Friday, March 9, 2018

Flying High: A Spring of Progress & Excellence

LeTourneau University is flying high this spring! Our LETU Men's Basketball team just finished another year of breaking school records. Their 24-5 record is the most wins by a LETU team. They are for the second year in a row the ASC East Division champions. They made the very first NCAA Championship Tournament appearance for a LeTourneau basketball team. They finished Saturday night only one basket away from the "Sweet 16." Head coach Dan Miller described the players as unselfish, with each contributing to the season like a family. Kudos to head basketball coach Dan Miller and his team.

Our School of Aviation is also flying high with two brand new Piper Seminole twin-engine airplanes. These new aircraft represent a $1.5 million investment in our aviation program. A beautiful LETU paint job that bears part of our globe and cross on the tail insures these planes will certainly stand-out as they fly across our region.

Sometimes we put people in the air with aircraft, and sometimes we put them in the air with a pole! Our new LETU Track and Field athletes are flying high in their inaugural indoor track and field season. Freshman pole vaulter Alex Hindman qualified for the NCAA Division III National Indoor Championships in Alabama this weekend. His qualifying vault of 15 feet-8 ¼ inches, Alex becomes the first track and field athlete in LETU history to compete for an NCAA championship. Another freshman, Austin Parrish, joined Alex in finishing first and second in our region in pole vault and are the first two All-Region honorees in program history. Kudos to Coach Don Hood and his athletes. What a way for LETU Track and Field to begin!

Sometimes the goal is to launch people 15 feet into the air, and sometimes it's launching something into orbit, which is what the LETSAT student satellite project is doing by advancing the future of spacecraft by creating the next generation of smart satellites. A group of about 25 engineering students and Byron Lictenberg from the engineering faculty is working to launch a Cubesat satellite with artificial intelligence hardware into low earth orbit. The hardware and software teams are working on developing a satellite that can use something similar to "facial recognition" software to identify its location in orbit based on artificial intelligence. Satellites aren't new but smart AI satellites are a new technology and it's impressive to see our students doing this work. You can learn more at:

I'm really proud of these faculty and students.

The wisdom of our faith from Isaiah 40:31 says much about flying: "...but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles..."

It's important to enjoy the flying, but before the flying comes the waiting, hoping, trusting and working. It's something we see every day at LETU.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Honoring the Legacy of Rev. Billy Graham

"America's Pastor" the Rev. Billy Graham died a week ago. Yesterday, the nation honored him as the first religious leader to lie in honor at the Capitol Rotunda in Washington. President Trump described Graham as "an ambassador for Christ who reminded the world of the power of prayer and the gift of God's grace." May such be said of all of us at LeTourneau University!

Billy Graham was the most significant religious figure of the 20th century. He preached the gospel to an estimated 215 million in his lifetime, according to media sources this week. Decades of his faithful service to preaching the gospel have led to untold numbers of decisions for Christ.

Billy Graham didn't just belong to the nation; he belonged to LeTourneau University.

There was a unique friendship between Graham and R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau. As many people know, the LeTourneaus put 90% of their corporation stock into a foundation to support Christian work around the world. Funds from that foundation enabled Evelyn to establish Camp Bethany in Winona Lake, Indiana, where a young Billy Graham worked as camp counselor. A friendship formed.

As World War II was ending in 1946 and the LeTourneaus launched their manufacturing plant in Longview, Texas, and began the LeTourneau Technical School to educate returning war veterans, the young Rev. Billy Graham was drawing huge crowds to Youth For Christ rallies as YFC's first paid evangelist.

The young evangelist came up short in 1947 on finances, and he reached out to R.G. LeTourneau to ask for $7,000 to provide the finances he needed to finish his European tour. Not only did LeTourneau provide a cashier's check a few weeks later, he flew overseas to attend one of the meetings in Birmingham, England. LeTourneau would become a supporter of Graham's evangelism rallies for years thereafter.

In a 1953 letter from Graham to Evelyn LeTourneau, he wrote. "I love you and Mr. R.G. more than any two people in the world," describing the LeTourneau's as "more like a father and mother to me."

Later that year, R.G. LeTourneau designed a domed structure for Billy Graham to use as for revival meetings during his upcoming speaking campaign in Great Britain. In a letter from the Billy Graham Crusade Committee dated in May of 1953, the structure was referred to as "the Billy Graham Crusade tabernacle." While it never was used for its original purpose due to problems with the London city council, the domed structure went on to be used for several years for graduation ceremonies for LeTourneau Technical School students. It stands in south Longview to this day, at the Longview plant now owned by Komatsu.

