Thursday, March 2, 2017

YellowJacket Pride: Men's Basketball

Marsha and I were so grateful to experience three nights of exciting YellowJacket men's basketball during our first-ever ASC Conference Championship tournament last week.

The energy was high. The cheering was loud. The crowd of about 2,000 was standing room only. It was the most people I have ever seen at an event in the Solheim Arena. It was glorious.

Students came in their blue and gold, faces painted, to cheer on the YellowJackets, first-ever Eastern Division champions. Many faculty and staff came out to support the young men also.

The excitement on campus has extended to our community. At a large banquet this week, dozens of friends from the community made an effort to find me and let me know how proud they were of our basketball team. NCAA competition creates an opportunity to channel our pride for all that is good at LETU.

By now, you probably know that LETU was defeated by defending conference champion Hardin Simmons in Saturday's night championship game. It was a matchup of the top-seeded team from the ASC West against the top-seed from the ASC East. Our comeback fell short in the final minutes. LETU finished the season 22-6 with a home record that is the best in the conference and the best in LETU basketball history. They ranked 4th in the NCAA DIII South Region polls, which was the highest ranking in LETU school history.

On Monday, Coach Dan Miller was named the East Division Coach of the Year and several of our players also received ASC honors. Coach Miller deserved the honor as he led the team to our first East Division title, with a team record 20 overall wins, which included the longest winning streak of 12 wins in a row. 

Jeff Martin was named All-Conference, First Team All-East Division and was named the first LETU basketball player in history to be named the East Division Player of the Year. He also set an ASC Tournament record and nearly made the tournament's first ever triple-double. The standing ovation was well deserved when he received his all-tournament team award. Alec Colhoff was named First Team All-East Division, Caleb Loggins was named East Division Honorable Mention and made the All-Defense Team, Nate West was named to the East Division All-Freshman Team. 

This past 2016-2017 basketball season is a great example and a reminder of the results that can come from personal commitment, hard work, trusting your coach and your teammates working around you to do their best. We should all aspire to keeping those high standards, doing our own parts as we serve together at LeTourneau University.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mentorship Experiences: Breakfast with Fred

It was a great pleasure to welcome the Breakfast With Fred Leadership Institute to campus this week. Brenda Smith, daughter of the late Fred Smith, Sr. (1915-2007), founded BWFLI to make an impact on the next generation of leaders and carry on the legacy of her late father.   

The late Fred Smith Sr. (1915-2007) was a Christian businessman known as a man of wisdom and principle-centered thinking. His career spanned 65 years of executive positions during which he continually mentored leaders. He consulted with corporations like Mobil and Caterpillar, wrote books on leadership, and was a keynote speaker for national sales and marketing groups across the country. 

At the end of his life, Fred Smith, Sr. was known for meeting top executives for breakfast as he mentored and helped others be successful based on his lifetime of experiences. BWFLI continues Fred's legacy by "Stretching and blessing the next generation of leaders, to the glory of God."   

During this two-day event, our students were able to meet with about a dozen highly successful Christian business leaders from diverse professional backgrounds with a wide array of life experiences and faith and work journeys. These mentors shared their stories and experiences in numerous roundtable and classroom discussions and at breakfast, lunch and dinner settings with our students all across our campus and at the Abbott Center. 

Wednesday's featured chapel speaker, Scott Shively, was one of our BWFLI mentors. His involvement in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the Texas Quality Award led Shively to emphasize formal quality principles throughout this last 25 years of full-time employment as he built a successful transportation company.   

Having these high quality Christian business professionals on campus provided our students with the opportunity to learn and develop relationships with leaders who are willing to share those things life has taught them. Six years ago, we hosted BWFLI, and many students developed mentoring relationships then, as well. I appreciate the efforts of our Dean of Students Kristy Morgan and her committee for all the hours or organization and planning to make this BWFLI visit a great success.  

And on another note, today begins the NCAA Division III American Southwest Conference Men's Basketball Conference Tournament on our campus, for the first time in university history. Be sure to welcome our guests on campus and go the extra mile to share hospitality and the love of Christ to the players and their fans and families visiting with us. 

Our YellowJackets play against Sul Ross State at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Solheim Arena. It would be wonderful to fill the stands. Fear the Sting!

You can see the entire ASC tournament schedule here.   

Thursday, February 9, 2017

YellowJacket Basketball: History in the Making

Monday morning at my president's coffee, it was a pleasure to celebrate our men's and women's basketball teams. They are both having great seasons representing LETU as they compete in the East division of the American Southwest Conference.

