Thursday, December 12, 2013

Progress and Christmas Blessings

It's a busy campus now. Students are plowing through final exams, papers, and projects. Professors are rushing to complete grading so that our seniors can walk across the Belcher stage and graduate Saturday morning. Our university leadership team is busy trying to complete planning for several different initiatives to be implemented in the coming year.

Dean Kimberly Quiett and Linda Musser have been busy with submitting our new program paperwork to the Texas Board of Nursing (that's 800 pages of paperwork!) Dan Fiedler and a host of others are quite busy as the Allen Student Center construction nears completion, with 60,000 square feet of floor space and more than 27 miles of IT wiring! (See a sneak peek video of the Allen Center) The men's and women's basketball teams are moving quickly through their schedules (and playing well). Just observing all these moving parts makes my head spin.

That's why I needed last night. Marsha and I are blessed with a four-year-old granddaughter, Linley. She really enjoys playing with her own nativity set, and so I spent an hour on the floor with her as she taught me the Christmas story anew. 

There were actors and plots that Linley has added to the story. Somehow Elmo and Big Bird are present at the manger for the blessed birth. Several Disney Princesses join the Wise Men from afar to bring gifts. Great fun! 

A four-year-old can add unique twists to the Christmas story, but she can also remind you of the joyous truth: a baby came to us, and now it is our time to come to the baby - with praise, adoration, wonder, and gifts. We can make it so complicated but it really is all about that baby.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Celebrating Leadership

Dr. Dale Lunsford with Ben LeTourneau, R.G. LeTourneau's son
Leadership has been on my mind this week.

Monday we marked the 125th anniversary of the birth of our founder with a special chapel and grave site ceremony. This week we also learned of the passing of Hazel Hickey, a dear friend to LeTourneau University and a leader in our community. Today, I had the privilege of giving the keynote message at the Emerging Leaders Award ceremony in Longview where "under age 40" emerging leaders were recognized.

Leadership comes in all generations and genders.

RG LeTourneau led with a passion for progress, a loud, booming voice and commanding presence. Hazel Hickey was considerate and soft-spoken but consistently effective in settings most often dominated by men in leadership roles. The three emerging leaders recognized today (Kristen Ishihara, Melanie Northcutt Crocker and Stephanie Wolford) are each unique but all influential in their spheres of influence. You can read more about them in the Longview News-Journal.

A 125th birthday website has been created to honor our founder on his 125th birthday. You can see Monday's chapel and also a number of short videos that have been produced to honor Mr. LeTourneau's legacy in technology and in ministry. On the website, you can see a video about LETU alumnus Bob Walker who is living out the LeTourneau legacy every day in his Walker Manufacturing in Fort Collins, Colo.

Fred Smith wrote about the importance of having heroes. "We cannot fully live without heroes.  A society writes its diary by naming its heroes. We individuals do the same." 

Both RG LeTourneau and Hazel Hickey are heroes of mine.  They lived full lives, made themselves available for leadership and honored God in the difference they made. They might have been very different in personality but they were alike in persistence. As we are taught in Philippians 3, "pressing on toward the goal" is a characteristic all leaders share.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Materials Joining Professor Wins Award for Teaching

It was a joy to be in Chicago this week at North America's largest gathering of the welding industry known as the Fabtech conference. 

Our materials joining engineering students were there to present research and man a LeTourneau University booth. Dean DeLap and Dr. Adonyi presented updates to 80 LETU alumni who gathered at dinner in the McCormick Center. 

One of the surprises of the day was an honor to one of our own faculty members - Robert W. Warke, associate professor of engineering and engineering technology. Warke was awarded the 2013 Adams Memorial Membership Award.

Sponsored by the American Welding Society, the Adams Memorial Membership Award recognizes educators for outstanding teaching activities in their undergraduate and postgraduate engineering institutions. 

Warke has conducted research and taught materials engineering, welding metallurgy and design of structural welding at LETU since 2003. Previously, he worked 17 years in the welding industry, consulting and performing applied research and development. A licensed professional engineer in the state of Texas, Warke earned his bachelor's degree in welding engineering in 1986 from LETU and his master's in metallurgical and materials engineering from Illinois State of Technology in 1994. 

