Friday, December 12, 2014

Thoughts on Christmas

Our family Christmas stockings are now hanging on our fireplace mantel at home--a very important fact to my granddaughter who has been concerned because the apartment where she lives has no fireplace. "How will Santa bring gifts without a chimney?, she asked me recently. I assured her that her stocking was hanging at my fireplace, and Santa would find her.

Of course, Santa's entry is important to a five-year-old. As Jesus-followers, we understand that Christmas is most importantly about God's entry into our own world. It is, after all, the "season of advent," God's arrival in the form of baby Jesus.

On a plane this week, I read new historical research about the Star of Bethlehem that guided wise men to the Christ child. In my mind, this "star" has always been a comet or a supernova in a far off galaxy. Some now believe the star was something much more subtle. One researcher makes the case that the star was the planet Jupiter, partially occluded by the moon while in the Aries constellation. Jupiter as the morning star would have been very significant to astrologers of the day -- it would have signaled (albeit subtly) the arrival of royalty.

The magazine article concluded, "Theory suggests wise men saw something big in something little."

I can't evaluate the research, but I like the idea that God often enters our life, not with a supernova, but with a subtle light. The little things can point us to the most eternally important of things.

Don't you see this in relationships with our students? God often uses our small words and small deeds to accomplish big things in their lives.

I hope your stockings are hanging, and you are preparing again to celebrate the arrival of Jesus this Christmas.



Thursday, December 4, 2014

New Maker's Lab for LETU Students & Community

One of the new additions on campus that not everyone might be aware of is the new Maker Lab in the newly renovated Mechanical Engineering Lab. It is in the building next door to the Glaske Center (former location of the Student Life offices).

That 7,000-square-foot building was gutted over the summer and renovated.  It is the new, and much larger, home for the university's wind tunnel. 

The new ME lab building is also the home of our brand new Maker Lab, where our first-year engineering students have room to begin building their 3D printers that they will use throughout their college classes.

But the new Maker Lab is not only benefiting our engineering students.  Engineering professor Dr. Jesse French and his students are reaching out to the community using this new lab space, as well, and making an impact on young lives. 

Jesse and his students recently held a "Maker Lab for Kids" where LETU seniors use their vocational skills and their big hearts to interact with kids from the community who might otherwise never get this opportunity.  Jesse said one of the girls held up a hammer and told him she had always seen them, but never thought she'd get to use one.

These couple of hours and effort can have a great impact on the lives of these children, and could ignite an interest in engineering or technology that they might not have otherwise considered.

This kind of innovative outreach shows our community that we care and gives us the opportunity to share Christ's loves to others.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Blessings of Thanksgiving and Faithful Service

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays of the year. It is a time specifically suited for us to reflect on the innumerable blessings God has provided for us-personally and professionally-and thank Him with grateful heart for those many blessings. 

This week, we took a few moments to acknowledge the faithful service of some of our own who have invested their lives in the work of this university. All totaled together, they have served 195 years as part of the fabric of this university. Their work matters to us, and our work, collectively, matters to God. 

At LeTourneau University, we teach that our work is a holy calling with eternal impact. We teach that there is no great divide between what we do and believe on Sundays and what we do on Monday mornings.   Our goal is to be authentic, to be Christ-followers and reflect Him in our workplaces every day-whether we are typing letters, answering phones, teaching students or performing any number of daily tasks that our individual roles may require. 

The labor of our lives is so much more effective when we join together to do his will. I'm thankful to be part of this work at LETU.

Nearly 200 years of combined service to LeTourneau University was honored Tuesday afternoon at the President's Coffee in the Allen Family Student Center. From left are Rita Courson (40 years) from development, Mary Jackson (40 years) from aviation, Paul Leiffer (35 years) from engineering, Paul Kubricht (40 years) from history/political science and Larry Anderson (40 years) from mathematics.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

LeTourneau Leaders attend Faith@Work Summit

Last weekend more than 200 scholars, business professionals, pastors and ministry leaders gathered in Boston for the Faith@Work Summit. I'm honored that LeTourneau University's Center for Faith and Work was one of the three organizers of this important gathering. 

