Thursday, October 27, 2011

Welcome Our Trustees

The end of October and beginning of November are some of the busiest weeks for me and the president's office as preparations are under way for the semi-annual meeting of our Board of Trustees, who will be here Wednesday through Friday of next week.

Of course, many of you are also involved with preparing for the Trustees. Whether you've constructed a graph for the board report, planted beautiful fall flowers on campus or are planning to open your class for a visiting Trustee, please accept my thanks.

For those who are new to the LETU Nation, our board consists of 26 voting members, besides me. These are men and women who want to serve the God they love and who believe in our mission as a Christ-centered university to graduate competent professionals who will be ambassadors for Christ in their workplaces.

During their visit next week, board members will have their first opportunity to tour the new South Hall when we have a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and they will be on hand for the dedication and Open House for the newly completed renovations to the Kielhorn Materials Joining/Welding Engineering lab.

We have a few new trustees coming on board. Wednesday will include a new orientation for them. Robin Guyer from Illinois and Jim Brake from Connecticut are attending their first board meeting.

I will be traveling over this coming weekend to talk about the good things happening here. When I get back, Marsha and I will host about 30 Student Senators and Student Government officers in our home Sunday evening. We are starting the Thanksgiving season early with a dinner of turkey and dressing for the students!

Our students are seeking candy donations this week for the Trick or Treat on College Street outreach Monday, Oct. 31. This annual event gives our students opportunity to provide neighborhood children a safe alternative to Halloween activities, and gives students an opportunity to provide free Bibles in both English and in Spanish to many of our local neighbors.

Tuesday night is opening night of STOMP! I will host a dinner for a number of special guests on opening night. Cynthia Hellen most always arranges for our guests to meet the performers prior to the show.

Thanks again for your warm welcome to our Trustees, our Belcher audiences and all the guests God brings to our campus.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Egg Salad Sandwich Conversations

Each day I start with an email devotional thought from Dr. Jim Denison, the founder of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture and the former pastor of the Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas.

Denison recently wrote a column about what he remembers as the "egg salad sandwich from God." In it, he recalled being an insecure freshman at Houston Baptist University with a sense of God's calling on his life but no tangible idea of where his life was going. In the middle of eating an egg salad sandwich at lunch, one of the HBU professors sat down next to him. An informal conversation became a lifelong relationship. Denison now refers to that late professor, Dr. A.O. Collins, as his "spiritual father."

God has placed you at LETU so that you might become someone's spiritual father or mother. It has happened here on this campus for years, and I needed this reminder that divine appointments continue today.

Our insightful new Provost, Dr. Coyle, is leading a new conversation on how we can be more intentional about improving the success of our students. Too many LETU freshmen don't return for their sophomore year. Too many sophomores don't return for their junior year. Too many of our students never complete their degree programs.

No one, single reason exists why students don't succeed at LETU, but our hearts should be broken for each one who arrives full of future dreams, yet leaves without success. I'm committing myself to take time for more "egg salad sandwich conversations." I invite you to do so as well.

Denison wisely observes, "You cannot know the future significance of present faithfulness."

Thank you for your faithful investment in the success of our students at LETU.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Living at the Crossroads of the Faithful & the Professional

Thursday night I'm in Pennsylvania for our annual LeTourneau University banquet at Willow Valley. Our university has a rich heritage of support from Pennsylvania. A notable example is the John and Florence Thomas family.

John and Florence Thomas shared 61 years together, working side by side to start a mission church, teach Sunday school and develop their family business, one that started with selling vegetables and feeding helpers with a spirit of hospitality in 1943.

In 1966, they opened a motel and added a restaurant that grew into an enterprise known as Willow Valley which expanded to include hotels, restaurants, a golf course, homes and apartments, retirement communities and a premier resort and conference center. They believed in LeTourneau University and were long-time donors, with John serving on the LeTourneau Board of Trustees. Florence died in 2002, John in 2006. Thomas Hall on our LETU campus was named in their honor when it opened in November 2002.

The Thomas story is one of living out one's Christian faith in one's professional life. The food and hospitality industry is a great place to demonstrate God's love for employees, guests and customers.

And while I know "Breakfast with Fred" was last week, I feel I must share some of the great comments I received from some of our guests. Let their words remind us again that God has created a special place here at LETU and from here we can bless so many others.

J.L. Jackson (retired president of Diamond Shamrock) said: "What impressed me most about the university was the open Christian atmosphere and the level of Christian commitment, not only of the faculty and staff, but of the students too."

Dr. JoyLynn Hailey Reed (UT-Dallas Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) said: "It was such a blessing to be on your campus - everyone made us feel so at home! I have been on so many university campuses but LETU was the most special of all. God is certainly present and at work in a huge way."

Brenda Smith (CEO, BWF Project) said: "I don't believe we have ever been on a campus that was so clearly and distinctly Christo-centric. What a blessing."

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seeing God's Blessings in Adversity

During our Breakfast With Fred event on campus yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit individually with some of the mentors who came to our campus to share their insights and experience with our students. They were compelled by a calling to give back to our students some of the godly wisdom and benefits they had gained from being mentored by others.

One of the BWF mentors I met was Ron Glosser. After a successful 30-year banking career in Ohio, Glosser moved to Pennsylvania at the age of 56 and began to head up the Hershey Trust. Yes, that is the same Hershey name you've seen on chocolate candy bars.

When Mr. Hershey died, he left his entire fortune to a trust to help underprivileged children. That trust today is estimated at over $7 billion and supports a boarding school for about 1,500 children from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade who come from broken homes, living in poverty. The school changes lives.

Glosser, who is now retired, said he prays every day that God will bring into his path people who need a touch from God and that he can be that encouragement to them. He spoke of every job as being a mission field. His philosophy mirrors that of our own university, to claim every workplace in every nation for Christ.

Glosser shared that every job has challenges. He told of going through a time in the banking industry when he was very discouraged and suffered several sleepless nights. One night he got up and was praying about all the things he was going through when he felt God encouraging him to write down all his blessings. He argued with God, but dutifully began listing them on paper. Three hours passed before he finished the exercise. He then realized that here he had sat, imploring the Sovereign of the universe to eliminate all the mountains he was faced with, then realized that a trade-off could mean giving up that list of blessings.

He said his prayer changed from "God get me out of it," to "God, what do you want me to get out of it?" He began to see God's blessings, even in adversity.