According to the AWS website, the AWS Awards are designed to recognize men and women in the industrial, education and research communities who have made distinctive contributions to advance the science, technology and application of welding and allied processes, including joining, brazing and soldering, cutting and thermal spraying.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Creating a Better Longview

I enjoy reminding our community that we are "Longview's university." Every great city has a great university and in a multitude of ways, LETU contributes to the quality of life in Longview.

An example is our sponsorship of the Chamber of Commerce's "Intercity Visit" program. For two years now, it is has been my pleasure to lead a delegation of citizens from Longview to visit and learn best practices of civic progress from another city.

Dr. Lunsford tours Ft. Collins, Colo. with group from Longview Chamber

A year ago, the delegation visited Chattanooga, Tenn. This fall, we visited Ft. Collins, Colo.

The Fort Collins community has redeveloped its downtown into a vibrant business district. The city and the local university (Colorado State) work together. Ft. Collins is a place that has emphasized quality of life as a tool to creating jobs and developing economically.

This week, I chaired an early morning meeting with the delegation to identify what we saw in Ft. Collins that might be useful to the future of Longview. Several good ideas are emerging.

We've assembled a talented group of people on our campus. We all have something to contribute to making a bright future for Longview. God has put us here for this time and place. For me, it feels like a responsibility: to give what I can so that I can someday say I left Longview a little better than I found it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Board of Trustees Visits LETU Campus

Today, members of our LETU Board of Trustees are on campus, having traveled from all over the country to our semi-annual board meeting. During this meeting, we will welcome four new trustees onto the board, and say goodbye to three who are completing their terms.

The four new trustees include Bill Anderson, David Dykes, Paul Montgomery and Doug Roszhart:

Bill Anderson of Colorado Springs, Colo., is an LETU alumnus who works as a leadership consultant and is the former CEO of Christian Booksellers Association. Anderson is returning to the board after his previous term serving as a trustee from 2007 to 2011.
David Dykes of Tyler, Texas, is the pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, one of the leading churches in America in missions and evangelism.  Dykes had been pastor to Marsha and me since 1999.
Paul Montgomery of southeastern Pennsylvania is a financial market analyst who has served on our board before and led the management of our university endowment. He currently is director of portfolio research at an investment advisory firm he owns with his son.
Doug Roszhart of Greenville, Texas is an engineer with L-3 Communications who earned his engineering degree at LETU in 1981. He will serve as the new alumni representative on the board. He chairs the university's alumni council and has recruited numerous LETU engineers.

During this board meeting, business items will include approving the list of our December graduates, along with faculty promotions and tenure. The board also will approve the final version of the 2013-2014 fiscal year budget. New board officers will be elected to new one-year terms.

Also at this meeting, we will express our great appreciation as we say goodbye to three trustees who are completing their terms on the board, including Joe Nowiczewski of Houston; Wayne Trull of Arkansas; and Jim Mauldin of Longview. We are deeply grateful for their faithful service and the love they have for LeTourneau University.

Friday, November 1, 2013

LETU Partners with American Eagle Airlines

Usually when we talk "pipelines" in Texas, we are talking oil and gas. This week we are celebrating another type of pipeline:  a partnership between LETU and American Eagle Airlines. Congratulations to LETU Aeronautical Science dean Fred Ritchey, Chair of Flight Science Department Lauren Bitikofer and the LETU aviation faculty for the great work in establishing the pilot pipeline agreement with American Eagle Airlines! 

This new agreement we signed Monday at the Abbott Center opens a pathway for LETU flight graduates to transition seamlessly into careers as first officers with American Eagle Airlines.

American Eagle Airlines Captain Richard King, who signed the agreement with me, stated that some of their best and brightest pilots have come from LeTourneau University. We know we have an excellent program, and it is always encouraging to hear corporate America agree. 

King said American Eagle Airlines needs to hire about 50 new pilots each month. The agreement is a win-win-win for LETU, for AEA and for our students. 

This new program also provides an incentive for our flight graduates to remain at the university as certified flight instructors while gaining more flight experience and amassing the required flight hours in the cockpit.

Students will have to meet specific criteria for consideration.

Once the candidate is placed in a flight school, like LETU, as a certified flight instructor, AEA will enter into an employment agreement with the pipeline instructor to be an employee of American Eagle Airlines, eligible for health benefits and travel privileges. And if hired by American Eagle Airlines as a First Officer, the individual will remain in that position for two years from the start of First Officer training.