Along with the Mockler Center at Gordon-Conwell Seminary and the Center for Integrity in Business at Seattle Pacific University, the Boston meeting was an opportunity for a diverse group of leaders to ask where is the faith at work movement today and where is it going tomorrow.

LETU had a sizable group of leaders in attendance. Our founder was honored Friday night as one of the pioneers of the faith at work movement. Our center director Bill Peel was one of the event hosts. It was clear that LeTourneau University was claiming our legacy of leadership in this movement -- calling Christians to live out their Sunday faith on Monday in their workplace.

Also this week, LeTourneau University has published Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work. The updated edition by Bill Peel and Walt Larimore is being published in honor of R.G. LeTourneau's 125th birthday. The book is for Christians seeking to share their faith in a way that honors God and honors our relationships at work. Bill demonstrates that "salt comes before light" in the modern workplace. I hope some of you will use the book in your Lifegroups with students.

On a personal note, Marsha lost her oldest brother this week.  A vicious brain cancer took his life quickly. We are traveling to Oklahoma today, and I covet your prayers. It will be a difficult weekend.  Yet as we mourn, we also are looking ahead to a blessed heavenly reunion with all the dear ones who have gone to eternity ahead of us. These tears serve to remind us that we are not home yet.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scholarship Golf Tournament Raises Money for Students

A large group of community leaders came out Monday for our annual LETU Scholarship Golf tournament at Pinecrest Country Club, organized by our LETU Development Office. It was a beautiful day and all proceeds go to our generous scholarship program for students.

Attracting students from East Texas is really important.  We want to do a better job of that.  I know the perception for many is that local students can't afford to come to LeTourneau.  The reality is that LETU is more affordable than many believe.

To fight this perception, we created our Future of East Texas Grant program to aid the best and brightest young people earn an LETU education and stay here to build their lives and careers.
One key part of economic development is having a strong pool of talented, quality people who make up the workforce.  In Longview, we lag behind some other cities that have a higher number of college graduates than we do locally. So anything we can do to keep these bright local students here will add to our potential to grow and prosper here in East Texas. Everyone benefits.

I thanked the golfers and reminded them the goal was not to just hand out diplomas but instead to equip every student with a quality, relevant education.  We are doing our part to make a LETU education a good investment for students.  US News and World Report ranked us #13 on their list of Great Schools at Great Prices.  Payscale ranked us with the #5 in highest return on investment among Texas schools.  Money Magazine has also included us among their best colleges.  We are working diligently to improve the lives of our students.  That's why it was so rewarding to see the community come out and help fund our financial aid programs.

The Future of East Texas Grant is money that is an additional $4,500 awarded to local students who come to LeTourneau University, commit to their education, live on campus and do those things that make sure they graduate.  This year, about $80,000 in these grants were awarded, on top of other financial aid we offer.   By continuing to fund the FETG, we will change the lives of these students and change the future of East  Texas.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Achievements and Events in the School of Aviation & Aeronautical Science

This weekend, the spotlight is on our School of Aviation and Aeronautical Science.

Our "Sting" Precision Flight Team is hosting the National Intercollegiate Flying Association Region IV SAFECON flight competition Saturday through Wednesday at our Paul and Betty Abbott Aviation Center at East Texas Regional Airport.

This kind of event showcases the great flight program we have, and it's no wonder that largest general aviation advocacy association in the world, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, recently recognized LETU for its high standard of accomplishment in flight training by naming it to the AOPA 2014 Flight Training Excellence Honor Roll.

About seven teams comprising 75 pilots from collegiate flight programs within a five-state region will come to Longview beginning tomorrow to compete in a host of flying and ground events that begin Saturday morning. 

Our ramp at the airport will be parked full of competitor's airplanes throughout the competition, which ends Wednesday with an awards banquet.  The top scoring three flight teams at regionals this week will qualify to compete in national competition in the spring. 

Our students will strive to take the top prize.

A few years ago, LETU hosted a NIFA regional competition, but this will be the first time for our school to host the events in our impressive Abbott Aviation Center. 