Our LETU women's basketball team, coached by Leslie Reinecker, is currently in third place in the east and will represent us in their conference tournament on Feb. 23, 24, and 25 at Howard Payne University.   

Our LETU men's basketball team, coached by Dan Miller, is making LeTourneau University history by capturing first place in the east for the first time ever-holding the best record (17-5) that the university has ever held since joining the NCAA Division III. 

With a 10-4 record in the American Southwest Conference, the men currently boast the best record in the conference in BOTH divisions, and are leading the East division by two games over UT Tyler.

With only two more conference games remaining, even if we lost both games and UTT won both games, we would still have the tie breaker because we beat them in both of our earlier games this season.

Because we are in first place in the east division, LETU has the privilege of hosting the conference tournament for the first time ever right here on our campus in Longview at the Solheim Arena on Feb. 23, 24 and 25.

The right to host the conference tournament is flipped each year to the top seed in either the East or the West division, and this season, the East division will host.

This conference tournament could result in a historic first division title for men's basketball. They also could break the all-time wins record at LETU which was set in 1971-72 with a 19-10 finish.

Seven other teams and fans will converge on LETU to determine first place in the ASC during this conference tournament, which also provides LeTourneau University with a unique opportunity to share the love of Christ as we show hospitality to hundreds of fans and players who will be visiting.  Athletic Director Terri Deike will soon be asking for volunteers to help with the conference tournament. I hope we have great volunteer participation.  

Last fall we welcomed 235 student-athletes to participate in 13 sports. 79 were freshmen and 156 were returners to LeTourneau. 223 of them returned this spring for a retention rate of 94.8%. We were also fortunate to add 11 transfer student-athletes this spring for a total of 234 student-athletes.
And next year, we will be adding track and field. Our athletic program is growing in number and achievement.

Kudos to head coach Reinecker for her work with the women's team and to head coach Miller for his work with the men's team. Our outstanding coaches and athletic staff work diligently to instill in our student-athletes the five core values of commitment, integrity, accountability, unity and excellence upon which our program is built.  

I encourage everyone to attend our last regular season home games Saturday, when we will honor our seniors and their parents with a reception. Wear your LETU t-shirts and let's celebrate the dedication and achievement of these outstanding student-athletes.  

Fear the sting!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

March for Life

Marsha and I made a short walk Friday from the annual meeting of CCCU Presidents in Washington, D.C., to the National Mall to join the 2017 March for Life.

It was the first time we had ever participated in this event, and it was a special moment for us. We joined a sea of thousands who flowed past the U.S. Capitol and up to the Supreme Court. 

Around us were people from all states, of all ages, Catholics, Protestants, and I even saw a sign for "Secularists for Life."

An annual event, the first March for Life was January 22, 1974. It was the one-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S.

Every year since, pro-life citizens have come to Washington to mark the sad anniversary of this decision that threw out state laws and made abortion legal and available on demand. Since then, 57 million babies have been lost to abortion.

The large crowds seemed hopeful at this year's March. They had, for the first time, been addressed by a Vice President of the United States who said "life is winning again."

For the first time in eight years, pro-life leaders were invited to the White House.

I'm optimistic too, but I also shudder at the thought of how God will judge our generation for these 57 million deaths. How much stronger would our nation be today if these children had been born and given the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

This issue is personal for me. I was adopted at birth -- my birth mother was unwed and already raising children alone. The physician who arranged my adoption was also performing abortions. Evidently, he saw the two options as equally acceptable solutions to the problem of an unplanned pregnancy. If not for God's grace, I would have been lost to abortion, also.

A core of my identity is knowing that my Savior has given me both this earthly life and life into eternity.

He spared my life at its very beginning for His purposes: 
"For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Two Historic Beginnings

This week marks two historic beginnings for LeTourneau University.

Monday morning, we announced the addition of track & field to our LETU YellowJacket athletics programs, and we signed a new partnership agreement to establish a physical presence on the Handong Global University campus in South Korea.


The new track & field athletic program brings to 15 the number of sports that LETU competes in at the NCAA Division III level in the American Southwest Conference.

I was surprised to learn that track & field is one of the most popular sports in the state of Texas. By adding this new program, LETU has the potential to draw from the 75,000 boys and 60,000 girls in 1,311 high schools across the state who compete in UIL track and field events. Nationally, over a million high school athletes participated in track & field events in the 2015-16 academic year.

Students who come to LeTourneau this next fall will begin training for the competitive season that begins in January 2018. These athletes will have the unique opportunity to make YellowJacket history as the university's first track & field athletes.