Pipeline Instructors who enter into First Officer training and sign a two-year letter of commitment will receive a $10,000 scholarship, or signing bonus, from American Eagle.
This pipeline is another great reason to study aviation at LETU. Tell your friends and share this news-let's grow the enrollment of LETU's flight program.

Friday, October 25, 2013

LETU GraduateAwarded TDFE Student Teacher of the Year Award

Congratulations to LeTourneau University's School of Education! You've done it again! 

Cristian Driver and his proud LETU supervisor
Dr. Julie Teel-Borders
One of our recent students, Cristian Driver, was named the 2013 Student Teacher of the Year by the Texas Directors of Field Experiences this week in San Antonio.

Driver is the fourth student teacher of the year who has graduated from LETU's teacher preparation program since 1997 to win this distinction. Others included Matthew Bradley in 2010, Breanna Sellers Hurd in 2002 and Karen Bennett in 1997. LETU grad Nikita Mumphrey was also named intern of the year in 2010 by Texas Alternative Certification Association. This success is indicative of the excellent program our university provides to those whose calling is to teach the next generation. 

Driver, who graduated in May
with his bachelor's degree in mathematics education, is certified to teach grades 8-12 math.  He is now employed teaching algebra at Manvel High School in the Alvin Independent School District near Houston, where he also coaches track and basketball. And while he was at LETU, you might remember that he played basketball for the YellowJackets. 

Cristian is a great example of a student who sees his life's work as a holy calling. And because he teaches with excellence, others have noticed.

His supervisor, Dr. Julie Teel-Borders, said during Cristian's student teaching experience, she heard that several of his ninth grade students talked about how much they learned from him because he could explain it to them in a way they could understand. 

Great teachers, like those we have here at LETU and those we are preparing to teach in schools across the globe, make an impact on students for years to come. 

Teaching with excellence, compassion and integrity, Driver is a shining example of the kind of professional we seek to produce here at LeTourneau University.

Friday, October 18, 2013

LETU Alumni Make an Eternal Impact

At LeTourneau University, our graduates are professionals of ingenuity and Christlike character who see life's work as a holy calling with eternal impact.

This past week, two of our LETU alumni were in the national spotlight for pursing their holy calling and making just such an impact.

Charles "Shroud" Wesley and his wife, Alexis, are the first husband and wife in the country to donate kidneys, according to the National Kidney Registry, a nonprofit that connects patients who are compatible through exchanges.  Their donation set in motion a series of transplants across the country saving the lives of 10 people they have never met.

Why would they do that?  Gratitude. They have been the recipients of the generosity of others, which prompted them to look for this way to share their faith and bless others.  You see, they have two small children, Leila and Roland, who have a rare joint disorder and have needed and received free medical surgeries to help them be able to walk.  Giving a kidney was their way to "give back" to others, even strangers. 

Alexis, who gave her kidney in surgery last Monday said she saw saving your kidney for a rainy day was like having a fire extinguisher while watching your neighbor's house burn down.  Charles donated his kidney to a stranger last April 2012. 

"You give up maybe three or four weeks of your life in terms of having to go through recovery but you can extend someone else's life by 10 or 15 years. I really wanted to be the person that was willing to do that," said Charles.

Their story was covered nationally on Fox News and appeared on their San Diego local news station, and in their local newspaper.

Another alumnus was featured this last week on The Kelly Files on the Fox Network for making an impact by filing a lawsuit against a Texas judge for failing to protect a 15-year-old girl in Caldwell, Texas, from a registered sex offender who was the live-in boyfriend of the girl's guardian.

Stephen Casey is co-founder of Texas Center for Defense of Life which filed the lawsuit against the Texas judge, who sent her back into the home knowing the sex offender lived there.  Later, the man tied up and raped the girl and shot and killed her guardian in front of her, according to the lawsuit.

You can watch that interview with Megyn Kelly. For more in depth information on the details of the case, you can read the WND story.

Casey co-founded the TCDL whose mission is to aggressively defend the sanctity of human life.  The organization provides pro-bono legal services to pro-life organizations and individuals throughout Texas. 

In February, Casey was also featured in national news on another case involving protecting a 16-year-old girl in Houston whose parents were coercing her to have an abortion.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Update on the I-20 Corridor

While it doesn't look much different yet, changes along Longview's I-20 corridor are coming. I was privileged to chair the citizen taskforce, appointed by Longview Mayor Jay Dean, to consider the potential of our I-20 corridor and present a set of observations and recommendations to the city council three months ago.

