Friday, December 12, 2014

Thoughts on Christmas

Our family Christmas stockings are now hanging on our fireplace mantel at home--a very important fact to my granddaughter who has been concerned because the apartment where she lives has no fireplace. "How will Santa bring gifts without a chimney?, she asked me recently. I assured her that her stocking was hanging at my fireplace, and Santa would find her.

Of course, Santa's entry is important to a five-year-old. As Jesus-followers, we understand that Christmas is most importantly about God's entry into our own world. It is, after all, the "season of advent," God's arrival in the form of baby Jesus.

On a plane this week, I read new historical research about the Star of Bethlehem that guided wise men to the Christ child. In my mind, this "star" has always been a comet or a supernova in a far off galaxy. Some now believe the star was something much more subtle. One researcher makes the case that the star was the planet Jupiter, partially occluded by the moon while in the Aries constellation. Jupiter as the morning star would have been very significant to astrologers of the day -- it would have signaled (albeit subtly) the arrival of royalty.

The magazine article concluded, "Theory suggests wise men saw something big in something little."

I can't evaluate the research, but I like the idea that God often enters our life, not with a supernova, but with a subtle light. The little things can point us to the most eternally important of things.

Don't you see this in relationships with our students? God often uses our small words and small deeds to accomplish big things in their lives.

I hope your stockings are hanging, and you are preparing again to celebrate the arrival of Jesus this Christmas.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Maker's Lab for LETU Students & Community

One of the new additions on campus that not everyone might be aware of is the new Maker Lab in the newly renovated Mechanical Engineering Lab. It is in the building next door to the Glaske Center (former location of the Student Life offices).

That 7,000-square-foot building was gutted over the summer and renovated.  It is the new, and much larger, home for the university's wind tunnel. 

The new ME lab building is also the home of our brand new Maker Lab, where our first-year engineering students have room to begin building their 3D printers that they will use throughout their college classes.

But the new Maker Lab is not only benefiting our engineering students.  Engineering professor Dr. Jesse French and his students are reaching out to the community using this new lab space, as well, and making an impact on young lives. 

Jesse and his students recently held a "Maker Lab for Kids" where LETU seniors use their vocational skills and their big hearts to interact with kids from the community who might otherwise never get this opportunity.  Jesse said one of the girls held up a hammer and told him she had always seen them, but never thought she'd get to use one.

These couple of hours and effort can have a great impact on the lives of these children, and could ignite an interest in engineering or technology that they might not have otherwise considered.

This kind of innovative outreach shows our community that we care and gives us the opportunity to share Christ's loves to others.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Blessings of Thanksgiving and Faithful Service

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is a time specifically suited for us to reflect on the innumerable blessings God has provided for us-personally and professionally-and thank Him with grateful heart for those many blessings. 

This week, we took a few moments to acknowledge the faithful service of some of our own who have invested their lives in the work of this university. All totaled together, they have served 195 years as part of the fabric of this university. Their work matters to us, and our work, collectively, matters to God. 

At LeTourneau University, we teach that our work is a holy calling with eternal impact. We teach that there is no great divide between what we do and believe on Sundays and what we do on Monday mornings.   Our goal is to be authentic, to be Christ-followers and reflect Him in our workplaces every day-whether we are typing letters, answering phones, teaching students or performing any number of daily tasks that our individual roles may require. 

The labor of our lives is so much more effective when we join together to do his will. I'm thankful to be part of this work at LETU.

Nearly 200 years of combined service to LeTourneau University was honored Tuesday afternoon at the President's Coffee in the Allen Family Student Center. From left are Rita Courson (40 years) from development, Mary Jackson (40 years) from aviation, Paul Leiffer (35 years) from engineering, Paul Kubricht (40 years) from history/political science and Larry Anderson (40 years) from mathematics.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

LeTourneau Leaders attend Faith@Work Summit

Last weekend more than 200 scholars, business professionals, pastors and ministry leaders gathered in Boston for the Faith@Work Summit. I'm honored that LeTourneau University's Center for Faith and Work was one of the three organizers of this important gathering. 

Along with the Mockler Center at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University, the Boston meeting was an opportunity for a diverse group of leaders to ask where is the faith at work movement today and where is it going tomorrow.

LETU had a sizable group of leaders in attendance. Our founder was honored Friday night as one of the pioneers of the faith at work movement. Our center director Bill Peel was one of the event hosts. It was clear that LeTourneau University was claiming our legacy of leadership in this movement -- calling Christians to live out their Sunday faith on Monday in their workplace.

Also this week, LeTourneau University has published Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work. The updated edition by Bill Peel and Walt Larimore is being published in honor of R.G. LeTourneau's 125th birthday. The book is for Christians seeking to share their faith in a way that honors God and honors our relationships at work. Bill demonstrates that "salt comes before light" in the modern workplace. I hope some of you will use the book in your Lifegroups with students.