This kind of event doesn't just happen.  It takes a lot of planning, organization and coordination.  Our flight team, along with  coach Brad Wooden and our director of flight operations Laura Laster deserve much credit for all the time they have spent to make this a successful event. 

Stebbins Aviation is graciously allowing us to conduct our regular flight operations from its location at the airport while our facility is busy with the competition these next few days.  The East Texas Regional Airport administrators have been very accommodating by allowing our judges to be positioned along the side of the runways for the competition.
 
This event is also a boon to our local economy.  These competitors from around the region will be sleeping in local hotels, eating in local restaurants and buying fuel through local sources.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Taking the long view of Longview

I've just returned from two days in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Greenville, South  Carolina.  A delegation from Longview was there to learn about the great success of that city.

In a strategic position between Atlanta and Charlotte, Greenville-Spartanburg was recently named the 7th best metro area for economic development.

This is the third year the university has helped sponsor such a trip, working with the Longview Chamber of Commerce. We have also visited Chattanooga, Tenn.,  and Fort Collins, Colo.   My hope is that these intercity visits spark new ideas and cultivate a sense of vision among city leaders that results in a brighter future for
Longview.

In short, the trips give us opportunity to take the long view of Longview.

Here's one difference you quickly note between Longview and Greenville: educational attainment. Thirty-seven percent of adults in Greenville have a bachelor's degree or more. Only 20 percent of Longview citizens have attained such an education.

Given the difference in educational attainment, I wasn't surprised to see the difference in household income.

Greenville households have significantly higher incomes than in Longview.

Earning a college degree does matter.  I was the first in my family to go to a university and earn a degree. It has changed everything for me.

How can we serve our community?  We can help make a way for our Longview neighbors who seek a college education.  It means being more accommodating for working students and those transferring from junior  colleges. In doing so, we can make a real difference.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Celebrating Christian Higher Education Month

October is Christian Higher Education Month.

In 2003, the 108th Congress passed a resolution recognizing the outstanding contributions of the more than 1,000 Christian colleges and universities that have benefited our nation since the first was established in 1636. 

The resolution applauds Christian colleges and universities for making "their distinction the intentional relationship of scholarship and service to biblical truth," and adding to the "rich diversity of higher education."  The resolution also notes that "the Nation benefits for generations from those who choose intentionally Christ-centered higher education campuses to prepare themselves for every field including science, business, education, government, medicine, the arts, and in volunteer community service." 

When the resolution was passed 11 years ago, 125 Christian Colleges and universities were members or affiliates of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) enrolling more than 200,000 students and employing more than 15,000 faculty. 

Today the CCCU has over 175 Christian colleges and universities serving over 400,000 students and employing nearly 30,000 faculty. Alumni of Christian colleges and universities number more than 1.8 million.  See infographic.

All of tomorrow's leaders are on a college campus today. When these future leaders have the opportunity to study at a Christian college, our nation benefits. Therefore, it is only appropriate for the U.S. to celebrate Christian higher education.

Let's celebrate too!  October is a good month to remind your friends that Christian higher education is needed now more than ever.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Saying Goodbye to Margaret Estes Davis

LeTourneau University said goodbye to a dear friend Tuesday. We were honored to host the funeral on campus.

Margaret Estes Davis, 96, died in a Dallas hospital last week after a lifetime of leadership, service to others and passion for education.

Margaret was an eye-witness to the founding of LeTourneau University.  In 1945, her husband Carl Estes brought R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau to Longview in hopes they would build a manufacturing facility creating good jobs in post war Longview.  When God revealed a vision for the transformation of Harmon Army Hospital into a technical school to train returning veterans, Margaret was there, and with her death an era in our university's history has closed.

In 1967, she became the first female trustee of the school who was not a member of the LeTourneau family.  She served on our Board through the 1970s.

When LeTourneau College needed to build a library in 1971, Margaret used her  considerable influence as publisher of the Longview News-Journal to encourage the community to support it, and today, the Margaret Estes Library and Learning Resource Center bears her name.