From 1961 to 1975, Graham served on the LeTourneau College Board of Trustees. He was a featured speaker at the college's 25th anniversary in 1971. Graham was a supporter of faith-based education, and his own son, Franklin Graham, attended school at LeTourneau.

Franklin was back in Longview and on campus just this last October 19th. As the nation mourns Billy Graham, we pray for Franklin and family and their very personal loss.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Campus Improvements: Lighting the Way for Future Savings

LeTourneau University recently updated our campus lighting all across campus to install environmentally friendly LED lighting. Congratulations to LETU Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Hood and Assistant Vice President for Facilities Services Ben Haywood for their initiative, project management and success on a job well done!

LETU's lighting upgrades included installing new LED head fixtures on all existing street, sidewalk and parking lot poles, along with the bell tower flood lights, the Solheim gymnasium lights, Belcher gymnasium lights, natatorium lights and tennis and volleyball court lights.

Besides durability, rapid cycling, instant on, and increased brightness, these new LEDs across campus use about 50% less energy.

The financial benefit to the university amounts to electrical savings of over $55,000 per year from this year forward. Those energy cost savings pay for the initial upgrade charges within seven years, with the LED lights projected to last maintenance free for 14+ years.

The timing of the conversion to LEDs was right, since SWEPCO offered a $23,400 rebate to us for installing more efficient lighting at a time when their rates jumped between 7.5% and 13 % this January.

The switch to LEDs also lowers our labor and maintenance costs and lift rental costs that were required for changing light bulbs on campus.

Our new LED lights enable us to reduce our usage, allowing our electrical supplier to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, along with lowering carbon dioxide emissions.

The trend across the country is for universities to reduce the need for fossil fuels. Harvard University recently announced it plans to be fossil fuel neutral by 2026 and fossil fuel free by 2050. Other universities that also have converted to LEDs include Belmont College in Ohio, Howard University in Washington and Bucknell University in Pennsylvania. University of Maryland is currently developing an energy efficiency project that includes LED lighting upgrades.

Areas of campus that previously were not as well-lit are now much improved, such as at the tennis courts that now have almost double the lighting level for our teams and those who play tennis in the evenings.

But of all of the improvements we have seen from these LED lights, I believe the greatest improvement was to our sidewalks and walkways all across campus. A well-lit campus is more appealing and safer for our students, faculty, staff and guests.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Foundation Funded Microscope Furthers Research

The collaborative effort of several of our LeTourneau University faculty has resulted in LETU receiving a significant $250,000 grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation for the purchase of a new Scanning Electron Microscope.

The new SEM will benefit students across several disciplines, including materials joining, civil engineering, biology and chemistry.

This new SEM will allow LETU faculty and students the ability to see objects that are thousands of times smaller than what we can see with the naked eye. The addition of this new equipment enables us to modernize our existing courses in materials sciences as well as in biology and chemistry. It will provide our students practical experience using this equipment on research and projects that they can add to their resumes.

The SEM provides three-dimensional imaging that has a wide range of practical research, industrial and commercial applications. They can be used in welding metallurgy to find deformities in welds that would be otherwise undetectable. They also can be used in biology and chemistry to enable students to see individual viruses. In industry, the they are used for inspecting things like semiconductors for quality control on the production line in manufacturing microchips for computers.

LETU's collaborative grant proposal has resulted in a successful award that will have a significant impact on ongoing research projects.

Thank you to Darryl Low in engineering for his efforts as lead in writing the grant proposal, along with other LETU faculty including Yoni Adonyi (emeritus), Richard Baumer, Paul Boggs, Gary DeBoer, Dave Dittenber, Wes Downing, Vivian Fernand and Greg Frederick for the work they all did to help secure the funding.

Their contributions to show how the grant would have a broad impact on students is a key component that resulted in LETU being awarded the grant.

Plans are for the new equipment to be purchased and installed in the Kielhorn Lab on campus this semester and ready to be tested by summer and used for a variety of projects this fall. Access to the SEM and appropriate training will be open to all interested LETU faculty, supporting research and education across departments.

We are grateful for the Keck Foundation for their generous support and for how it will impact students for years to come. 


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Christian Higher Education: Where God is King

Last week, I attended the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities 2018 International Forum near Dallas, the largest gathering of Christian higher education professionals.

A LeTourneau University delegation joined campus leaders from 180-plus CCCU member schools from around the nation and the world. Campus presidents, academic and student affairs leaders, technology and financial leaders, alumni relations and public relations professionals, among others were there.

This diverse group all shares a mission to give students the opportunity for a Christ-centered higher education.

