Thursday, April 28, 2016

Meet the 2015-2016 LETU Distinguished Seniors

It was my pleasure Saturday night to introduce our 2015-2016 University Distinguished Senior Award recipients at the Blue and Gold Banquet during Homecoming. The University Distinguished Senior Award Program seeks to recognize academic excellence, servant leadership, generosity, and spiritual growth.

This year's recipients were Hannah Campbell, Jacob Weeks, Samuel van der Hoeven, Edward Peterson and Andrew Pollard. 

Hannah Campbell is a nursing major from Ben Wheeler, Texas, with a 3.9 GPA. She has served our campus as a peer advisor, floor chaplain, and active community volunteer. She has also worked as a chemistry lab assistant and tutor for English, chemistry, and microbiology. Hannah is one-half of LeTourneau School of Nursing's inaugural class. 

Jacob Weeks is a missions aviation major from La Moille, Ill., with a 3.84 GPA. He has served as co-captain of LETU's NIFA flight team for the past three years and has earned national recognition in SAFECON competitions. He has completed two internships in aviation maintenance, and has served his fellow students as a floor chaplain and academic tutor.

Samuel van der Hoeven is an electrical engineering major from Georgetown, Ky., with a 3.93 GPA. He has completed internships with Rockwell Collins, L-3, and Belcan Engineering. He has served as president of LeTourneau Student Ministries for the past two years, served on the student senate and student government executive cabinet, and led class team projects for digital logic and digital signal processing classes. 

Edward Peterson is a materials joining engineering major from Yelm, Wash., with a 3.98 GPA. He has completed two internships with FMC Technologies, and has worked as an associate researcher at LETU. He has led class team projects, and served as a tutor and supplemental instructor for physics and chemistry courses. He has also served as a floor chaplain and communications officer for LETU's AWS Chapter. 

Andrew Pollard is a computer engineering major from Summerfield, Ill., with a 4.0 GPA. He has completed internships with STAR CO and Garmin International, has served as lead for class team projects, and has participated in three LETU-sponsored programming trips to support a nonprofit organization in Colorado Springs. He has served the LETU community as a resident assistant for two years, and assistant resident director for the past year.

Pictured clockwise from left, with my wife, Marsha, and me, are Hannah Campbell, Jacob Weeks,
Samuel van der Hoeven, Edward Peterson and Andrew Pollard.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Spring Celebrations: SACSCOC & Homecoming

LETU's Associate Provost Dr. Stephanie Kirschmann and dozens of others deserve our gratitude for the successful visit by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

She and our Senior Director John Lommel have led faculty and staff from across the university to a very favorable assessment by SACSCOC. Universities demonstrate their compliance with standards that address the entire university: library, finances, athletics, student affairs, faculty, governance and everything else!

I am thrilled to report that of the 96 Principles of Accreditation, there are 16 that are considered core requirements. Of those 16, we received NO RECOMMENDATIONS for improvement...100% compliance.

There are also 11 federal requirements. Again, we received no recommendations...100% compliance.

The onsite team left us with recommendations on only TWO of the remaining comprehensive standards: 1) providing additional evidence on the student learning outcomes of our educational programs, and 2) guidance for moving the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) from proposal to successfully implementing our new writing center to support our "Writing For Your Life" QEP.

Our next step is a Response Report providing additional evidence of the two standards above and a revised version of the QEP. Following SACSCOC receiving these materials in early fall, the final word on our reaffirmation of accreditation is expected to come at the SACSCOC annual meeting in Atlanta this December.

We are celebrating "SACS" with "sacks." At our president's coffee on Tuesday, I distributed 10 Kroger "sacks" and $300 to willing individuals who are doing the shopping to fill those sacks with groceries for Newgate Mission, our Mobberly Avenue neighbors who feed the hungry in our community.

Today and throughout this weekend, I encourage all of you to give a hearty welcome to our alumni and guests who are visiting for Homecoming 2016 as we celebrate LETU's 70th anniversary with alumni reunions for all welding/materials joining majors, Flooders floor alumni and the Class of 1966, including our Golden Jackets, who are those alumni who have graduated 50 years ago or longer.

It is always such a blessing to hear the stories of so many during Homecoming activities as they tell about how their experiences and relationships at LeTourneau have had a lifelong impact on the lives of so many.

And don't forget our great tradition, Hootenanny, on Friday evening. For a complete schedule of Homecoming events, click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Recognizing Exceptional Students: LETU's First Nursing Graduates

National Nurses Week is May 6-12, 2016. It is a time to acknowledge the many wonderful contributions nurses make to our society.

And it's especially appropriate that during Nurses Week this year, LETU will make history when our first nursing graduates walk the stage to receive their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees in Belcher Center on Saturday, May 7.

