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.




Thursday, November 17, 2016

Father of the Bride

I knew the day would come. In fact, I've known for 27 years that the day would come. Yet, when it was time for me to stand at my daughter Rachel's wedding and give the traditional toast to the bride and groom, I struggled to find the words.

Rachel married Cord DeMoss at a picturesque venue in Quinlan, Texas, on October 29. It was a beautiful Texas autumn evening for an outdoor wedding. We were surrounded by family and friends. The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, the mother of the bride elegant and the couple's minister from Watermark Church in Dallas did an outstanding job pointing all in attendance to the God who created these two and brought them together to live as one forevermore.

When it was time for the toast by the father of the bride, I described my daughter as a "no-backup-plan" kind of person.

I told two stories of how Rachel has demonstrated that she is a determined individual who sets ambitious goals for herself and works through all adversity to achieve those goals. When her ever-so-practical father asked many years ago what was her backup plan should she not make the team as a Kilgore College Rangerette, she confidently stated that she had no backup plan because she would make the team. And she did, and she did again with other goals!

My prayer is that both Cord and Rachel will bring the same attitude to their marriage. Now, that they've chosen each other and made a vow before God, there is no backup plan -- they will make their marriage work in the good days and also in the trials to come. Only with God's grace and mercy is this possible.

My advice to all the young fathers of daughters I know: start working on your wedding toast, it will be upon you more quickly than you can imagine.





Thursday, November 10, 2016

#LeTourneauBuilt

We are recruiting future students to LeTourneau with new marketing materials that tell the world we are the Christian polytechnic university. We are a community of builders and have been for 70 years. Our alumni tell our story of engaging students with Christian virtue and professional competence.

In 1998, Juan M. "Nacho" Lopez arrived at LETU as a 16-year-old missionary kid from Mexico who had not lived in the U.S. since he was 9. He said he knew immediately he made the right choice through the brotherhood, kinship and mentorship he found.

He tells of the faculty and staff at LETU who built into his life some important life lessons. He cited Gerrie Forbis for modeling that "true love for students can be worn on the sleeve and shine like a beacon for all to see." He credited faculty for lessons taught in and outside the classroom. Each had built a legacy in this student's life.

"I appreciate those faculty who pushed me into taking the professional engineer's exam and who taught me to enjoy subjects that were not appealing, and to power through even distasteful work and turn out the best work I could produce," he wrote.

The #LeTourneauBuilt life that Lopez leads today includes being a tenured professor and the youngest person to hold the office of academic director and program chair for graduate biomedical engineering at UPAEP (Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla) in Puebla, Mexico.

He is an accredited scientist in Mexico with a federal fellowship distinction, one of about 165 in the state of Puebla. He is a charter member of two research and academic foundations, one of which is a new national research network for Mexico spanning more than 40 universities in Mexico and around the world. He serves as a charter member and advisor to the UPAEP Office of Technology Transfer, serves on the UPAEP Advisory Council for Research, and serves as the external science representative for the State of Puebla's only federally-accredited research IRB for the Health Secretariat for Puebla, Mexico.

"I am someone willing to put my best effort forward, and hope that every day is a testimony to the lives of those who have poured their own lives into preparing mine," Lopez said. "Each person's own story at LETU intersected with mine and gave me a treasure to cherish. Their time, love, faith, and investment in me is something that I hope to pay forward with each and every one of my days."

Let's celebrate the lives that are #LeTourneauBuilt.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The 2016 Faith@Work Summit

LeTourneau University's Center for Faith and Work just hosted the very successful Faith@Work Summit in Dallas at the Westin Galleria that attracted more than 400 academic, business and church leaders from all over the globe from Thursday through Saturday.

The Summit brought together some of the best minds to consider how to extend Christ's transforming power and presence into workplaces around the world and to provide a time and place for those attending to develop new ideas, initiatives and collaborations to move the faith and work movement broader and deeper.

Our Center for Faith and Work Executive Director Dr. Bill Peel, with the assistance of Amanda Battaglia and Peter Battaglia, deserve great credit for the two years of painstaking planning and successful execution of this memorable event. From inviting the speakers, handling booking details, building the website, handling social media, working with the professional production company that live-streamed the event, and so many other details, the Summit was a heroic effort that was a great success.

The purpose was to gather these leaders from every kind of industry to move deeper and broader-learning together from each other and seeking thoughtful answers to three questions:
  1. How can we help Christians deepen their understanding of what it means to follow Christ in their particular line of work?
  2. How can we broaden the reach of the Faith at Work movement to new audiences that remain largely unaddressed?
  3. How can Christians in business, workplace ministries, Christian schools, universities and seminaries work with the church to develop whole-life disciples?
We know that our work matters to God. He has uniquely equipped each of us to further His kingdom through our work-wherever we are. We recognize that the workplace is the most strategic workplace in the world and that we, as Christians, have an opportunity to make a difference in the places where we work, but also at LETU, in preparing the next generation to make a difference in their future workplaces.

