Thursday, December 22, 2011

Graduates of Global Influence

I just returned from Houston where more than 50 graduates received their diplomas Saturday in a ceremony held at Sagemont Church on the southern edge of Houston.

Our Provost, Dr. Philip Coyle, gave a thoughtful reminder of God's love in his address as our commencement speaker. Carol Green and the GAPS team did their usual outstanding work to stage the celebration. The joy of achievement for these graduates and their families was evident in the smiles and hugs. At these events, like the one in Houston and the one the week prior in Longview, I enjoy getting to meet and hear from some of our graduates.  

One especially reminded me that LeTourneau University is a global university. Kristi Sparkman is a missionary in the Middle East where she has served the Bedouin people for the past three years. She completed her LETU course work online from across the globe, where sometimes the Internet was a little spotty, where power outages were common and there were threats of war that required her to leave her village. But despite the many difficulties, she persevered and was able to get her assignments in on time amid the chaos.

She said God had placed the need for more education on her heart. She said she was able to use the information she was learning from her classes at LETU to help the Bedouin people. Now she gives God the credit for her Bachelor of Business Management degree with a leadership minor. Her return from overseas for her graduation ceremony in Longview impressed me again of the importance of our graduates serving in every workplace in every nation. You can see a short video interview with her here.  

Our strategic goal is to be a university of global influence and Kristi reminds us we are becoming just that.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Celebrating the Season

Last week's university wide Christmas party was a great time to get together as a university family. Many of you witnessed my "musical debut" on the cell phone jingle bells app, (pictured at left) along with the rest of the band, from left, featuring webmaster Mark Roedel on bass, Chaplain Dr. Harold Carl and Dr. Karl Payton on guitars, adjunct professors Wray Boyd on harmonica and Ruth Hathaway on fiddle.

At the party, Dr. Bill Graff and I compared our festive Christmas ties (at right). Many of you know he is renowned for his extensive collection of ties. It was a pleasure to take some time Friday to celebrate together.

As I have mentioned before, I often read the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture. In one of his columns this week, Jim Denison reflected on Mary, the mother of Jesus, when he wrote:

The Jewish people taught their daughters to pray every night that they might be chosen to be the mother of the Messiah. Everyone assumed, however, that this great honor would be bestowed on a daughter of the high priest or someone else of great status. Meanwhile, a peasant teenage girl was living in a town so tiny it's not mentioned even once in the Old Testament.The angel Gabriel announced to her great shock that she would be the mother of "the Son of the Most High" (Luke 1:32).

Mary would risk her marriage and even her life if she accepted this calling. Nonetheless, she chose to say, "I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me as you have said" (v. 38). She would later testify, "From now on all generations will call me blessed" (v. 48). And she was right.

The story of Mary's courage and faith inspires me as we take time to focus on the birth of our Messiah during this time of year. While today we recognize that Christmas means making memories and spending precious time with family and friends, it also is a time to remember that God can do eternal things with people who are committed and submitted to Him.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Teaching to Learn

As the fall term rushes to completion, I'm looking ahead to Spring 2012. I've asked our university leaders to teach next semester and I'm leading Marketing Research, a required course for marketing majors in the School of Business.

In most of my 25 years in higher education, I've taught both undergraduate and graduate courses including the teaching of Marketing Research many times. However, this will be my first time to teach marketing at LeTourneau and so I am excited. It will be a new venue to interact with our students and I'm sure it will be beneficial for all those who serve on the President's Cabinet.

In thinking about how this course would be different at LETU than at other universities where I've taught, I came upon a lecture given recently at Baylor University by University of Virginia economics professor Kenneth Elzinga. In considering the differences between Christian and secular higher education, he said,

"I would expect Christian higher education to be characterized by professors who mentor students; not just teach them chemistry and accounting, not just teach them biology and Spanish, but model out for them how to walk with Jesus. Not because these faculty members have mastered how to do this, but simply because they've been pilgrims longer, because they have more experience with the consequences of sin and redemption."

Well said! This is a real distinctive of LETU: a faculty who take an active role in mentoring their students. Disciple-making happens simultaneously with higher learning. In fact, the lessons on following Christ may linger long after the learning objectives of the syllabus have been forgotten. It's an important reminder for me: answering Christ's Great Commission to make disciples should be my most important objective in teaching next semester.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Founder's Day

This week we commemorated the 123rd anniversary of the birth of our founder, Mr. R.G. LeTourneau. It was a treat to hear longtime LETU instructor Roger Carr speak in chapel about the legacy of "Mom and Pop" LeTourneau. Roger mentioned in chapel that one of those legacies is Mr. LeTourneau's 299 patents, second only to Thomas Edison. To mark this anniversary, I would like to share these words written by R.G. LeTourneau in 1968:

"I've always said when people ask me about the inventions I've come up with, that anything I've been able to do I credit to God who gave me my mind. Man's mind is marvelous in its accomplishments, but the human mind falls way short when we try to imagine or understand the goodness of God, His love for us, or His plans for our future. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.' Man can't comprehend such wonders with his natural mind - can't imagine it - but the next verse says, 'But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.' So if you want to enter into the wonders of God, don't try to do it with man's natural mind, but accept God's Son as your Savior and let the Holy Spirit show you the wonders of a life in God, both for now and for eternity."