When the school needed a new science and engineering building, she was again in a leadership role, having donated her 500-acre ranch just south on Estes Parkway to the university to help with its funding.  Today, the Glaske Center is home to our largest-ever enrollment in engineering, science and technology. 

College trustee, newspaper publisher, and rancher:  Margaret was a woman who got things done.  When the university opened a new residence hall in 2005, it was dedicated in  her honor as the Margaret Davis Residence Hall.  She was heralded as a "pioneer among women in leadership."  That she clearly was.

When the university needed a new chapel and performance center, she led again, by providing one of the initial gifts toward the S. E. Belcher Jr. Chapel and Performance Center, which serves students and the community.  I know she was most proud of the Belcher Center because it brought together her passions for LeTourneau students, the Longview community and the arts

Margaret's love for Longview and for LeTourneau University is enduring. We didn't say goodbye Tuesday.  Instead werecommitted ourselves to telling future generations the story of this pioneer among women in leadership. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Enrollment & Retention Numbers Rise for 2014-2015 Academic Year

Fall 2014 enrollment numbers became official last week, and we have much to celebrate!

On-campus Longview enrollment is up 2.4% from Fall 2013 census date.  Dr.  Cruse and his crew in enrollment services, as well as many faculty and staff across campus, put together a great plan and executed it well.

Within that overall result, several points jump out for us to celebrate.

The number of new freshmen students is up 7% from last year, and more of them are coming from within Texas, and more specifically from East Texas, as we work to spread the word that LETU is a school they should consider. 

More students are living in our residence halls and apartments this year: a 3.6% increase over last year.

Retention was remarkable this fall!  83% of Fall 2013 freshmen students returned for Fall 2014, our best number ever!  Dr. Coyle tells me this puts our retention performance among the top 10% of all universities in the nation! 

Our dual credit enrollment is also a record, up 71% from last year, with 178 high school students seeking dual enrollment credits.  This trend is due to great partnerships with local area high schools, including Hallsville and Longview.  Some of these local students will become future fulltime LETU freshmen.

An increase in our international student enrollment marked a record this fall with 118 international students from over 40 countries including India, Nigeria, Japan, China, Spain, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Netherlands, South Korea, and numerous other points all over the world.   

New student enrollment in our global campus programs was at its highest level in 6 years, with 463 new starts reported in the 2014 census. 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Is Your Attitude Contagious?

I read recently about "mirror neurons" while preparing for a talk I had been asked to give on leadership. Do you know of this from neurology research? It explains why we yawn when we see someone else yawn (See that research here.)

It may also explain that our emotions and attitudes are contagious too. That's something to think about as we encounter each other and our students many times a day.

One well known hotel chain understands this. They developed what they call a "10/5 policy." When a hotel staff member passes within 10 feet of a guest, they are to make eye contact and smile. When a hotel staff member passes within 5 feet of a guest, they are to smile and say hello.

t may sound trivial, but when a large hospital system implemented the same policy, they experienced an increase in employee and patient satisfaction; even an increase in health outcomes.

I heard it again recently: visitors always find LETU a friendly place. I pray our good natures will continue to be contagious to all we meet.

On another note, many of you know that my administrative assistant Vanessa Hutchinson resigned recently to move to Houston. She was a great asset to me for six years and is missed each day. Today I'm happy to report that Denise Bailey has a greed to become the new Administrative Assistant to the President.

Denise has been at LETU nearly 10 years and currently serves as assistant to Dean Matthew Henry. She'll start in the Office of the President on Monday, Sept. 8, and will be a great asset to the university. I know Denise's good attitude is contagious to all around her.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Returning to Campus at LETU

College campuses have always been special places to me. As I returned to our campus Monday,  that familiar sense of appreciation for the campus flooded over me.   I'm happy to be back.

I am grateful to Dr. Coyle for his leadership in my absence. He and Mike Hood are valuable assets to LETU and friends to me, personally. I'm excited to be back working alongside them daily.

Although just back, I'm already traveling again. Today I'm in Indianapolis at the offices of the NCAA. I have been appointed to the President's Advisory Council for NCAA's Division III. My first meeting with this group is today.

