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.

Friday, December 9, 2016

December Commencement

Saturday will be another momentous and celebratory day on our campus as 214 LeTourneau University undergraduate and graduate students will be rewarded for their hard work as they qualify to receive the degrees they have worked so hard to achieve.

Families and friends will gather, some visiting the university's main campus for the first time.

Our keynote speaker is Texas Senator-elect Bryan Hughes, who is a Republican from Mineola, Texas, who recently won the Senate District 1 seat formerly held by retiring Republican Senator Kevin Eltife.

Hughes will take office when the Texas Legislature convenes in January in Austin. Hughes is no stranger to political life. He is the former Texas State Representative for District 5.

Like me, Hughes is the first member of his family to receive a bachelor's degree.

As an East Texas native, Hughes attended Tyler Junior College and the University of Texas at Tyler, earning his BBA in Economics, cum laude, in 1992. He earned his law degree in 1995 from Baylor University School of Law and was honored to serve as law clerk from 1995-1997 for U.S. District Judge William Steger of Tyler.

In his first run for public office in 2002, Hughes was elected with 52% of the vote against a long-time incumbent. In 2004, he was reelected by a 62% margin and in 2006 with 82% of the vote. He ran unopposed for reelection in 2008 and 2010. Facing his first ever opposition in the Republican Primary in 2012, Hughes was honored to be elected by a 77% margin. In 2014, Hughes won by 92%, his highest margin ever, until this last election, in which he won the Republican nomination in May and ran unopposed for the Texas Senate seat in November.

Hughes was honored in 2007 with Tyler Junior College's Valuable Young Alumnus award. In 2008, he was chosen as Baylor University's Young Lawyer of the Year. In 2013, the University of Texas at Tyler named him a Distinguished Alumni.

He has received numerous awards for his work in the Legislature, including the Taxpayer Champion Award from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the Horizon Award from Texas Right to Life and "Defender of the American Dream" from Americans for Prosperity. In 2011, Texas Right to Life named Hughes the Pro-Life Whip of the Texas House.

Hughes is also a committed Christian. He is a leader in his church, a champion for the unborn and he understands the integration of faith and work in his daily life.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

YellowJacket Student-Athletes: Character that Lasts a Lifetime

At this holiday time of year, many of us (including me) spend countless hours enjoying college football and basketball on television. 

However, the purpose of college athletics is education, not entertainment, and certainly not money. 

LETU Athletic Director Terri Deike and our entire staff of coaches in our YellowJackets athletics program understand that. They seek to instill in our student athletes the values of a statement that reads: 
"We are committed student athletes of integrity, accountable for our choices, united in the pursuit of academic, athletic and spiritual excellence."
Their work is paying off.

Just this week, the American Southwest Conference announced the Fall 2016 Team Sportsmanship Awards, presented by the 13 ASC Student-Athlete Advisory Committees to eight ASC member institutions.

The SAAC Team Sportsmanship award honors the member institution in each ASC championship sport that best displays positive qualities of sportsmanship and fair play from its student-athletes, coaches and fans throughout the season.

LeTourneau University led with three team SAAC awards for sportsmanship: men's cross country, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Two other colleges received two awards, and five other colleges each had one award, but LETU led as the only college that received three team awards.  

The women's soccer honor was shared among three other colleges (Hardin-Simmons, Louisiana College, McMurry) and the women's volleyball honor was shared with one other college (Belhaven).

I particularly liked how the ASC news release was worded: 
"LeTourneau led..."  

I believe we do lead the conference in the character we bring to athletic competition. Our student-athletes receive a transforming education both inside and outside the classroom. I have often said that our athletic facilities, including our soccer and baseball/softball fields, our basketball, volleyball and tennis courts and our gymnasiums are some of the largest classrooms we have on campus. 

I am proud of Terri, our coaching staff and our student-athletes for exemplifying these God-honoring values and for the character they are building that will last a lifetime.  

More details on the Fall 2016 ASC Sportsmanship Awards can be found online here.