The purpose of the Forum was to engage in discussions, share perspectives and experience, build relationships, identify challenges, collaborate on solutions and be equipped to prepare for the future of Christian higher education. A host of dynamic and diverse speakers provided challenging insights for us to consider.

Sessions covered issues of faith integration and formation and how we can best prepare our students to pursue biblical truth in their lives. Breakout sessions gave opportunities for sharing best practices and creative innovations to meet a wide variety of challenges our institutions face. Discussions examined demographic, technological, legal and cultural forces impacting the work of our institutions and how we can best respond.

It was also a time of spiritual enrichment.

We began each day with thought-provoking devotionals from Andy Crouch. Jim Denison reminded us that the underlying narrative of the gospel is that God is a king, not merely a Sunday morning hobby.

Today's culture has separated our worship on Sunday from our work on Monday mornings, and turned the Bible into merely a collection of religious stories. Denison encouraged us each to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind and strength. God must be our King, not our hobby.

Our commitment as leaders in Christian higher education is to create a higher education where Christ and the spiritual formation of our students is central.

Students who love God with all of their hearts, souls, minds and strength -- as their king -- is our measure of success. As we do, His kingdom will come, His will can be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is our place of ministry.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Next Steps: The Leading Christian Business School

LETU School of Business Dean Dr. Van Graham has assembled a school advisory council, and it was my pleasure to meet with the group this week. Input from alumni, employers and civic leaders is essential in crafting a vision for the future growth of our business school.

We are unique as the only university founded by a Christian business professional. Mr. R.G. LeTourneau's life is the ultimate story of faith and business. We offer students an eternal perspective on work. We offer employers a business school graduate of both competence and character.

Business programs are important to LETU. 373 students are studying business with us. That is about 17% of our total degree-seeking student body. Business students represent significant numbers in our residential and global programs and both our undergraduate and graduate programs.

As in past years, business administration remains the most popular field of study for college students. Nationally, 364,000 students earned undergraduate degrees in business in 2015. As a point of comparison, 98,000 engineering bachelor degrees were awarded. The same is true for graduate students. The MBA is the most popular graduate program, representing one of every four graduate degrees awarded.

Serving on the advisory committee are Citizens National Bank Vice President Greg Colquitt, Henry & Peters President Jana K. Broussard, Texas Bank and Trust Senior Vice President Craig Chaikin, and Martin Resource Management Executive Vice President and General Counsel Chris Booth.

I'm grateful for their input and encouragement to advance the business school.

Our calling is to build the leading business school in Christian higher education. Going from good to great is our next step.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Rebuilding After Harvey: God's Provision

In late August, Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas Gulf Coast causing at least $125 billion in damage, widespread flooding, and severe economic hardship for many families. Harvey made history as the costliest storm on record.

We have an education center in Houston, and many LETU students live in Houston and the Gulf Coast region. Among our residential students, many of their families back home were hit hard by Harvey.

To help with tuition assistance for LETU students impacted by Hurricane Harvey, LETU set up a Hurricane Harvey scholarship fund. Many generous friends of the university have donated to the fund.

To date, more than $12,000 in aid has been awarded. These funds enabled these students to return this semester, students who might otherwise not have been able to continue their college education.

One such student, a senior civil engineering major from Houston, said she found it difficult last fall to focus on school when she knew her parents' family business that they had built since the 1980s had flooded and they lost all their files, their equipment, their furniture--and their steady income.

"There was a very high chance we could not afford for me to finish the semester," she said. "Luckily they had enough savings to finish helping me pay for last semester, but it was going to be quite difficult to afford the spring semester."

That's where the LETU Hurricane Harvey scholarship made a difference.

"I had been wondering what God would do to provide," she said. "He had provided quite a bit of gifts from my coworkers, church, my parents' clients, as well as my fellow students in the Honors College here at LeTourneau."

Once she applied for the scholarship and was interviewed by LETU's Student Life Office, she learned she had received a scholarship.

"It took about a week to sink in that this semester was going to work out," she said.

"The community of God has been revealed to me in a whole new way over these last few months as I have seen how so many people have trusted God and shared his love with my family," she said. "I have learned that LETU is truly a Christ-based and trusting university. They are people of God who want to share his love and be a strong community to support each other."

To those who have donated to the fund, I thank you, and the students whose lives have been blessed thank you.

Just recently, I received an email from the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT) that LETU is receiving an additional grant to be used as emergency aid for students impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

It will take time for those hurt by Harvey to rebuild. I thank God that LETU can be a part of easing the burden for our students and their families during that process.