On Thursday, May 5, LETU will launch a new tradition when we hold our first ever pinning ceremony for our nursing graduates, Hannah Campbell of Ben Wheeler and Abbey May of Winnsboro. These young women are the first to receive their nursing pins and the first to represent LETU as they make their mark on society as caring, compassionate nurses.

Both young women are excellent candidates for our graduating class and both have already secured great jobs. It is encouraging to see that the quality of our nursing program is already recognized. They both will be working for Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler.

These young women are very different, but they both have a heart for nursing.

Hannah is described as mission minded. I'm told she has been on mission trips and feels her call may eventually lead her to fulltime mission work. She is an honors student who came to LETU four years ago and has come through our entire program. She was a nursing student before we had a program. She is focused on relational patient care. Her new role will be as part of a post-surgical unit where patients are taken when they get out of intensive care.

Abbey is currently doing her capstone in oncology. She is very connected to her community here in East Texas. She transferred in to LETU her junior year and is more focused on cutting edge medicine, with interests in trauma and emergency medicine. Her new job at TMF will be in neuro intensive care unit, working with patients who have had strokes, spinal cord injuries, back surgeries or traumatic brain injuries.

Our goal at LETU is to prepare nurses to be competent, but also compassionate and able to present the Gospel through their work, sometimes without a word.

While we can teach competence in technical skills, we can't teach nurses how to love people through difficult circumstances. We hope to bring that out in them as they develop throughout our program, and during this last semester, these women have gotten a dose of what it feels like to be a nurse.

Good nurses value the dignity and worth of every person. They think about how they can make their patients feel better or what they can do to help a family through a trying time. They exhibit an unselfish concern for the welfare of others.

Nursing is a little personal for me, since my own daughter, Hannah, is a labor and delivery nurse in Tyler. Nurses are there for moments of happiness, sorrow, laughter, fear, joy and pain. They make a difference as they pursue their calling.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Engaging Students, Engaging the World

Saturday was the LeTourneau University Student Scholarship Conference "Engaging Students, Engaging the World" sponsored by the Honors College.

Over 70 students presented with poise and professionalism. Some presented papers, some posters, some panel discussions and other presentations on a broad range of topics from across multiple disciplines on campus.

Where else in the universe could you enjoy scholarship on Machiavelli, Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment, and Disney's Big Hero Six all in one place? The full roster of presentations was a testimony to the richness of an LETU education.

This weekend's student scholarship conference was the sixth such event on campus and is scheduled to be an annual event emanating from the Honors College. The conference was the brainchild of English professor Dr. Jim Watson in 2005 when he taught a literary criticism class and had the idea that it would be a good experience for liberal arts majors to experience presenting their work publicly.

Each year has begun with a keynote address. This year's keynote speaker was engineering professor Dr. Stephen Ayers, who discussed his experiences in a decade of global service projects at LETU.

Kudos to all the many faculty, including Drs. Aaron Kuecker and Kelly Liebengood, who mentored students and participated in the conference. Our Honors College continues to grow, and it is one of our great success stories of the last few years.

And in light of the special things that happen at LETU, I was reminded recently of the story of longtime, faithful donors Wallace and Ruth Campbell of Schenectady, N.Y.

It seems that Wallace and Ruth Campbell's son Richard graduated from LeTourneau in 1978. At LETU, he met and married his wife Lynn Chamberlin, who also graduated from LeTourneau.

Richard and Lynn had a daughter Sarah who graduated from LeTourneau in 2005, where she met and married Andrew Westerhaus, who also graduated from LeTourneau.

Richard and Lynn also had a son Scott who graduated from LeTourneau in 2004 where he met and married his wife Elaine Ball, who also graduated from LeTourneau.

Elaine's sister Stephanie graduated from LeTourneau in 2006 where she met and married James Lane, who also graduated from LeTourneau.

Their family story is a LeTourneau University story! It seems we are not just "engaging students" but marrying them as well.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

SACSCOC & Significance

Next week is big for our university! The peer review team from SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) will be on campus for our reaffirmation of accreditation, which happens only once every 10 years. They will affirm what we are doing well and point to areas where we can improve.

They will remind us that "Q-E-P," (Quality Enhancement Program) is a commitment we are making to improve the writing skills of our students across campus.

I'm looking forward to this special time, and I'm so happy for the many who've invested hundreds of hours in preparation for this visit.

Stephanie Kirschmann, John Lommel, Larry Frazier, and Randy Compton are four heroes that immediately come to mind. To each of you, the entire university is grateful for your leadership on our accreditation reaffirmation.

