Grand Canyon University was established in 1949, by the Southern Baptist Convention. Over the years, GCU developed a strong reputation as a premier Christian institution, known for generating some of the most well-prepared teachers, nurses, health care professionals, and fine-arts students in the Southwest, as well as basketball and baseball players who went on to compete at the professional level.
By the early 2000's GCU was struggling with maintaining its operations and the quality of its academic experience in light of dwindling financial support. In September 2003, the University was at a critical juncture, teetering on the verge of insolvency and facing the prospect of bankruptcy with only 1,500 enrolled students.
Brent Richardson, a Phoenix native with a reputation for corporate turnarounds, acquired the University with a small group of investors and undertook a mission to salvage GCU. Richardson and his colleagues invested personally in the University's future and after 18 months, the University finally began its financial turnaround.
In May 2007, the University graduated the largest class in its history, a celebration of renewal and hope for its 3,475 new graduates, as well as a milestone for the classes of its leadership and faculty.
In 2008, the University went public to get additional capital for the expansion of its ground traditional campus from around 1,700 students to 5,000. The $230 million initial public offering ended a four-month drought of IPOs and fostered a new era of growth and anticipation for the University and its parent company, Grand Canyon Education, Inc.