Thursday, November 17, 2011

Give Thanks

Give thanks with a grateful heart.

Give thanks to the Holy One.

Give thanks because He's given

Jesus Christ, His Son.

And now let the weak say I am strong.
Let the poor say I am rich
Because of what the Lord has done for us.

Give thanks.


Those words penned by Christian singer/songwriter Don Moen always come to my mind during this Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season as I reflect on the many reasons I have to give thanks and be grateful. As Christians, we are called to be a grateful people, and we have much for which we should daily give thanks.

A story on gratitude I found this past week in Christianity Today caught my eye. It was titled "The Blessings of Gratitude: Why Jesus commands us to be thankful." The writer Stan Guthrie reports that with unemployment numbers high, he would have expected people who had jobs would be grateful for their jobs at Thanksgiving. But he notes that a Gallup poll indicated that 75 percent of the workforce was, as he put it, "phoning it in" and 55 percent were emotionally detached or "disengaged" from their work. How sad.

Here at LETU we teach that our work is a holy calling with eternal impact. I believe that. Our goal is to equip ourselves and our students to close the gap between Sundays and Mondays, and to follow Christ and reflect him in our workplaces whether we are typing letters, answering phones, teaching students, raking leaves, or doing any multitude of daily activities. Our work matters to God.

Bill Peel, our executive director for LETU's new Center for Faith and Work, and his wife, Kathy, recently joined us in Longview where Bill spoke to our President's Advisory Council about the initiatives of this new center. If you haven't taken the time to look at the new website for the CFW, I invite you to see it here now.

During Bill's presentation he shared a fun and creative video about Work as Worship that reminds us that when we do our jobs with integrity, excellence and diligence, using the skills that God has given us, then our work is an act of worship. I hope you enjoy it. You can see it here.

On another note, a task force chaired by the Provost's office recently began meeting to discuss LETU's Emergency Response (including notification) and Evacuation Procedures on campus in the event of any crisis. Representatives of the Abbott Center and GAPS are included to address their special concerns. If you have a specific concern you would like addressed, I invite you to share it at letournews@letu.edu.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Impacting Our Local Community

LeTourneau University's participation in the Greater Longview United Way (GLUW) campaign was acknowledged recently by Donna Mahurin, the executive director of the Greater Longview United Way.

She sent her congratulations for our university's participation in this year's United Way campaign, saying:

"What an outstanding United Way campaign you guys had! Thank you so much for your efforts. Your campaign increased by 46% from $5,368 last year to $7,835 this year. Please let the staff and faculty know how much I appreciate their gifts. . . . Again, thanks so much for the excellent participation."

The United Way benefits nonprofits that improve the lives of people right here in Gregg County. One of the agencies that the United Way donations fund is the Boys & Girls Club of Gregg County, a private, nonprofit agency dedicated to youth development for children ages 6 through 18. Most of the youth live in single-parent homes in low-income neighborhoods.

By providing these children with a sense of belonging, understanding, influence and competence, the Boys & Girls Club of Gregg County inspires and enables them to realize their full potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens.

The LETU volleyball team has been volunteering there each week since mid-September. About 10 student-athletes tutor the children on their homework and listen to them read. Our students provide one-to-one or small group interaction that many of the children don't get at home.

There are about 150 children at the Boys & Girls Club of Gregg County on any given day in need of tutoring and mentoring. Our students have said they love working with them, seeing it as an exciting opportunity to serve others. Some of the students go more often than the weekly schedule so they can spend extra time with the children.

Our student-athletes are not the only ones helping at the Boys & Girls Club. Other students from around campus also are volunteering, and our Director of Student Support Services Carlton Mitchell has begun a "Passport to Manhood" series with about a dozen 11- to 14-year-old boys on Thursday nights.

Our students, faculty and staff are investing in the lives of these children, helping them to learn, develop character and leadership, and to build relationships. In the process, they are receiving a blessing in return.

Even as I celebrate our participation in making Longview a better community, my heart is broken for our own university community and the losses we are mourning. We have all been in prayer with Wayne and Karen Jacobs and with Yoni Adonyi and his daughter. It is in these difficult moments that God's love is most evident at LeTourneau University.

Ann Marie Adonyi's funeral is at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 11) at St. Michael's Episcopal Church, 909 Reel Road in Longview. The burial is at White's Cemetery. No visitation is planned. Engineering Dean Dr. Ron DeLap has authorized the cancellation of classes tomorrow afternoon for those engineering faculty members who wish to attend.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Protect Loan Funding for Texas Students

In next week's state election, your vote can help Texas students fund their college education.

On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Texas voters will be asked to vote on 10 proposed changes to the Texas Constitution. One of those amendments is Proposition 3 that I told you about a few weeks ago.

Voting YES on Prop 3 will authorize the issuance of general obligation bonds to generate funding for the Hinson-Hazelwood Loan Program.

This program has given Texas families the option of affordable, fixed-rate student loans for more than 45 years.

The loan program is completely self-supporting and this proposition will cost taxpayers nothing. The debt is not paid with any state resources but by the student borrowers.

Voters have approved a total of $1.86 billion in bonds in seven separate election cycles dating back from 1965 to 2007. In 2007, $500 million in bonds was authorized, of which over half is still unused. In the history of the program, it has never had to use general revenue from the state to pay out the bonds.

This year, Prop 3 provides "evergreen authority" that would allow the student loan program to continue to issue bonds from now on, as long as the amount of outstanding loans doesn't exceed the $1.86 billion that Texas voters have already approved. This "evergreen authority" would save the cost of taxpayer-funded constitutional elections like this one from asking for permission to fund the bonds.

The Hinson-Hazelwood Student Loan Program will provide nearly $69 million in loans to Texans this year. LeTourneau students will receive $463,000 of this assistance. With a 5.25 fixed interest rate, these loans are a good deal for families.

This program is one important tool to families building a plan to pay for tuition. Student loans are one of the primary ways people pay for higher education despite budget cuts that have reduced education spending.

Since the Texas Constitution prohibits the state from taking on debt without an amendment to the constitution, voters must approve a state constitutional amendment to allow additional bond authorization to allow the Hinson-Hazelwood College Student Loan Program to continue to offer low-cost loans to students.

I hope you will make a note on your calendar to vote in favor of Prop 3 on Tuesday. We understand better than most the struggle of challenge of our students to pay for college at a time when federal and state grants are in the decline.

Let's protect this loan program for our students! Thanks for your consideration.

This week, I will be busy meeting with our LETU Board of Trustees who are in town for the board's semi-annual meeting. A ribbon cutting Thursday on the new South Hall and an Open House in our newly renovated Kielhorn Welding and Materials Joining Lab Friday are part of this week's activities.