A healthy conversation is underway about the task force recommendations for redeveloping our neighborhoods for Longview's future. While the wheels of progress turn slowly, we need to realize three months is really just a very short time. We didn't get into this situation overnight, and we won't get out of the situation overnight.

However, I see tremendous signs of progress, with new restaurants opening near I-20 and Eastman Road, including Denny's and a new Cracker Barrel. Other new businesses are near the final stages of planning, including a new conference center and hotel project in this corridor. But these kinds of projects take negotiation, planning and financing, which takes time.

More than 46,000 vehicles pass by Longview on the interstate each day. Over 52,000 employees work nearby the I-20 corridor. Investments by private developers show us the value of our city's position along the interstate and should encourage us to see the potential.

The pending demolition of the abandoned hotel and gasoline station at I-20 and Estes Parkway will remove an ugly eyesore from the front door of our entire city. The task force labeled it as a roadblock to redevelopment and made it a priority as our first recommendation.

Longview leaders responded quickly, and LEDCO, under the leadership of Keith Honey, voted to acquire the property and make it ready for future development. The City of Longview led by Mayor Dean is also ready to participate. No bull dozers are rolling yet, but the required approvals, contracts, and funding decisions are moving very quickly behind the scenes. New restaurants, hotels, city conference centers and the removal of abandoned buildings - all in the last three months. Good things are beginning to happen.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Enrollment & Thoughts on Hard Times

This fall's enrollment results remind me that the middle class American families we serve are continuing to struggle in this difficult economy.  It is increasingly difficult for many to afford an LETU education in hard times like these.

Our founder, R.G. LeTourneau, knew hard times.  He lived through the San Francisco earthquake, two world wars and the Great Depression.  He knew business success and bankruptcy.

His life's example provides a lot of "best practices" that we can glean for our own lives today, such as how he dealt with unfair situations with integrity and how those situations opened doors for ingenuity.

He looked at failure as opportunity in work clothes, and always turned his disappointments into ways to grow both spiritually and professionally.

He didn't let people tell him that something couldn't be done since it hadn't yet been done, but instead he worked to design new solutions to problems, such as new equipment that no one had ever seen before.

And as a man many called "God's businessman," he pioneered the idea that your mission field can be wherever you are, making him one of the pioneers of faith and work integration.

My guest editorial titled "Good Thoughts for Hard Times from R.G. LeTourneau" appears this week in the Christian Post. You can read it in its entirety here.

We should take courage and recognize that difficult times like the economy we are currently living in can give us exceptional opportunity for ingenuity, just like our founder did in his day.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Texas Tomcats win DFW Flugtag

"Flugtag" in German is "flying day," and the Red Bull beverage company has made Flugtag a major event in the U.S. Last weekend, in five cities coast to coast, hundreds of teams competed with homemade flying machines to the cheers of thousands of spectators and in front of all national news organizations.

Are you surprised that a team made up entirely of LETU students won the Dallas Flugtag?  I'm not. 

The competition rules required each team of five members to design and build their own human-powered, homemade aircraft that they pushed off a 30-foot "flight deck" into a lake while one of their team members flew the aircraft for as far a distance as they could go. 

Team members included team captain Nathan O'Quinn, pilot Rachael Moffatt, Sheldon Bacher, Tim Powell, Gregg Williams and Quintin Socha.

Calling themselves the "Texas Tomcats," these students spent several months as they designing and building their aircraft to fit into the competition's design specifications: wingspan of less than 28 feet, height of less than 10 feet and weight less than 400 pounds, counting the pilot.

Originality, personality, showmanship and creative expression were all listed as part of their application process, but on the day of the competition, flight distance ruled.

The Texas Tomcats flew their mock F-14 a whopping 72 feet at the Dallas competition at Lake Carolyn in Las Colinas in front of over 90,000 spectators. And yes, the pilot was another one of our outstanding female aviation majors. (You can watch the video of their flight at competition here.)

That's right:  over 90,000 spectators attended the Dallas event.  In addition, CNN, ABC, ESPN and all national news organizations aired coverage of the fun.

Congratulations to these LETU students for achieving such great results from all their hard work. We know that an LETU education is all about excellence and ingenuity and this fun event was a powerful way for our students to show the world something of who they are.