Leading this new program will be Don Hood, who is a well-known and admired name among Texas track and field coaches, having been named the 2008 United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches' Association Men's Coach of the Year.

Don has experience coaching at both the high school and collegiate level. His leadership will be an asset in launching a successful indoor and outdoor men's and women's track & field program here at LETU.


Another historic note this week was the new partnership agreement I signed with Handong Global University President Dr. Soon-Heung Chang Monday morning.

The LeTourneau Strategic Global Office agreement provides LETU a continued physical presence on the HGU campus that will significantly enhance both HGU's and LETU's opportunities for faculty and student exchange, international recruitment, program partnerships, missions opportunities and collaboration to change the world for Christ.

The plan is to have a faculty/staff member reside annually at HGU every semester beginning in Fall 2017, with the length of stay ranging from one semester to one academic year.

Among a host of advantages, this agreement would enable students to start their academic careers at HGU and finish at LETU, with students receiving degrees from both HGU and LETU. It also paves the way for a cooperative aviation program to allow HGU students to receive aviation-related degrees through and/or at LETU.

The agreement sets up an international student recruitment hub and enables a three-way transfer program with universities in China, Mongolia and Vietnam to allow students to transfer credits to HGU from their home university and finish their degrees at LETU.

The agreement could become a gateway for LETU to serve more students in East Asia in the future.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Global Outreach Connections: GO Week 2017

Next week, January 23-27, is a special week of focusing on Global Outreach on the LeTourneau University campus as we welcome over 50 missionaries representing over 40 mission organizations from across the world.

GO Week is a great time of connection.

GO Week helps to raise awareness of the things God is doing around the world. It allows missionaries at a wide variety of mission organizations to teach students about the work they are doing to further God's kingdom all over the world.

It helps open our students' hearts and minds to service opportunities in which they may want to participate--perhaps during Spring Break missions or after graduation. In the past, some students have found their life's calling during GO Week.

Relationships are built. Many of our missionaries are housed by faculty members. Many of our faculty and staff members have served as full-time missionaries and have opportunity to practice the gifts of helps and hospitality. Prayer requests can be shared. Our World CafĂ© on Tuesday evening will feature the culture and cuisine of nearly 30 countries.   

This longstanding tradition of GO Week (formerly known as Mission Emphasis Week) enables missionaries to share their life's work and relate to students one-on-one, hoping that God will spark an interest and perhaps open doors to internships.

I encourage all of us to take time next week to visit with these missionaries who will have tables set up all along the hallways in some of our academic buildings on campus and at the Abbott Center. Get to know them. Attend chapel services. Take them to lunch.

GO Week would not be possible without the participation of many on campus. 

Big thanks to our Missionaries in Residence, Marv and Jan Smith, and to Chapel secretary Kaylee Salser for all of their work in organizing the event. Also want to thank Marv for his help with chapel this semester as we seek a new Campus Pastor.

Today, I'm praying for our nation as we prepare to enjoy God's blessing of a government that peacefully transitions power from one president to another. I'm praying for God's favor on our new leaders both in Washington and in Austin. This week, the TFO Executive Committee and I met to pray for the university. Will you join us? Pray for the many among us who are fighting serious illnesses and pray with thanks for a community that supports each other in these times of need. Continue to pray for God to bring our next Deans of both the engineering and business programs and for our Campus Pastor.

Friday, January 13, 2017

LETU, Iowa State and Eastman: New Chemical Engineering Pathway

Happy 2017! This week is an exciting one for LeTourneau University as we formalize a new partnership with Iowa State University and Eastman Chemical Company to provide a direct pathway for qualified undergraduate students from LETU to earn-in five years - both a LeTourneau University bachelor's in chemistry and a master's in chemical engineering from Iowa State, while also being advised by professional chemical engineers at Eastman Chemical, right here in Longview.

Faculty, staff and community members attended the announcement of this new partnership on Friday, Jan. 13.
We are blessed that Eastman Chemical leadership met with our faculty and dean to agree to join in an advisory and supportive role, by reviewing curriculum to help ensure we are preparing chemical engineers who are job-ready and will flourish in a manufacturing setting.

Our students will benefit from opportunities for internships and mentoring by Eastman employees who can share real-world experience and insights into a career in chemical engineering.

Some of Eastman's engineers may serve as guest lecturers in our classrooms, and our students will be able to tour Eastman and observe training in the areas of industrial safety.

Eastman Chemical has been a great friend of the university and this partnership will open new doors of cooperation. Kudos to Dr. Larry Frazier for making this partnership a reality. Learn more about this joint venture between LETU, Iowa State and Eastman Chemical here.