History of GCU

Grand Canyon University (GCU) serves as Arizona's private Christian university in the heart of Phoenix. Today, the university is in the midst of its most exciting era. GCU remains committed to progressive academic excellence for higher learning, while also igniting transformation across the local and global community. Leading a movement of service and leadership, the university continues to gain momentum in providing quality, affordable education, making an impact and creating opportunity for all.

It started more than 65 years ago when GCU was founded in 1949 by the Southern Baptist Church. At the time, GCU was known as Grand Canyon College with its first campus located in an abandoned armory building in Prescott, AZ. Two years later, the college relocated to Phoenix where GCU began to build a strong reputation as a premier, private Christian university.

By the early 2000's, GCU struggled with maintaining its operations and quality of academic experiences. Dwindling financial support led the university to transition out of non-profit status in 2004 and implement new business practices to turn around operations. GCU embraced a new emphasis on enhancing curriculum and opportunities for working professionals, particularly in nursing and education.

Now the university stands in a new, formidable position with a purpose to make a difference in the lives of others. Educationally, we offer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in fast-emerging fields. Our campus is rapidly expanding with top-tier infrastructures, brand-new amenities and state-of-the-art athletic facilities. With a steadily growing student population and multi-million-dollar renovations and expansions, GCU is changing the landscape of West Phoenix.

  • GCU Campus 60s
  • GCU 1970
  • GCU 1990
  • Grand Canyon University today
  • GCU's new Maryvale Golf Course
  • gcu grove residence halls
  • GCU new soccer stadium under construction

University Development

GCU's campus continues to grow to meet the needs of students and cultivate world-class learning experiences. Here's a snapshot of the campus today - a home away from home for our Lopes:

  • State-of-the-art GCU Stadium and GCU Arena
  • Contemporary residence halls and apartments with resort-style swimming pools
  • Recreation and fitness centers
  • Student Union and popular eateries along Lopes Way 
  • Two new engineering classroom buildings dedicated to cutting-edge STEM learning
  • The Grove - a community of four suite-style residence halls exclusively for freshmen
  • Division I athletics, club sports teams, intramural sports teams
  • Academic, professional, social and recreational clubs
  • Academic and student support resources (The Learning Lounge, Career IMPACT Center, student services counselors and more!) 


Community Transformation

West Phoenix is where GCU calls home. That's why GCU stands committed to transforming the surrounding neighborhoods into a safe, thriving place for those in the community to live with hope and better futures. Along with providing academic excellence and a vibrant campus life, GCU believes its purpose is to partner together to implement initiatives in the area that open educational opportunities for all, create jobs, restore housing and reduce crime. GCU calls this United by Purpose.

One aspect of this transformative endeavor starts with the new development project at 27th Avenue and Camelback Road that's changing the face of the Canyon Corridor. Developed to be the gateway into West Phoenix, this new development will serve as a commercial hub featuring:

  • A four-story office complex
  • Renovated GCU Hotel, resort-style pool and fitness center
  • Canyon 49 Grill and Grand Canyon Beverage Co. coffee shop
  • Building that will be home to a future business, economic and education innovation center

This development is only the beginning for reshaping West Phoenix into a destination of economic, tourism, business, employment and educational growth. Our new enterprises (GCU Golf Course, GCU Hotel, Canyon 49 Grill, Grand Canyon Beverage Co.) also play a role in reviving the local community.

Tremendous transformation is happening now, and the future looks even brighter.