On a personal note, Marsha lost her oldest brother this week.  A vicious brain cancer took his life quickly. We are traveling to Oklahoma today, and I covet your prayers. It will be a difficult weekend.  Yet as we mourn, we also are looking ahead to a blessed heavenly reunion with all the dear ones who have gone to eternity ahead of us. These tears serve to remind us that we are not home yet. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scholarship Golf Tournament Raises Money for Students

A large group of community leaders came out Monday for our annual LETU Scholarship Golf tournament at Pinecrest Country Club, organized by our LETU Development Office. It was a beautiful day and all proceeds go to our generous scholarship program for students.

Attracting students from East Texas is really important.  We want to do a better job of that.  I know the perception for many is that local students can't afford to come to LeTourneau.  The reality is that LETU is more affordable than many believe.

To fight this perception, we created our Future of East Texas Grant program to aid the best and brightest young people earn an LETU education and stay here to build their lives and careers.
One key part of economic development is having a strong pool of talented, quality people who make up the workforce.  In Longview, we lag behind some other cities that have a higher number of college graduates than we do locally. So anything we can do to keep these bright local students here will add to our potential to grow and prosper here in East Texas. Everyone benefits.

I thanked the golfers and reminded them the goal was not to just hand out diplomas but instead to equip every student with a quality, relevant education.  We are doing our part to make a LETU education a good investment for students.  US News and World Report ranked us #13 on their list of Great Schools at Great Prices.  Payscale ranked us with the #5 in highest return on investment among Texas schools.  Money Magazine has also included us among their best colleges.  We are working diligently to improve the lives of our students.  That's why it was so rewarding to see the community come out and help fund our financial aid programs.

The Future of East Texas Grant is money that is an additional $4,500 awarded to local students who come to LeTourneau University, commit to their education, live on campus and do those things that make sure they graduate.  This year, about $80,000 in these grants were awarded, on top of other financial aid we offer.   By continuing to fund the FETG, we will change the lives of these students and change the future of East  Texas.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Achievements and Events in the School of Aviation & Aeronautical Science

This weekend, the spotlight is on our School of Aviation and Aeronautical Science.

Our "Sting" Precision Flight Team is hosting the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region IV SAFECON flight competition Saturday through Wednesday at our Paul and Betty Abbott Aviation Center at East Texas Regional Airport.

This kind of event showcases the great flight program we have, and it's no wonder that largest general aviation advocacy association in the world, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, recently recognized LETU for its high standard of accomplishment in flight training by naming it to the AOPA 2014 Flight Training Excellence Honor Roll.

About seven teams comprising 75 pilots from collegiate flight programs within a five-state region will come to Longview beginning tomorrow to compete in a host of flying and ground events that begin Saturday morning.  

Our ramp at the airport will be parked full of competitor's airplanes throughout the competition, which ends Wednesday with an awards banquet.  The top scoring three flight teams at regionals this week will qualify to compete in national competition in the spring. 

Our students will strive to take the top prize.

A few years ago, LETU hosted a NIFA regional competition, but this will be the first time for our school to host the events in our impressive Abbott Aviation Center. 

This kind of event doesn't just happen.  It takes a lot of planning, organization and coordination.  Our flight team, along with  coach Brad Wooden and our director of flight operations Laura Laster deserve much credit for all the time they have spent to make this a successful event. 

Stebbins Aviation is graciously allowing us to conduct our regular flight operations from its location at the airport while our facility is busy with the competition these next few days.  The East Texas Regional Airport administrators have been very accommodating by allowing our judges to be positioned along the side of the runways for the competition.
 
This event is also a boon to our local economy.  These competitors from around the region will be sleeping in local hotels, eating in local restaurants and buying fuel through local sources. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Taking the long view of Longview

I've just returned from two days in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greenville, South  Carolina.  A delegation from Longview was there to learn about the great success of that city.

In a strategic position between Atlanta and Charlotte, Greenville-Spartanburg was recently named the 7th best metro area for economic development.

This is the third year the university has helped sponsor such a trip, working with the Longview Chamber of Commerce. We have also visited Chattanooga, Tenn.,  and Fort Collins, Colo.   My hope is that these intercity visits spark new ideas and cultivate a sense of vision among city leaders that results in a brighter future for
Longview.

In short, the trips give us opportunity to take the long view of Longview.

Here's one difference you quickly note between Longview and Greenville: educational attainment. Thirty-seven percent of adults in Greenville have a bachelor's degree or more. Only 20 percent of Longview citizens have attained such an education.

Given the difference in educational attainment, I wasn't surprised to see the difference in household income.

Greenville households have significantly higher incomes than in Longview.

Earning a college degree does matter.  I was the first in my family to go to a university and earn a degree. It has changed everything for me.

How can we serve our community?  We can help make a way for our Longview neighbors who seek a college education.  It means being more accommodating for working students and those transferring from junior  colleges. In doing so, we can make a real difference.