LETU is proud to be a member of the NCAA. Our own Athletic Director Terri Deike has already been serving on an important NCAA national committee. Just this summer, LETU's baseball team earned our first NCAA post-season appearance in a team sport. Our student athletes in golf and cross country in the past have also competed in NCAA championships.

NCAA is so much more than the "big football schools" seen most often in the news. Most NCAA campuses are like LETU -- places where amateur sport is still the goal and 'student' is still the most important part of being a 'student athlete.'  I've come to understand our courts and sports fields are our biggest classrooms on campus.  When done correctly, intercollegiate athletics yields valuable learning outcomes for our students. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Meeting with Leadership Longview

Does the name John Wooden mean anything to you?  He was the only man elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.  He did something that will likely never be repeated:  as coach of UCLA, he won seven consecutive national championships in men's basketball. 

Can you imagine completing your "March Madness brackets" predicting one school to win the championship seven years in a row!  John Wooden's teams did it.

When Leadership Longview met on our campus today and asked me to speak, I was eager to share the leadership wisdom of Coach Wooden who died in 2010 at the age of 99.  He is a hero of mine:  A humble Christian who only wanted to be remembered as a teacher.

In his Pyramid of Success, Wooden described the two cornerstones of success as industriousness and enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is a joy in your work that ignites the willingness to work hard in a reaction of energy that makes the pursuit of success possible.  Think about it:  these were the traits of our university founder.  We all know those around us who love coming to work each day and never fear working hard.  I have seen that on display in the opening of the new Allen Family Student Center.  I'm so thankful for how our staff came together to open the facility early so our students could enjoy it before they leave for summer.  It was amazing!

I left the group today with one of my favorite quotes attributed to Coach Wooden: "Early on I came to believe that you should learn as if you were going to live forever, and live as if you were going to die tomorrow."  He always said to keep learning especially after you had decided you already knew it all.  That's wisdom that goes beyond the basketball court to all of us in the daily pursuit of success.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Opening the New Student Center

The new Anna Lee and Sidney Allen Family Student Center ribbon cutting Monday was a historic day for LeTourneau University and a day of reflection for me.  

We were blessed with good weather and smart planning so that construction on the building was completed three months ahead of schedule, which gave us the opportunity to open it up in time for our current seniors to enjoy the building before they graduate in May.

The focus this week has been creating opportunity for all to "see" the new building. And it was fun to watch the students get their first look.

The buzz of energy was evident as the students explored the building for the first time, with the aid of student tour guides and creative "passports" they had stamped in 10 locations around the building as a way to familiarize themselves with all the amenities in the building. Those passports turned into entry forms for lucky prize drawing winners.   
   
But just as important is what the students do not see as they enjoy the center. They won't see the university's leaders who more than 20 years ago planned and prayed for a campus community facility like this. They won't see the student leaders who have already graduated who were involved from the beginning in designing what a unique LETU Student Center should be. This week we miss seeing the hundreds of alumni and friends who made financial sacrifices so that this building could be built. Invisible this week are the men and women who toiled to pour four million pounds of concrete foundation and on top of that build 60,000 square feet of structure. And, of course, we can't see what God will do with this building.  

As Christ followers, we understand that what we can see is often beautiful, but what is unseen is even more inspiring.
 
My higher education career is approaching 30 years and I've had the pleasure to be part of several new building dedications. It's a special experience here at LETU because I'm surrounded by those who see God at work in every brick, glass wall and fiber cable.  

What is seen is beautiful. What is unseen is our eternal joy.

I walked through the building late last night, and the Allen Family Student Center has already become a new "home away from home" for our students to gather, spend time together and build lasting relationships as they grow and learn here at LeTourneau University. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to see the new building, you should plan to come over and tour it for yourself. You will see how it is already making a huge impact on the quality of life of our students.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Beginning the Accreditation Reaffirmation Process

Our 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) is coming up in the next few years, and work is getting started now. 

As a peer-reviewed process that confirms quality of the education our students receive, the accreditation process is vital to the future of LeTourneau University. 

