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Dr Kimberly LaPradeThe team presented her with a large framed portrait of herself with a campus backdrop. She smiled and said her kids would surely appreciate herâ¦ but she goes on a small boat sailing around a big world.
As LaPrade wrapped up her last day before retiring Monday as Dean of Grand Canyon University’s College of Education, it was once again clear that she didn’t want to be the centerpiece of a room. Instead, she put her department in the center of attention.
âIt has been more than a job thanks to all of you,â she told the group.
LaPrade oversaw the phenomenal growth of the University’s foundational college for 10 years as President Brian Mueller, the first dean hired, establishing it as one of the nation’s largest prep colleges for educators and leading it to national accreditation.
“I didn’t, the ‘us’ collective did,” LaPrade said.
It is not false humility if you speak with her husband and now a full time sailing partner, Larry LaPrade.
âI never heard her use the word ‘I’. It’s us. It’s the team, âhe said. “She supports herself that way.”
But it was clear as college grew quickly that LaPrade brought a lot of motivation to COE, the same motivation that once led her to become a professional ballerina.
âShe is our guiding star, asking what is best for our children we serve, always challenging us to think more, to do more,â said the Associate Dean of the WCC. Dr Marjaneh Gilpatrick, who joined GCU in 2007 on the same day as LaPrade.
âShe really exemplified what a true leader is. She got to know each of us. She cares. She saw our strengths and opportunities and worked with us to strengthen areas where we were weak. She trusted each of us to get the job done.
Gilpatrick said LaPrade had always encouraged her “to reach higher and higher. His advice, support and confidence in me have been exemplary, and I will be eternally grateful to him.
LaPrade didn’t grow up in the Chicago suburbs dreaming of being an educator. She dreamed of being a ballerina and did so, dancing in the Ohio and Cleveland ballets before ending her career at age 20.
After a stint as a flight attendant and working for an interior design company, she decided to go to college because she loved writing and storytelling – after all, ballet. tell a story. It was then that she found GCU in the late 1980s, when it was a small struggling Christian college.
She graduated in 1990 and became a high school English teacher, then graduated with a master’s degree from GCU in 2000 before being invited by a teacher on sick leave to return to her class.
âIt was an incredible semester with these kids. I’ve always been thrilled to be around people who saw their future in teaching, âsaid LaPrade. “But she told me that if you want to teach in college, you really need your doctorate.”
In 2007, LaPrade had graduated and the same year started at GCU as an assistant professor. A year later, she was associate dean, then interviewed Mueller in 2011 for the college leadership role.
LaPrade said she told him three things.
First of all, she wanted to bring back the GCU Promise, so important to her as a student. This is the COE’s promise of excellence and assistance to students in their careers after graduation.
To do this, she said, they had to meet her other two goals – to develop the college and someday gain national accreditation. She was promoted and by all accounts never punched a conference table to get things done.
âNo matter what changes are taking place at GCU, she has always embraced it and has done so with such kindness in her heart. It’s a legacy that I hope to follow,â said Dr Meredith Critchfield, who succeeds LaPrade as Dean of the WCC. âI like to call it a swan. She is carried with immense grace, but underneath she works, as swans do. They work hard, they grow, but never show it on the surface. “
LaPrade credits her years of ballet with her calmness and faith in God to her relief from stress. She said she had tried to advocate, support and ‘push’ her team to keep an eye on the prize: âThere is in every child’s heart the desire to have a good teacher. We want our students to be the best educators possible.
âSo there is a specific goal. Don’t just find your goal, we find Our goal.”
LaPrade kept her interview promises, bringing the college to over 24,000 traditional and online students, and in 2019, she kept the last: the college received national accreditation through the Association for Advancing Quality in Educator Preparation (AAQEP) for its academic rigor, innovation and dedication to the community.
Linda McKeeAAQEP’s director of operations said LaPrade’s leadership has stood out, graciously accepting areas that need improvement and implementing them.
âI always saw the comfort and respect her teachers and staff had for her in the way she worked with them and trusted them to do the job,â McKee said.
University leaders have seen it too.
“Her warmth, kindness and smile always added to the room, to others and to the modeled GCU,” said University Provost. Dr Hank Radda. “We appreciate all she has done for the University, the College of Education, and the teachers she has helped prepare for the world.”
Now LaPrade is literally launching into the world.
During the pandemic where most were working remotely, the LaPrades considered how to spend their years to come. âWe just looked at each other and said, ‘If it’s not now, when? “”
The five-year plan to get to the point where they could take their sailboat anywhere in the world was cut in half, and she decided to retire. Larry LaPrade, who teaches abnormal psychology as an assistant professor at GCU, noted his final papers. They sold the house and the car.
He said his wife was an amazing cook and his life revolved around family and GCU, where his daughter Lauren La Prade also works at the campus health clinic. Now she is putting the same effort into finding a suitable sail. The trip begins in September, is expected to last six years, and can be followed on Instagram @knowfunsailing.
Amusing ? When the two got married 23 years ago, they reunited four children from previous marriages and also helped raise two nephews, so Kimberly LaPrade said there was a full house, full of “no’s” to children. A child started calling her Aunt No, which she changed to Aunt Know. And Larry has always been Uncle Fun, so that’s the nickname that will follow them around the world.
âThere is something absolutely terrifying about it, but it’s also exhilarating,â she said.
âIf I wasn’t fortunate enough to have the WCC team and where they take this it would be a lot harder to leave. But I have so much confidence and I’m so excited for what they’re going to do. It’s like a parent watching their children fly. They are flying.
LaPrades’ 46-foot sailboat will carry a GCU pennant and hold copies of its two children’s books – “Thunder’s Vision” and “Thunder’s Herd” for distribution in ports around the world in case the kids want to know the value and the fun. of an education GCU.
âI’ll be a quasi-admissions counselor on the boat, spreading the word – Lopes Up! I couldn’t have done this without GCU. â¦ GCU has been good for us. My God, what a blessing.
Grand Canyon University Senior Writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [emailÂ protected] or at 602-639-6764.
GCU today: College of Education obtains national accreditation
GCU today: How GCU remains one of the greatest sources of teachers
GCU today: Professors Celebrate LaPrade’s Graceful Retirement