How does Colangelo inspire? Students count ways

Jerry Colangelo answers questions during a session with Colangelo College of Business students on Monday.

Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau

The aura of a talk by Jerry Colangelo is always of great value to Grand Canyon University students.

But the true measure of that value is the way they act on his teachings.

Retired broadcaster Jude LaCava considers Colangelo one of his biggest mentors about life.

The namesake of the Colangelo College of Business was back in the majestic building that houses his college Monday, this time for a meeting arranged by the Finance and Economics Club. (Here's a slideshow.)

A mixture of graduate students pursuing an MBA and undergraduates from the economics side filled the CCOB lobby along with a smattering of other business students who don’t want to miss an opportunity to hear Colangelo’s stories and life-is-relational wisdom.

This time, the discussion with former Fox 10 Phoenix sports anchor Jude LaCava centered on how Colangelo financed his purchases of the Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks.

The enlightenment continued afterward as students shared their own stories of success spawned by listening to the Phoenix business icon. It’s as if CCOB has a bunch of future Colangelos in the making – which is as it should be, considering how often they hear from him and revere his ethics.

Abenezer Gebrehiwot said Colangelo inspired him to not take no for an answer.

There’s senior Abenezer Gebrehiwot, who became the first Executive Manager of GCU’s Canyon Angels investment group and has pursued other opportunities because of Colangelo’s influence.

“It’s real-life things,” he said. “I’ve connected with a lot of people coming to Canyon Angels and learned to have a whole Rolodex of people that I can call up or email about different things.

“I’ve learned that a lot of things are relational from a Christian point of view. When God blesses you, He blesses you with people He brings into your life. When Mr. Colangelo said, ‘Don’t take no for an answer,’ that really related to me. I don’t like taking no for an answer, and that reassures me to keep on doing things.”

Another attendee was junior Ryan Batawala, who still talks excitedly about meeting Colangelo for the first time last September during an opportunity to work at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Like so many people, he finds a gem in every talk, polished by Colangelo’s consistent affirmations.

Junior Ryan Batawala thanks Colangelo afterward.

“It’s just being able to hear the things he preaches over and over again and really hear the idea of connections. That’s fundamental to the business world and something we’ve been talking about since our first year in college,” said Batawala, Chief Marketing Officer of the Sports and Entertainment Club.

“The three most important things in business I’ve learned from him are that you need to find trust, you need to have a goal and you need to make connections to be able to do that. It’s really spoken to me and touched me on how I do my daily life and how I want to do my future.”

Properly inspired by meeting Colangelo at the Hall of Fame, Batawala scored an internship earlier this year with IMPACT Learning Institute, which provides professional development training, executive mentorship and experiential learning. One of the speakers was Paige Peterson, a Colangelo business associate.

Bridgette Abbott, Vice President of the Finance and Economics Club, helped emcee the event with Colangelo and LaCava.

Onstage with Colangelo and LaCava for Monday’s gathering was junior Bridgette Abbott, Vice President of the Finance and Economics Club. She got to ask questions, too, but it’s Colangelo’s answers that she treasures most.

“I feel like it’s very inspirational, and I feel like it’s so different because it comes from someone with such high value and worth,” she said. “We’re standing in the Colangelo College of Business and really speaking to Mr. Colangelo. I feel like everything he says, you can just take to heart and fly.”

Colangelo is a master storyteller and shared more of his memories Monday.

Or reach for the stars. She hadn’t previously heard his story about the man who mentored Colangelo while he was growing up in suburban Chicago and one night pointed to the stars. Picking out one, the man said, “Remember, it’s better to be on that star for one day than to never get there at all.”

It’s something Colangelo has never forgotten.

“So you reach for the star,” he said. “You shoot for it. You go for it. Don’t take no for an answer. Believe in yourself, and you’ll go places.”

The beauty of Colangelo’s advice is its simplicity and straightforwardness.

He talked about always having a plan.

“You never get anywhere by happenstance,” he said.

He talked about a favorite topic – trust.

“Once people trust you, believe in you, believe in what you’re doing, you have a chance to get things done.”

He talked about creating a personality that people find attractive. That starts with humility.

“I’m not that special,” he insisted. “I might not be smarter than any of you.”

He concluded with this bit of inspiration:

Colangelo urged students to forge their own path in the business world and be themselves.

“Hopefully you’ve heard some things that you can apply to your own situations in your lives. You can’t follow anyone and duplicate what they are. You have to be yourself.

“When we talk about entrepreneurs … there’s no textbook for that. You just come up with an idea and you want to pursue it, and you’re going to get shut down two, three, four, 10 times. All it takes is someone saying yes once, and it’s a whole different story. So I encourage all of you to go for it.”

Said CCOB Dean Dr. Randy Gibb, “We are so honored and blessed to have Mr. Colangelo speaking to and interacting with our students, his #ColangeLopes. After his talk there was the usual long line of students wanting to personally ask him a question and get a photo taken with him – and he is so willing to speak with each one.  

“He is on campus and in the college so often making himself available, sharing his perspective and wisdom, as well as amazing stories of his experiences with the Bulls, Suns, D-backs, and Olympics – the business of sports and relationships.”  

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


Related content:

GCU Today: Entrepreneurship keeps crossing college lines

GCU Today: Students give Colangelo a glimpse of his legacy

GCU Today: Students enjoy inside look at major sports events


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