Tailgate, Hall of Fame inductions highlight Homecoming

Thunder greets young fans at Homecoming Family Weekend in 2022.

A time-honored tradition, Homecoming brings together students, parents and alumni to celebrate and revisit what Lope spirit feels like. It’s a tradition that merges the past and present while commemorating the legacy of Grand Canyon University.

The festivities highlight the vibrancy of Lope spirit through the Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony, basketball tailgate, golf and Breakfast with Thunder.

Last year’s Homecoming bared the weight of COVID, resulting in the annual event merging with Family Weekend, when parents join their students on campus for various activities. Now that the COVID numbers have slowed, Homecoming is again a stand-alone event.

Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations Cherylann Galdi said Homecoming deserves its own day.

Derby Kart Races are always a popular attraction during the tailgate hosted by ASGCU.

“Homecoming is a chance for past and present Lopes to have a chance to meet each other, form a bond and create a sense of community,” she said. “It’s heartwarming. The campus has changed a lot, and it's a chance for alumni who graduated years ago to see the growth that has taken place since then.”

Known to draw in large crowds, the Homecoming basketball game in the past has attracted a crowd that fills the 135,000 square-foot GCU Arena's 7,000 seats. Alumni are invited to watch the game in the Arena or outside on the Quad.

“We didn’t want to turn alumni away who wanted to cheer on the Lopes, so we decided to bring the party outside and project the game on a screen on the Quad with some raffles and prizes,” said Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Kaitlyn Nicol. “We just want alumni to experience campus life again.”

Students rush into GCU Arena hoping to score the best seat at last year's Homecoming Family Weekend basketball game.

A popular event returning to the Homecoming festivities roster is Breakfast with Thunder, which doubled in registered attendees compared to last year. It is a fan-favorite for alumni who have started to create their own families.

Another event circling back to this year's Homecoming weekend is the Alumni Hall of Fame on Friday in the soon-to-open Havoc House. It highlights alumni who are excelling in their field, participate in community outreach and demonstrate high levels of leadership in their workplace.

This year’s inductees:

  • Marty Caldwell, Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Science, 1976, Chief Foundation Officer, YoungLife
  • Michael Herring, Master of Business Administration & 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
  • Dr. Linda Buscemi, Doctor of Philosophy in General Psychology, 2018, Chief Clinical Officer & Co-Founder, TapRoot Interventions & Solutions
The Mind Winder was popular among kids at last year's Homecoming Family Weekend.

Homecoming is more than just an opportunity to watch a basketball game and earn free prizes. It’s a communal experience, one Nicol cherishes.

“We want them to remember what Lope spirit feels like. We plan events all year, but this is the only one where we bring people back to campus,” she said. “I’m hoping that we can ignite that flame and remind them why they love GCU. We want to cultivate that culture and do things that support it.”

Register for Homecoming events here.

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Homecoming event calendar:

Alumni Hall of Fame, 1:30-2:30 p.m. Friday, Havoc House at GCU Arena

Alumni who are making an impact in their industry and community are inducted into the Alumni Hall of Fame by the alumni director and President Brian Mueller. Celebrate these alums through a formal ceremony followed by a networking hour. Drinks and food are included for guests.

Basketball tailgate, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, The Quad

Alumni fans and season-ticket holders are welcome to check out the Tailgate on the Quad. Rides are included for kids, and food and beverages are for sale. Be sure to make a stop at the alumni tent to get your hands on GCU swag. Alumni can view the men’s basketball game on the newly installed outdoor screen.

*You must be present at the tailgate to pick up your exclusive alumni T-shirt at 4:30 p.m. Purchase your T-shirt on the ticket tab at registry.

Breakfast with Thunder, 9-10:30 a.m. Saturday, Lope House at GCU Golf Course

Your family will be greeted and escorted by Thunder. Enjoy breakfast and take part in activities such as Thunder coloring pages, reading Thunder’s favorite books, photos with Thunder and spending time with GCU Dancers and Cheerleaders.

Golf, all weekend, GCU Golf Course

Call the GCU Golf Course and mention "GCU Homecoming 2023" to get an exclusive GCU alumni rate and book your party for Homecoming weekend. 

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

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