You can see more information about the team and the video of their flight on the RedBull Flugtag website.  The nationwide competition made national news on CNN  and was featured on Good Morning America.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Longview Blitz

Saturday's Longview Blitz showed the surrounding area the hearts of our students and staff as they put feet to their faith in service of the community.

Hundreds of LETU students were on hand weeding, trimming and spreading mulch at the Kidsview playground at Lear Park. Others were organizing and cleaning at Newgate Mission. More were cleaning and chopping vegetables or scrubbing floors at Hiway 80 Rescue Mission. All of these were among several places they served on Saturday morning.

This service to our community leaves a lasting impression on the hearts of our students. They see that service is part of our Christian faith. But it also serves as an example to the community. I am thankful for the leadership of our university chaplain Harold Carl and the student floor chaplains in the residence halls who helped organize this annual event. 

Some of the students who worked that day were quoted in the Longview News-Journal that they enjoyed the day and felt blessed to serve. The time they volunteered helped them build a rapport with the community and build stronger relationships with each other.

I understand that feeling, as I have been blessed to serve this past year on the mayor's I-20 Task Force. Our goal has been to identify methods to draw more visitors into Longview from the interstate that passes through the south side of the city and identify ways to expand economic growth.

Beautification efforts into Longview's entrance along Estes Parkway and Mobberly will help improve the city's curb appeal to potential investors and will improve the impression that visitors into our city have about the quality of life in Longview. Service to our community demonstrates our heart to love our neighbor and, in doing so, we honor God and point our neighbors to Him.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Rising in the Rankings

This week, LeTourneau University got some good news when the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings of "America's Best Colleges" were released and LETU was again ranked as a top-tier school. The U.S. News rankings are released each fall and are considered the most notable of the annual published college rankings.

I am pleased to share that LeTourneau University moved up in the 2014 rankings to 27th place from 36th place in last year's 2013 rankings among our category of "Best Regional Universities in the Western Region, which includes master's comprehensive universities in 14 western states. Those states include Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. Our ranking placed us 5th among schools in the state of Texas, and above all state universities in Texas in our category. Again this year, Trinity University in San Antonio was ranked #1 in our peer group. Out on the west coast, CCCU members Whitworth was #9 and Seattle Pacific University was #14.

This year marks two full decades that LETU has ranked in the magazine's top tier. To be included in this report's top tier of campuses for 20 consecutive years is a noteworthy accomplishment that indicates a long commitment to academic excellence and student success that defines LeTourneau University. The U.S. News ranks colleges and universities among other schools with similar programs and degree offerings.

As I said in my report to start the new year, U.S. News' methodology is not without its faults. However, the rankings do provide a starting point for many families and prospective students to compare colleges using indicators such as  retention rates and assessment by peer institutions, faculty resources, student selectivity, financial resources, graduation rate performance and alumni giving.

Also, our School of Engineering moved up to 45th place among engineering schools in the nation whose highest degree is a bachelor's or master's degree. Ranked third among Texas universities, with Baylor University, Trinity University, LETU is the top-ranked school of engineering within the CCCU (Council of Christian Colleges and Universities).

And our school was listed among the magazine's ranking of "A+ Schools for B Students," which are schools where students who were not "A" students in high school, but displayed spirit and hard work, can thrive. 

LETU has added over $50 million in campus facilities in recent years, with the Allen Family Student Center - slated to open after spring break next semester - as our most recent investment.  Our goal at LETU is to continue to create a distinctive Christian university experience for our students, and if in the process, we continue for more years to get noticed by rankings like U.S. News, that is a good thing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Influence of Professors

The most interesting article I read this week (and the best headline) was "Majoring in a Professor."  It was the report of a forthcoming book from Harvard University Press titled How College Works.

Sociology research on how students choose a major concluded that professors are very important and that the first professor you encounter in a degree program may be the most important.

"Faculty determine students' taste for academic fields by acting as gatekeepers, either by welcoming them into an area of knowledge, encouraging and inspiring them to explore it, or by raising the costs of entry so high so as to effectively prohibit continuing in it," authors Christopher Takacs and Daniel Chambliss write.

This affirms my experience.  Dr. James Cagley may not have been my very first business school professor, but I encountered him early in my studies.  A former advertising executive and University of Minnesota Ph.D., his passion for the discipline changed me, stirring something within me that I didn't know was there.  More than three decades later, I am still excited by the same psychological, sociological  and economic theories of business that inspired him.

