was indicative of what they have been doing for months to fulfill the task of producing “Rosie on the House,” one of the longest-running radio shows in Arizona, and earn the trust of clients from New York to Florida to Utah to California. They haven’t taken a salary yet but hope to next year.

    Jackson, whose distinctive first name (Lyric) is a product of her mother’s love of music, has no problem addressing an audience and holding it captive.

    “I used to be involved in theatre. Public speaking is definitely something I enjoy,” she said.

    And Herndon, whose major is computer science with an emphasis in entrepreneurship, didn’t look flustered at all even though he was surprised to learn that he would have to speak without benefit of notes in front of him – and even though it was his first time presenting at an event of this stature.

    “I don’t really get nerves until after, which is really weird,” he said.

    Canyon Ventures Director Robert Vera, who has spent countless hours coaching Jackson, Herndon and so many other students, also is impressed by how they’ve collaborated with other businesses in the entrepreneurial incubator.

    Mueller shares his thoughts about the students' accomplishments and what they mean for what's happening at GCU.

    “The kids have done an amazing job,” he said. “They’ve taken the initiative. They put their companies together. They’re working at it. They take coaching, and they actually put it to work. You see the results.”

    There was another common denominator in the students’ presentations: Many of them committed to the University after going on Discover GCU trips, which fly in qualified students for free to see the campus.

    “I probably heard the word ‘discover’ 50 times,” Mueller said afterward as he followed Colangelo in addressing the group.

    And that’s what Wednesday morning was all about – discovery. It’s the key to the hands-on academic know-how taught at GCU, and it’s why advisory board members are so eager to hire its graduates.

    “They’re ready to participate in the business world, and that’s not always the case with college students,” Lane said. “But the ones from GCU are prepared, and I think a lot of it is these real-life experiences they get from the organizations, the clubs and the entrepreneurship aspect of the school. Very impressive.”

    Infectious, too. It’s yet another chapter in this great story.

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


    Related content:

    GCU Magazine: Built for this: Jerry Colangelo's influence on GCU

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

    GCU press release: GCU honors Jerry Colangelo with museum in his name


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