Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Importance of Intercollegiate Athletics

The American Southwest Conference President's Council is meeting in Dallas today. I'm honored to report that I was selected to serve as Chair of the President's Council for the 2015-16 academic year.  This year is my first of a two-year commitment to serve on the Executive Committee. 

Members of the Council are presidents from the conference schools: Belhaven, Concordia Texas, East Texas Baptist, Hardin-Simmons, Howard Payne, LeTourneau, Louisiana College, Mary Hardin-Baylor, McMurry, Ozarks, Sul Ross State, University of Texas-Dallas, and University of Texas-Tyler.  The University of California-Santa Cruz is an affiliate member in women's golf.
  
The American Southwest Conference (ASC) is an NCAA Division III athletic conference. More than 180,000 student-athletes compete at 450 NCAA Division III institutions across the nation.  Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes who do not receive athletic scholarships and compete in shorter practice and playing seasons than student-athletes at Division I and Division II schools. In addition to serving this year as chair of our conference President's Council, I'm also a member of the NCAA national president's advisory group.
  
The ASC was founded in 1996, and LeTourneau joined the NCAA conference in 1998. Today, the conference is one of the nation's largest Division III conferences, stretching from far west Texas into Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The ASC awards championships in 16 sports and LETU competes in 13 of them. 
  
Today in Dallas the conference presidents are reviewing progress and considering proposed changes in conference rules. 
  
Intercollegiate athletics are important at LETU. More than 200 student-athletes are enrolled. 24 student-athletes were among those who graduated from the university in our May commencement. A member of our men's tennis team, Morgan Weaver, is a mechanical engineering major who was this spring elected student body president. 
  
Our LETU Athletic Director, Terri Deike, is a recognized leader within the NCAA, and the students in her athletic program are consistently earning grade point averages higher than the overall LETU student body. Assistant Athletic Director and Head Coach Robin Harriss led our baseball team to LETU's first NCAA conference tournament championship last year. Our courts and playing fields are among our largest classrooms and our coaches are among our most influential teachers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Celebrating Graduation and the 2014-2015 Academic Year

We just graduated over 300 new professionals Saturday, and this weekend the Enrollment Services and Student Life staff are hosting our first SWARM event for new Fall 2015 students. 

One academic year closes with pomp while the next year gears up with enthusiasm.  It seems there is little time to rest and reflect between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next.

When I did take the luxury of stopping to reflect on 2014-2015, it was easy to list several major advancements for the university:

For the 21st time, LETU was ranked by US News in the top tier of our peer schools: #27 in the Western US region and #13 on their list of "Great Schools at Great Prices."

According to a study conducted by PayScale, LETU is second only to Rice University among Texas independent universities in ROI (return on investment). Is a college degree worth it? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" here where a LETU degree pays great dividends for students in the job market.

This year saw our largest-ever enrollments in a number of important categories:  largest graduate student enrollment, largest international student enrollment, and largest engineering school enrollment in the university's history. These results come from our work the last five years to become a university of global influence and the leading STEM university in Christian higher education.

Enhancements to our campus facilities continued last year. It was the first full year operating our beautiful Anna Lee and Sidney Allen Family Student Center. We opened three new labs for engineering students: the Keck Mobility Lab, the NSF-funded clean room microfabrication lab, and the Maker Lab.  Our new School of Nursing also opened a new nursing skills lab in MSC.

Finally, this last year saw LETU demonstrate servant leadership to East Texas. One of our own, Deena Shelton of Psychology, was named as a "2014 Emerging Leader" in Longview. The number of local high school students concurrently enrolled in LETU classwork grew significantly and our new health sciences partnership with Pine Tree ISD was welcomed enthusiastically. Our Counseling Center continues to reach out into the community with much-needed mental health services.  The Longview Chamber of Commerce flattered me with their 2015 Chairman's Award.

I'm grateful for your dedicated service that the Lord has blessed in the academic year just completed.  Now, on we go to 2015-16!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Celebrating Success

In the next few days at the Lunsford house, we are celebrating Mother's Day, my birthday, and our 30th wedding anniversary.  And for LETU, it's a time to celebrate the successful end of our academic year. 

Students are finishing finals and over 300 are preparing to walk the stage on Saturday to receive their hard-earned and well-deserved diplomas.

We have 145 graduates in the morning ceremony in aviation, arts & sciences, education and nursing and 170 graduates in the afternoon in business and engineering.

We are truly honored to have Ray C. Davis, the principle owner and the co-chairman of the Board of Directors of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team, as our commencement speaker Saturday. 

Originally from New York, Ray graduated from LeTourneau in 1966 with a business degree.  After leading STEMCO here in Longview, he went on to build a distinguished career in the oil and gas industry. 

He was a founder of Energy Transfer in 1995 before taking it public in 2004.  He retired from there in 2007 as co-CEO and co-chair of the board.  Today, Energy Transfer operates 71,000 miles of pipeline.  In addition to leading the Texas Rangers, Ray is now the chairman and CEO of a family-owned diversified investment company called Avatar Investments, L.P.  
He has served on the board of directors of Crosstex Energy and as Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Cornerstone Natural Gas. 

In 1980, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of LeTourneau College and served our school during an important time of transition.

Recognizing his business expertise,  he was appointed to Major League Baseball's Executive Committee in 2015.

I know him as a man who values hard work, integrity, and faith in God.  I pray that is something others will say about every one of our new LETU graduates.