Thursday, March 29, 2012

Faith & Fanciful Footwork

As a large organization, LETU makes a significant economic impact in East Texas. However, I believe an even bigger impact is made by the servant leadership of our staff and students. Take Melanie Roudkovski, Pat Mays and Jeninne McNeill for example. They serve on the board of directors of East Texas CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. CASA volunteers are adults in the community who are trained to be advocates in court for abused and neglected children facing foster care placements. For more information on East Texas CASA, see their website:

With respect for the sacrifices Melanie, Pat and Jeninne were making at CASA, I had to say 'yes' when they invited me to be a 'celebrity dancer' in an upcoming fundraiser. This has required me to step outside my comfort zone and learn something about ballroom dance.

Here are a few lessons I've learned from ballroom dance:

  • Dancers keep their eyes in a window as they move around the floor. No, real ballroom dancers don't get lost in the eyes of their partners. Instead, they are fixed on a window over their partner's shoulder that allows them to move without bumping into others.  
  • While the feet and even the arms may be moving quickly, the core of the body remains steady and strong. 
  • The audience wants to see a big smile even more than fancy footwork.

Perhaps I shouldn't be searching for life lessons in this new experience for me, but the above does seem to ring true of the dance floor as well.  

We are all more resilient when we keep our eyes looking ahead rather than at the ground below us. We can't afford to stop thinking about where we are going. Especially when things are moving quickly around us, we need a stable center, a core of values that we know to be true. This is one of the most wonderful parts of our Christian walk: the knowledge that real truth exists and that our Christ holds all things together. Finally, I've been reminded that a smile goes a long way in reaching out to those around us.

The CASA event Saturday night is a sellout, which means much money is being raised to support abused and neglected children in East Texas. I will really need to smile BIG, because my footwork will be far from fanciful.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Professionals of Ingenuity and Christlike Character

Last week, Marsha and I spent several days with LETU friends in San Antonio and Austin. I really enjoyed sharing dinner with LETU alumna Amy Davis. When Amy came to LETU in 2002 as a freshman from Boerne, Texas, she had plans to be an engineer but credits LETU with helping her find her true calling in the legal profession.

After earning her undergraduate degree in history and political science from LETU and serving as LETU student body president, she earned her law degree from the University of Texas in 2010, where she was editor in chief of the Texas Review of Law and Politics. Today she is an attorney with Cox Smith Matthews in San Antonio.

Amy talked to a group of LETU friends about how much she valued her LETU education. She talked of the encouraging mentoring of professor Paul Kubricht who opened her eyes to law school. She reported how well prepared she was for law school. Extensive research papers and oral presentations required of her at LETU gave her an advantage over other new law students.

Amy is wise to understand that the LETU experience must include both Christ-centered spiritual growth and academic excellence. As we say in our vision statement: our graduates are professionals of ingenuity and Christlike character.

Tom Leppert has also noticed the quality of our students. As mayor of Dallas, he honored our MBA students in 2009 for their work for a nonprofit organization in Dallas known as the Ferguson Road Initiative.

Our LETU business students provided valuable strategic analysis and outcomes assessment studies that were useful in the organization's successful proposal to acquire a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Justice. The grant helped the organization expand its neighborhood clean-up program and ensure long-term economic growth and a better quality of life.

Leppert visited campus yesterday to speak in chapel to students about his experience integrating his Christian faith and his professional work in business and civic service. His visit was organized through our Center for Faith and Work, which continues to promote the value of integrating these vital areas of our lives and to see our work as a holy calling with eternal impact.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Hopefulness of Spring

I've traveled three of the last four weekends. Today, I head south to visit with alumni, friends and trustees in the San Antonio and Austin area. A number of us from campus will be in San Antonio for what looks like a rainy retreat of nearly half our Board of Trustees.

The Longview downtown Rotary Club invited me to speak this week. They were interested in hearing my perceptions of our students. I told the group that this generation is very different than mine. This "iY Generation," as author Tim Elmore labels them, is overconnected, overserved and overwhelmed.

I also find that while struggling with worry to be sure, our students are willing to serve, to lead and to face the problems they inherit from my generation. Their optimism makes me hopeful.

We must be hopeful as we watch over 100 of our students leave on Friday for Spring Break Missions trips around the country. We have groups going all across the country to help where their talents and interests can be used to assist ministries all working to expand God's kingdom. Two new trips this year through Buckner International will take our students to South Texas where they will help a local church build a home for a needy family, and another group will conduct a church sports camp to teach leadership, sportsmanship and share the Gospel with local children. Friday's chapel commissioning service will be a great send-off.

Next weekend I'm staying home to enjoy the budding azaleas all around my yard! Our God, the creator of the universe, who makes all things new is demonstrating rebirth for us again this spring. It's a great time to live in Longview, Texas!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Integration of Faith & Work

I'm traveling today to Washington, D.C. with our Center for Faith and Work director Bill Peel. We will spend the weekend with a group of men very interested in this goal of integrating their professional lives and their faith lives. The New Canaan Society is a network of men committed to living pure, speaking truth, righting wrong, and worshiping the King. People like Tim Keller and Bob Buford will be there to speak. I'm looking forward to learning more about how our Center can serve men who have been ministers in their workplaces.

A reminder that the integration of faith and work is a timely issue came in the news yesterday. Northeastern University in Boston announced that Chick-Fil-A restaurants would not be allowed to come to campus as part of their renovated student center. The Student Senate at Northeastern voted against inviting Chick-Fil-A because the company has been funding anti-gay organizations. The "Equality Matters" website reports that the restaurant and its WinShape Foundation gave $2 million to anti-gay groups like the Marriage and Family Legacy Fund which is seen as being against gay marriage.

We've been honored to have Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy on campus. His son Dan, who is now president of the restaurant, responded that Chick-Fil-A is not anti-anyone.

For the record, if anyone from Chick-Fil-A is reading this, LeTourneau University would be more than happy to have you on our campus. Come on! We would be happy to be associated with a great organization that seeks business excellence with faithfulness to God and His institutions like marriage.