It is a labor and time-intensive project, but one that affords us the opportunity to review and refine what we do and improve how we do it, as well as giving us opportunity to share the successes of the things God has done and is doing at LETU.
 
The reaffirmation process is focused on demonstrating that we as a university comply with the Principles of Accreditation: Foundations for Quality Enhancement updated in 2012 and found on the SACS website.  The principles provide guidance to universities regarding standards colleges must meet concerning education, governance, faculty, support services, and library, physical and financial resources.

I have commissioned a Reaffirmation Team to conduct an internal audit on our ability to document compliance to these principles. Dr. Stephanie Kirschmann, John Lommel, and Dr. Pam Johnson will be leading our reaffirmation efforts. They began work in February.  Lommel has begun meeting with all of the departments concerning areas that specifically need to be mindful of compliance. Our onsite visit from SACS will occur in Spring 2016, with our 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation decision expected in December 2016.  A detailed timeline can be found on our website.

Assuring that we are accomplishing our mission is key to the reaffirmation process.  As a result, we will be reviewing our mission statement as a part of this work. It's the beginning of the process of updating our strategic plan as our current plan was meant to guide us to 2015. 

Much of this process focuses on institutional improvement, which will require that we develop a Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) that focuses specifically on how we can improve the education and learning experience of our students.  As a Christ-centered university, we want to do and be the best that we can be, to the glory of God.

Over the next several months, we will be gathering broad-based input from our constituencies-including students, faculty staff and alumni-with our LETU Teaching Faculty Organization leading the development of potential QEP plans.  Several topics will be considered and one will be selected by the President's Cabinet  in February 2015.  The full plan will then be developed and we will submit it to the onsite team as early as October 2015.  It will be a key portion of our onsite SACS review in Spring of 2016.  The implementation timeline will be driven by the topic selected, but is likely to begin in Fall of 2016.

The QEP and SACSCOC reaffirmation of accreditation cause us to reflect, review policies, identify weaknesses and determine action steps for the future to sharpen us as a university.

Friday, February 28, 2014

LeTourneau Aviation Art Show

Did you notice how our university reached out to touch the community this past week? In transforming our Abbott Center into an art gallery and demonstrating the compatibility of faith and science, LETU enriched the culture of East Texas.

Our students, faculty and staff have been showcasing some pretty impressive artistic talent this week during the 2nd annual Aviation Art Show at the Abbott Aviation Center.

Doubling in size from last year, more than 60 entries include media ranging from detailed penciled and shaded drawings of airplanes, to paintings and photographs so spectacular they seem three-dimensional. 

For a school that has its roots as a technical school, it is great to see this artistic expression from our students who have a passion for aviation. Kudos go to Phil Rispin and Molly Norwood for their work in making it all happen, and to Dean Fred Ritchey for his support of the art show.

The Longview News-Journal wrote a nice feature that appeared  in Monday's paper. You can see that here in case you missed it.  CBS 19 also came out Tuesday to help promote the event, and you can see that story here

Judging of the artwork takes place until noon on Friday, so if you get a chance to go by there, be sure to vote. 

Kudos also are well deserved by LETU faculty and organizers who were involved in the recent creation and evolution panel discussion following the Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate. LETU faculty Wilson Cunha from theology and Karen Rispin from biology were joined by ETBU theology professor J. Warren Johnson to make up the panel discussion, which was moderated by Matthew Henry, our dean of innovative education. Organizers Gary DeBoer and Steve Ball were integral in getting the word out to make the event a great success. Kudos are also due to Dean Dr. Larry Frazier for his support. If you missed the media coverage you can read about it in the Longview News Journal or watch the story on KLTV.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Celebrating Engineers Week

This week of Feb. 16-22 is Engineers Week, a national event celebrating the engineering profession.

E- Week is a time to celebrate how engineers make a difference in our world. The focus on engineering helps increase public dialogue about engineering and the need for highly qualified engineers like those who graduate from LeTourneau University. The national focus also helps bring engineering to life for kids, parents and educators, as professional engineering groups offer scholarships to area students planning to pursue a degree in engineering.

