JP Tanner Finding His Place in Leaving Everything

September 22, 2011

By Rachel Ray


"I need you to drop everything - you're done - and take care of a generation," JP Tanner heard while reading his Bible three years ago. And when God did not stop asking him to change his life, Tanner took a huge step of faith.

Tanner, a resident director for Canyon Hall on the GCU campus, decided in high school that he wanted to be an architect. He was always drawing, always designing. He remembers doodling sketches of his dream house while in class as a little kid.

When his father recommended architecture to him as a career, it seemed obvious. At 18, Tanner moved to Arizona to attend Arizona State University. He was in the architecture program for two years but did not make it past a final cut for the program and chose to finish his education with a bachelor's degree in urban planning.

After graduating, Tanner stayed in Phoenix and worked with several different companies in community planning and urban design.
For nine years, he worked on multibillion-dollar projects in the United States, the Caribbean, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Hawaii and Mexico.

However, when the housing market crashed in 2009, the firm he was working for was downsized. Tanner already had been doing freelance work, and his sister-in-law encouraged him to submit a design to GCU for its new mascot. He was hesitant because he hadn't designed a mascot before, but he decided to try.

"I woke up at 2 or 3 a.m. with an idea and I sketched it, sent it to them and they liked it," says Tanner, the creator of Thunder, GCU's antelope mascot.
He also started his own business and worked on architectural rendering - sketches for what a building or project could look like.

JP Tanner, Canyon Hall Resident Director.

But then God called him to drop everything. Tanner prayed about it and talked with his wife, but then he felt stuck. He did not know if he was supposed to go back to school and become a youth pastor, and the church he was attending had all of its pastor positions filled.

Tanner found out that GCU was looking to hire an assistant resident director and applied, thinking it would lead nowhere. To his surprise, he was hired. He and his wife had to sell their house and move to an apartment at GCU with their 1-year-old daughter. He took a $55,000 pay cut and began to work full time on a part-time salary.

"It was a big time for me to rely on God for everything," he says.

Tanner served as assistant resident director for the North Rim Apartments for a year but then was hired to be the resident director in Canyon Hall in 2010. He is still serving as RD in Canyon Hall and loves every minute of it.

"I love what I do," he says. "I love working with students."

He misses the creative side and the brainstorming that was involved in community planning, but he doesn't want to go back. He views his job as RD as a ministry where he gets to share his life and experiences and encourage students to grow throughout college.

He is grateful that God called him out of architecture and asked him to give up everything to help students. He says he never expected to be back at a university - but realizes that he is right at home.

"When I was doing design, there was always this nagging feeling that there's something bigger out there for me," Tanner says. "But there has never been a thought that this isn't what I'm supposed to do with my life."

Rachel Ray is a junior communications major at GCU. She is also a resident assistant in Canyon Hall.