Thursday, May 31, 2012

Changing History

Sometimes history changes so quietly, few notice. I believe we are living in such times. In just the last few years, new technologies have made it possible for our nation to become energy independent. For a generation now, we've made economic and political decisions based on the stark reality that the oil we needed to drive our cars was controlled by countries who exploited our dependence. In 2011, we spent $450.8 billion to buy foreign oil — nearly $1,500 for every American.

Now in places with names like Barnett, Haynesville, Eagle Ford and Marcellus, we have discovered enough natural gas to meet the needs of our nation for the next 100 years. Our discoveries have been so significant that the price of natural gas has dropped to record lows. One can now envision a future in which natural gas allows our nation to become energy independent with a fuel source that is less expensive and cleaner than foreign oil.

In my role as president of the Longview Chamber of Commerce, it was my pleasure yesterday to lead a delegation from our city including City of Longview Mayor Jay Dean and Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt to Mansfield, Louisiana, where we toured a facility and learned more about the conversion of autos from gasoline to CNG (compressed natural gas). Honda, Ford, Chevy and Chrysler are all building vehicles now that are adapted to run on CNG and for good reason: yesterday I saw customers filling their tanks with CNG for $1.79 per gallon rather than the $3.50+ most of us are paying for gasoline. Eventually, we will have a CNG fueling station in Longview to save local drivers money and create jobs in our region where much of our natural gas reserves have been found.

All this is really good news and we are blessed here at LeTourneau University to be in the middle of it all. From our Texas home, we will have exciting opportunities in the years to come as history changes, and cheap, clean energy fuels economic expansion and national security.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Commencement: Joy & God's Goodness

After 27 years of working in higher education, I've attended many graduation ceremonies. The commencement exercises we orchestrate here at LeTourneau University are the best I've seen anywhere. I like the balance we achieve in our ceremonies: we celebrate human achievement yet also clearly give God the glory for it all. Thanks to all of you who organized our three recent graduation ceremonies in Longview and Houston.

A graduation ceremony I will always remember happened this past Friday, and I wasn't on the stage or even dressed in mortar board and gown. My daughter Hannah graduated from Kilgore College Friday with her degree in nursing. The proud papa in me must brag that she graduated with honors and was recognized for the highest achievement in pediatrics study. God blessed Hannah with both beauty and brains, and I'm her biggest fan. Marsha and I were very happy that many family and friends came from afar to make the day even more special for Hannah.

College graduations are special events because college degrees are difficult things to earn. It requires sacrifice and patience; money and time. Marsha and I saw Hannah get up early for clinicals and stay up late to study for exams. We saw her fret over poor grades and celebrate good grades. We saw her balance the demands of being a full time student and a single mother. Because we were with her every step of the way, we wanted Friday's graduation to be one of the most special days in her life - a time for her to clearly see God's provision in her life.

I think when we have our next LETU commencement in December, I'll look differently at the proud papas in the audience.  I'll understand their joy and God's goodness just a little better than before.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Celebrating a Year of Achievements

More than 500 LETU graduates will proudly walk across the stages at Belcher Center in Longview and Houston's First Baptist Church to receive their degrees during these next two weeks. Adoring family and friends will watch the commencement services and celebrate these graduates' notable achievements. 

This year, we as a university have some notable achievements which we, too, can celebrate.

This year, we will award our first two Master of Science in Engineering degrees, and several new graduate programs have been approved for launch in the fall: marriage and family therapy, healthcare administration and school counseling. All of these degree programs help us expand as a university. And let's not forget that we began this academic year reaching over 1,000 in our online programs for the first time in our history.

LETU students excelled in so many ways this year, making us proud of them and of our university. One of our mechanical engineering students finished in the top 10 in a 3D computer modeling competition. LETU aviation students won First Place at the 2012 Professional Aviation Maintenance Association (PAMA) competition-for the second consecutive year. Our "Sting" Precision Flight Team won First Place at regional SAFECON competition, qualifying to compete nationally. Our engineering students recently competed in IEEE robotics competition and won first place for designing, building and testing a robot to harvest energy. Four LETU business students presented research at 2012 Economics Scholar Program conference sponsored by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

Our scholar-athletes also excelled. The men's soccer team qualified for post-season play. Men's golf placed second in the American Southwest Conference. Softball had notable wins over three nationally ranked schools. Women's basketball missed the conference tournament by only one game. We held our first nighttime games in the history of the university and have seen an increase in awareness and of and attendance at LETU sporting events. And we started a new tradition of turning the bell tower lights blue to celebrate home game wins.  

We can all take pride in our faculty member Becky Teerink being named 2012 Teacher of the Year by the Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance. And we all have reason to celebrate that two of our biology graduates were accepted to medical schools for the fall. Several students this year competed and won valuable scholarships, such as Whitney Brouwer who won a $4,500 NBAA scholarship, Noelle Linstad who won an NSF grant to study green chemistry in India this summer, and Joy Cooper who won a $5,000 airbus leadership scholarship.

Also this year, we opened South Hall to its first residents. We renovated our Kielhorn welding/materials joining lab to make it the largest stand-alone facility of its kind in the country. We expanded the Glaske Building to provide much-needed faculty offices. And we completed and dedicated the Joyce Family Athletic Village to serve our intramural and intercollegiate athletic teams.  
For the third consecutive year, we continue to produce more classroom teachers than any other private school in the state. And we continue to enjoy a top tier U.S. News ranking as one of "America's Best Colleges," and are listed prominently among the 2012 best engineering schools and up and coming universities. The website ranked LETU as the top online Christian university in the nation this academic year, and ranked our Master of Arts in Counseling as the 8th best in the nation.

There are numerous reasons to celebrate what God is doing at LETU, and at May 2012 graduation ceremonies, we will witness over 500 additional displays of God's good favor upon us.