In celebration of E-Week, LETU hosted the 53rd annual E-Week Banquet on our campus Tuesday night in the Solheim Arena.  About 200 professional engineers and engineering students attended.

I had the honor of introducing the banquet speaker, PING Golf CEO John Solheim.  As a young man, John chose to come to LeTourneau to study engineering.  He didn't stay long, however, because of the exciting prospect of working with his father on a revolutionary new golf putter. John has remained a leader in the LeTourneau Nation serving on our Board of Trustees since 1992.  His leadership at PING is a wonderful example for our students. He places an emphasis on engineering innovations, a respect for the game of golf, and a humility that can only come from an understanding of God's providence. 

Banquet Speaker John Solheim
John told the history of PING Golf and about how his father, Karsten Solheim, gleaned from each work experience the tools he needed to build his own business.

John shared that his father learned valuable lessons in quality and marketing from each of even his most early jobs, from working in a shoe shop to selling cookware door-to-door. He learned how customers viewed a low price as cheaper quality.  He learned about how to make sales one customer at a time. He later worked as an engineer at General Electric when he began making putters from his garage in 1959.

He knew about working with his hands, applying sales experience and retaining quality in mass production. 

Through each work experience and transition, no matter how humble, the Lord was preparing him for the future.

John also shared that last week was a particularly good week for PING, with Bubba Watson in the PGA, Kirk Triplett on the Seniors Tour and Karrie Webb won the LPGA Australian Open - all winning their tournaments with PING Clubs. 

Our world-class engineering program here at LETU is a direct result of the love for engineering of our university founder, R.G. LeTourneau, and his dedication to improving the world through the engineering profession. John Solheim is an inspiring example of Mr. LeTourneau's legacy. It is a privilege to carry on his vision and to celebrate engineering this week as we seek to claim every workplace in every nation for Christ.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Growing our Student Body: Local and International

LeTourneau enrolls students from all 50 states and more than 30 nations, and this week, some of our international students were featured in the local newspaper and on local television news about what they love about LETU.

We are exceptional in that we are truly a global university. While we intend to continue to grow that number, we also want more East Texas students to experience the same quality education that draws students from thousands of miles around the globe.

We know that the future of East Texas is in the dreams of our children. We also understand that a residential college experience offers a unique preparation for a life of professional  competence and Christlike character.

Therefore, we recently announced a new grant to help make a LeTourneau residential college experience more accessible for local East Texas students.

Our new "Future of East Texas" grant provides up to $4,500 per year, renewable for up to four years totaling $18,000, in additional tuition assistance for local East Texas students who want the residential college experience.

This new grant brings a quality LETU education within reach for many of our neighbors.

The grant applies to every residence hall on campus and is available only to first-time college students enrolling Fall 2014 whose home address falls within specific zip codes that include Longview, Tyler, Kilgore, Hallsville, Whitehouse, Lindale and other local cities. A list of zip codes and other information can be found on our website.

Designed specifically for students who plan to seek degrees offered in our School of Aeronautical Science, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Business or School of Education, this grant requires students to maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average and remain a residential student in one of the eligible programs. Students who meet eligibility requirements are expected to write a brief essay on "How my dreams will make the future of East Texas brighter."

A limited number of grants are available.

You may know students in your neighborhood or in your church who would benefit from knowing about this grant. You can direct them to www.letu.edu/easttxgrant or have them call our Admissions Office at (903) 233-4300. I encourage you to tell them about it.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Plans for a Sabbatical

On April 21, 2014 Marsha and I will begin a three-month sabbatical leave. By then we will have completed a busy seven years at LETU and the timing is right for a short season of rest and reflection.  We're thankful for the Board's gift of this leave and grateful for the capable campus leadership team that makes it possible for us to be away.

We're healthy. We're happy. We're hopeful about the future of the university and our opportunity to serve here for years to come.
 
We also know it is time for renewal. We know God created us for both work and for rest. Rest prepares one for the work of life and meaningful rest in the presidency is only possible with an extended time away from the daily activities of engaging with the LeTourneau Nation in Longview and beyond.