LeTourneau faculty are the most influential people on our campus.  As I write, they are changing eternity for our students by the way they inspire, encourage, and direct.  When they have a bad day, our students have a bad day.  But when our best faculty are at their best, living an energized passion for their field of study and the God who is Lord of that discipline, our students are transformed; perhaps even redeemed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Become a Brand Ambassador

Everyone in the "LeTourneau Nation" agrees on this:  we no longer want to be the best kept secret in higher education. Here's how you can help share the good news of what God is doing here at LETU.

Our social media efforts are a great place for you to engage. Become a "fan" of our LeTourneau University pages on Facebook and click "like" when we post something.  Be sure to share the university's new promotional video on your own Facebook timeline. You may not know which of your friends on Facebook needs to know more about LETU.

If you subscribe to the IncrediblyLETU blog, you can "share" our latest postings on Facebook or put them into an email to someone you know who is looking for a college or might simply find it interesting.  

Intentionally be a brand ambassador for LETU.  Each of us represents LeTourneau University.  Take some LETU marketing materials with you to your next conference.  Talk to people about what our students and faculty are doing here.  Remember, it makes a difference.  We know that 9 out of 10 of our students found LeTourneau University through word of mouth.

During our State of the University address, we presented a collection of words that describe LETU's brand, including five fundamental things:

1) Faith and Work
2) Ingenuity
3) Personal
4) Hands-on
5) Global

These elements of our brand, when seen together, are both historical and aspirational. To learn more about how we came up with these five branding elements, check out our branding pages.

By sharing stories with your friends and family through social media and word of mouth, we can greatly increase public awareness and recognition of LETU. Together, let's tell these stories.

Friday, August 23, 2013

New Students: The Beginning of a Journey

This week, we welcomed over 400 new students and their families to LeTourneau University from all over the country and all over the world-families like Michelle and David Hudson of League City, Texas, who brought their daughter Katie to attend LeTourneau University to major in elementary education.

The Hudsons were up at 6 a.m. Wednesday to make the four-hour trip from south of Houston, caravanning in two cars, with Katie leading the way because her mom said she wanted to make sure Katie knew how to get here. Like many other families, the Hudsons made it a family affair with Katie's younger sister Olivia, 12, and older brother Josh, 20, helping to carry in boxes and bedding and suitcases.

David, an aeronautical engineer, said his family has known about LETU since his brother was a student here in the mid-1980s. David attended Embry Riddle.They said this was the first time they were taking one of their children away to college, since their eldest chose to attend a local community college in League City. Just like many of the other dads who came this week, David described the event as exciting but worrisome and a little scary, too.

Dr. Lunsford with the Hudson family: Katie, Michelle, Olivia, David and Josh.

"We knew this day was coming for a long time, so we have been getting ready for it, but now that it's here, I know it will be hitting home for us as we drive back without Katie," he said.

Michelle nodded.

"It's a little scary," she said. "I've been crying for weeks, but I feel better now. Everyone here is so friendly, so very welcoming!"

One of Katie's first questions when they arrived in Longview was where the Walmart was, since she had already remembered a few things she had left at home.

Katie and her family praised our LETU admissions staff for being so responsive and making the process easy for them. She said whenever she had a question, she would call Carl Arnold and he would get right back to her with answers. The Hudsons also commented about how caring the many LETU faculty members were who volunteered to help students move in-like Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Fred Baliraine, who helped her family carry several of Katie's boxes into her room.

Katie is one of many great examples of our new students who are excited, and a little nervous at the same time, to start this new adventure. Let us all commit to pray for them and their families for a great college experience here at LETU.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Reading

One of my treats each summer is having time to read good books. This summer, I have enjoyed a variety of books, so I thought I would share with you some of the ones that have made it onto my summer reading list.