But even with the excitement of next week, let's not look past the significance of this most holy weekend.

The Son of God went willingly to the cross where he was murdered. He now asks us to take up our cross and follow him. The Christian walk is joy. But it is also sacrifice. Often, great sacrifice.

I learned this week of the murder of four Wycliffe Bible translators. Islamic militants stormed their translation office in the Middle East. Equipment was destroyed. Books and papers were burned. Two of the workers sacrificed their lives to save the lead translator by lying on top of him.

The slaughter of Christians is happening all over the world. The bloody war of terror continues as we witnessed again in Brussels this week. Closer to home, the religious liberty of Christians is threatened daily.

How do we respond? I'm in awe of the response from Wycliffe Associates: "The remaining translation team has decided to redouble their efforts to translate, publish and print God's Word for these eight language communities."

Easter reminds us to look beyond today's struggle and claim the eternal life with God that awaits us. When our cross is heavy and sacrifice is expected, Easter give us hope. As the familiar song rings out: "It's Friday, but Sunday is a comin'!"

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Spring Break Spent in Service

Over 100 LETU students spent their entire spring break last week in service to others.

Some put their aviation skills to work with aviation mission organizations. Some used their computer skills. Some helped with an evangelistic outreach. Some worked at a missions training facility.

Over 30 traveled to South Padre Island, Texas, to participate in a ministry called Beach Reach, where they witnessed about the saving love of Christ while providing free van rides for intoxicated college students from around the country. The LETU "Beach Reachers" enabled these lost students to arrive safely back to their hotels after hours of alcoholic "partying" on the beach and in local bars. Before partygoers left the vans, our students would pray with them.

Tyler Hall Resident Director Matt Barr, one of the staff sponsors, said they saw many young people who were drunk, drugged and making devastatingly poor life choices. He said our students who went to minister said they had never been so broken for others as they saw their peers--people their own age--lost, empty and in need of a relationship with God. Many identified with their peers, knowing that "but for the grace of God, this could have been me."

The students participated in prayer and worship services when they weren't providing van rides during the 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. shuttles. They knew while they may not see the fruit, they were planting seeds of faith, or watering, and some had the privilege of harvesting.

Matt said, "I wasn't fully prepared for what God was going to do on that island. God showed up in big ways. We had some really big prayer requests for the week, and God came through in more ways than we even had prayed for. Our prayer was that God would break our hearts for these spring breakers. That's absolutely what he did.

"Every single day, our hearts were broken for the people we interacted with," Matt said. "Many are lost and know it. Many are lost and have no idea. Our hearts hurt for them because they are created in the image of God, and God wants so much for them to know him. Our desire was that they would know God wants to know and love them, too."

Through the week, the power of prayer became evident as some students made life-altering decisions with repentant hearts to seek salvation or a re-commitment to Christ.
Lives were changed.

Five of our own students felt the power of God on their lives and were baptized in the Gulf of Mexico following a prayer service on the beach.

Matt described it as "a powerful moment."

But the story doesn't end there. Many of the students are continuing to follow up, disciple and build relationships with those who were receptive to God's call on their lives.

Our students went on the mission trip with a heart to serve others, but isn't it like our loving God to reward them with a blessing, as well.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

YellowJacket Basketball: Fear the Sting!

LeTourneau University's men's and women's basketball teams are making history today.

For the first time in the university's 70-years, BOTH of the LETU basketball teams have made it into their NCAA conference tournaments in the same year and are playing on the same day!

Today at noon, our women's team will compete against Hardin-Simmons University at the Herrington Patriot Center on the campus of University of Texas at Tyler. You can watch the game through live audio and video streaming as well as keep up with the statistics here. Should they win, the women will play at the same location tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 26) at 5 p.m.

Head coach Leslie Reinecker, who is only in her second season as LETU's head women's basketball coach, and assistant coach Sheronda Powell have much to be proud of in their team. Five players were named to the American Southwest Conference All-Academic Team last year, and six earned at least a 3.0 GPA or higher during this past fall semester.

Tonight our men will take on Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. The team left Tuesday morning to make the 630-plus mile trip across the state to be there for the game that begins tonight at 7:30 p.m.

You can watch their game streaming live online here. Plus, you can also listen here: and keep up with game stats here.

Head coach Dan Miller is also in his second season as head men's basketball coach. He and assistant coach James Wallace have much to be proud of in their team. Eleven of their players earned at least a 3.0 GPA or higher during this past semester.

Local TV came out to talk to the coaches and players earlier in the week. You can see those interviews here. The men will play Friday at 7:30 if they win today.

Our YellowJacket basketball teams are representing LeTourneau University well this week. Let's give them our support. Fear the Sting!