For those interested in reading more about the faith and work movement, I would recommend three books:
  • The first would be "Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work," the leading text on workplace evangelism around the world, written by Dr. Peel, who helped emcee the Summit.
  • Tom Nelson's book "Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work" is another book that balances the theological and practical to outline how we can join God in his work in the world.
  • "Integrated Generosity" by Mark Trewitt is another great book that you may find motivational and educational as it provides best practices for personal and business finances in light of stewardship.
I'm very proud of what Bill and his team put together. LeTourneau University is a leader in this important movement, and while we may be a little school with a big vision, this vision of graduating students who will claim the workplace as their place of Christian ministry is a big vision--one with eternal results.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Shaping the Next Generation of Christian Leaders for the Workplace

This week is surely going to be a memorable one, first, as I prepare to welcome 400 academic, business and church leaders from all over the globe to attend our Faith@Work Summit in Dallas this evening and, also, as Marsha and I prepare for the wedding of our daughter, Rachel, this weekend. Both of these events are the result of hours and hours of careful planning and preparation, and I am confident that God will be honored and glorified throughout them both.

As Christians, we seek to honor God in every area of our lives. That includes our work. The Summit in Dallas this weekend provides a unique opportunity for leaders to learn from each other and create collaborative partnerships to further faith/work integration, which studies show results in higher job and life satisfaction.

Seminaries and universities are considering how to shape the next generation of Christian leaders for the workplace. One way LETU is involved in that is the launching this week of our new Passage Institute for Youth and Theology to equip youth to consider God's call on their lives and how their faith informs their decisions, before they make their college and career choices. Studies have shown that youth who have engaged in serious theological study and intentional Christian practices have a more resilient faith.

The Passage Institute is made possible by a generous $600,000 grant from the Lilly Foundation and provides for 50 high school sophomores from all over the Ark-La-Tex region to participate in a meaningful mentorship program at LETU. Those students selected to become Passage Fellows will begin with a week-long residential camp in June 2017 on our LETU campus, followed by a year-long mentorship program with a Passage Mentor from their local church, guided by the Passage Institute, and followed by a second week-long residential campus experience.

During that first week-long campus experience, students will have intensive study in classic Christian theology, discipleship, worship, ministry practice and outreach. Seminars will be led by LETU theology faculty.

When these high school fellows return the following summer, in June 2018, they will be called to lead, mentor and serve the next class of incoming Passage Institute fellows.

LETU theology professor Jonathan Lett is the director of outreach for the Passage Institute. He is encouraging parents, pastors, youth pastors, church leaders and others to nominate youth who they believe will benefit from this level of study. Applications require an essay and references and are being accepted online now at www.letu.edu/PassageInstitute. Application deadline is January 15, 2017.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Poverty Conference 2016: Wes Moore

Today I had the pleasure of welcoming about 700 community members to the Junior League of Longview's 2016 Poverty Conference featuring best-selling author, entrepreneur and television host Wes Moore in our Belcher Center. I'm proud that LETU is a sponsor of the conference and that the initial poverty conference was the idea of former LETU professor Dr. John Fezzell.

Moore is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Moore is also the founder and CEO of BridgeEDU, the host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and executive producer and host of PBS's Coming Home with Wes Moore.

Poverty is a challenge for Longview and East Texas, one that has direct links to crime rates and quality of life. I applaud the efforts of the Junior League for taking ownership of this conference and convening leaders from a variety of agencies to coordinate their efforts to address poverty here in East Texas.

Keynote Wes Moore shared his testimony and some of the lessons he has learned along the way, about how making choices led to the difference between success and failure.

Growing up in a single-parent household, first in Baltimore, Maryland, then in the Bronx in New York, Moore pushed limits, defied authority, ran into trouble with the police, and wound up in handcuffs for the first time by the age of 11. By 13, he was sent to a military boarding school in Pennsylvania. Today, he is a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, author and business leader.

What a transformation!

In his presentation, Moore described the importance in his own life of being mentored and surrounded by people who believed in him before he could believe in himself. He described his mentor as someone "willing to help you carry your dreams until your shoulders are broad enough to carry them yourself."

Moore emphasized the importance of having high expectations of our youth and helping youth see a future that is bright. He said he learned in the U.S. Army that you can't hit a target you can't see. He said that holds true for our youth, as well. We must set expectations for youth and help them put their eyes on the target.

Our strategic plan calls for LETU to serve our local neighborhood. We know education is a key to fighting poverty. How might we contribute to the fight here in Longview?