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Alice Cooper to receive honorary degree from Grand Canyon Univ.

PHOENIX (BP)–In what some may consider an incongruous action, rock legend Alice Cooper will receive an honorary doctorate May 8 from an Arizona university formerly owned by Southern Baptists.

Though he is best known for his shocking antics at concerts, including simulated hangings and infant dolls gushing blood, and for albums such as “Killer” and “Welcome to My Nightmare,” Cooper also has been known in some circles as a born-again Christian.

Because of his apparent faith in God, Cooper and his wife, Sheryl, have donated a substantial amount of money to Grand Canyon University in Phoenix over the years. The school, founded by Baptists in 1949, was sold by its self-governing trustee board to California-based Significant Education, LLC in February, changing the institution from nonprofit to for-profit.

“[At that time] I reviewed donors and wanted to make sure we were respectful not only of the Southern Baptist heritage but of people who had made donations to the school over the years,” Michael Clifford, vice chairman of the university, told Baptist Press. “When I went down the list, I was very surprised to see Alice and his wife had been significant donors to the school for many years.”

Clifford began praying about the possibility of honoring Cooper with a degree, first, he said, because of his status as a faithful donor but also because he believes it “speaks to the core mission of the founding fathers of the school because of the redemption of salvation.”

“Alice exemplifies somebody who was raised by Baptist missionary parents on an Indian reservation in Arizona who clawed his way into probably the toughest business in the world — American rock ‘n’ roll — became wildly internationally famous, made an enormous amount of money, fell in love, has a great wife, great family and has gone back to his parents’ missionary roots as a deeply committed Christian,” Clifford said in a phone interview May 7.

Clifford said he does not know much about Cooper’s conversion experience and has never heard his testimony but does have some trusted Christian friends who know Cooper well.

To those who wonder how Cooper’s reputation as a shock rocker fits with his walk with God, Clifford said they should read the biblical accounts of Paul, Matthew, Mary and others.

“I do know that when people come to know Christ and make an effort to change their lifestyle, that does not mean they’re perfect,” he said.

On the Internet, Cooper’s official website displays pictures of him in dark makeup and clothing. An article about his latest album, “The Eyes of Alice Cooper,” makes no mention of his faith or Christianity but highlights its kinship with newer rock bands, stating, “… you can almost feel the umbilical cord connecting these bands back to the power of the original Alice Cooper sound.”

In addition to rewarding Cooper as a donor to the school, Clifford said he looks forward to what Cooper can contribute to the education of students interested in the performing arts.

“We have some of the most talented musicians, singers, artists, writers and set designers here, and Alice will help add value to their degree,” he said. “We have asked him to consider bringing in his managers, lawyers, set designers, writers and musicians to teach our students about the performing arts industry from a guy who’s actually done it.”

As an example, Clifford said there is a talented young man currently enrolled at Grand Canyon whose dream is to perform on Broadway.

“When this young man goes to Broadway and shows his resume and they see he received special attention from Alice Cooper, he’s going to get the job before somebody from another university who has theorists rather than practical knowledge,” he said. “It won’t hurt for him to say, ‘Call Alice Cooper as my reference.’

“I’m trying to maintain the Christian heritage that the founders created, but I’ve got to create value for the degrees for our graduates so they can find top jobs and go help change the world for Jesus,” Clifford said.

Cooper will begin the “Eyes of Alice Cooper” world tour in June.

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  • Erin Curry