I'm eager to reconnect. This leave affords an opportunity to spend quality time with Marsha. We'll start our 30th year of marriage in May and during this time at LETU our girls have grown into women -- finished high school then college and started their own lives. We've become grandparents! It's a good time to reflect on how our lives have changed and what is ahead. And this leave provides an opportunity to reconnect with God and better sense the presence of His Holy Spirit. I've learned the still, small voice can be often lost in my daily schedule.  I'm praying for God to renew my call, purpose and identity in Him while we're away. 

Next year we will begin the work of updating our university strategic plan to direct us to 2020. I'm certain this planned rest for my body, mind and soul will equip me to identify our opportunities, define our challenges, and pursue God's direction for us. God has assembled many exceptional and faithful folk here at LETU during the last seven years. He has given us a compelling vision for Christ in the workplace. He has provided for us during the worst economic crisis in a generation. We've not chosen Him. He has chosen us. And I'm excited to prepare myself to be part of what's next for LETU.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Remembering a friend: Earl Roberts, Jr.

When former Longview mayor Earl Roberts, Jr. died of cancer Jan. 2, both the city and LeTourneau University lost a dear and great friend.

A native of Longview, Earl loved his hometown and served it with distinction. He served as Longview's city attorney for over two decades, then served as mayor of Longview from 2000 to 2003.

Earl understood that Longview would grow only if the quality of life was attractive. In July, he was named by the city council to lead the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, a group of 25 Longview residents that has been charged to develop a long-range plan to steer the city through the next two decades. I was proud to be included in that committee and looked forward to working with Earl. 

As a friend of LeTourneau, Earl was first elected to the board of trustees at LeTourneau College in 1967. On his candidate information form, Earl wrote, "Jesus became my savior at age 7, and since that time, He has been the center of my life; I am striving to become more like Him."

Later, in a letter he wrote in the fall of 1981 to Dr. Richard H. LeTourneau, then-LeTourneau College president, Earl wrote, "I believe it would be safe to say that only the Sunday School class which I teach has given me greater satisfaction in furthering the Lord's work than my service as a member of the Board of Trustees of LeTourneau College."

He served LeTourneau College, and then LeTourneau University, faithfully for many years, rotating off and on the board throughout the years.  In 2007, when I came to LETU as president, Earl was elected as a board member emeritus. His service to the school never ended. In 2012, he and his wife, Betty, created the Earl Roberts Endowed Scholarship Fund. From 1967 to 2013 - what a marathon of service to our university! Earl, you will be missed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

LETU Earns Grants for Mobility Research

Over the Christmas break, LeTourneau University got some great news!

Thanks to the work of our faculty and staff, the university was informed that the W. M. Keck Foundation has awarded a $250,000 grant for an interdisciplinary mobility lab (IML) on our campus.

The lab will have a focus on international mobility research in an undergraduate setting. Implementation will include a three-way collaboration involving faculty and students in three disciplines: biology, engineering and kinesiology.

This lab will be used by undergraduate students in Karen Rispin's Wheels project, Norm Reese's Frontier Wheelchairs project, as well as kinesiology students working with Duane Trogdon in human mobility research. Kudos are due to these faculty members and our Office of Sponsored Programs Director Paul Boggs and his assistant Margaret Lister, who provided logistical and other support for the grant proposal. We appreciate their work and especially the generosity of the Keck Foundation.

The world-class equipment provided by the Keck Foundation will enable LETU undergrads and faculty using the IML to collect gold-standard research data that will advance the state of knowledge in assistive technology. Their work could also open doors for future funding opportunities.

About the W.M. Keck Foundation: Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W. M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The Foundation's grant making is focused primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical, science and engineering research. The Foundation also maintains an undergraduate education program that promotes distinctive learning and research experiences for students in the sciences and in the liberal arts, and a Southern California Grant Program that provides support for the Los Angeles community, with a special emphasis on children and youth from low-income families, special needs populations and safety-net services.  For more information, please visitwww.wmkeck.org.