With just a few weeks left before the Fall 2013 semester begins, I encourage everyone to take their one last summer treat and dive into a good book before another great school year begins.
The Conviction to Lead: The 25 Principles for Leadership that Matters
by Albert Mohler
In his book, Mohler introduces "conviction" as a leader's mandate. A very young seminary president, he is a change agent at Southern Seminary.
The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life 
by Rod Dreher
The author, a Philadelphia journalist, returned to his Louisiana hometown (population 1,700) after his sister Ruthie's death from cancer. He examines the ordinary life she lived as a local schoolteacher and discovers the privilege of being part of a small community. I really enjoyed this true story from a small town not far from our campus.
Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World
by Bob Goff
Living an abundant life of love requires taking action, and Bob Goff is living an abundant life. He shares several extraordinary tales from his own life that illustrate how God is teaching us about love. He seems to make the ordinary extraordinary by taking seriously God's command to love one another.
Seven Men: And the Secret of their Greatness 
by Eric Metaxas
Seven Christian men whose lives display what it is to be a true man today are expertly profiled: George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson. Metaxas shares the struggles that each of these men faced, and how their values of honesty, courage and charity led them through difficulties. In each case, these were men who fully integrated their faith into their life's work.
Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court 
by John Wooden.
Written the year before his death in 2010, the late UCLA basketball coach shares the foundation for his own extraordinary leadership and the lessons he learned as a leader. Again, here is another who successfully did what I hope for in my life: to find the holy calling of my daily work.

Friday, July 26, 2013

From Longview to Fame

If the Summer of 2013 has a theme it must be "From Longview to Fame!"

You probably already know that Hollywood star Matthew McConaughey grew up in Longview.  Actor Forest Whitaker and Country Music superstar Miranda Lambert were also born in Longview.  And I won't even begin listing all the professional athletes who came from our university's home town.

New to the list of Longview-residents-made-good is Baltimore Oriole Chris Davis.  Davis was elected to the American League All Start team with more fan votes than any player this summer.

As I write, he leads Major League Baseball in home runs with 37. If you are not a baseball fan, 37 home runs at this point in the season is one of professional baseball's best ever performances. Davis played for Longview High School and was also a part of the Texas Rangers organization before being  traded away. Davis is baseball's new superstar.

But closer to home, two of our past LeTourneau University professionals have received some fame this summer.

Dr. Brent Ellis has been named the new president at Spring Arbor University in Michigan, and Dr. Sherilyn Emberton has been named the new president at Huntington University in Indiana.

I thank God that Brent and Sherilyn have answered God's call to serve His important work in Christian Higher Education.  I will look forward to working with them in our great cause.

This weekend is the Great Texas Balloon Race at East Texas Regional Airport.  For those of you who can attend, be sure to come out and visit with our LETU alumni who will be at the LETU Alumni Balloon Glow Hangar Party at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 27, at the Abbott Center. The hangar party is free to faculty, staff and alumni.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Making our American Story

Our university-wide lunch last week was a real treat. Thanks to those who  told their "American Stories" and to all of you who shared in the  fellowship and patriotic songs.

As we gathered on the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I couldn't resist the opportunity to dress like Abraham Lincoln and recite his Gettysburg Address. It is likely the most well-known speech in American history and it was moving to go back and read his words again.

In his newspaper column this week, David Brooks reflected on the Civil War and observed that from Lincoln's Gettysburg address on down to the thousands of letters sent home by soldiers, the words of those who fought that war reflected a higher calling.

They loved their country and saw their fight as a responsibility they  inherited from generations before them who fought and died in the  American Revolution. Brooks described this as "...a belief that they were born in a state of indebtedness to an ongoing project, and they would inevitably be called upon to pay these debts, to come square with the country, even at the cost of their lives."

I am inspired by men and women who live their lives on mission; for a cause greater than themselves. The history of our faith is the history of such selfless men and women. This history of LeTourneau Tech, its time as LeTourneau College, and now its time as LeTourneau University is filled with those who poured their lives into the noble work of higher education here.

In my own life, "the state of indebtedness to an ongoing project" I sense is my small part in the ongoing restorative work of God's project that we call LETU. It is true that LeTourneau University has been uniquely equipped to answer God's call and just as true that we have been called to invest our lives in that work at this time and place. This sense of obligation and debt to others is a great gift for which I am grateful. And I'm grateful to join with so many others at LETU who have also surrendered to this higher calling.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Classroom Hero

Dr. Kenneth F. McKinley - 1918-2013
We buried a LeTourneau University legend this past Saturday.

Dr. Kenneth F. "Doc" McKinley came to LeTourneau to teach Bible in 1959 and served here for 30 years. He taught the Old Testament to thousands of students along the way. He served Longview area churches and led groups to study in the Holy Land. He was 95 when he passed away in College Station. A speaker at his memorial service summed up McKinley's teaching this way: "The Bible is precious. People are valuable. God has a plan."

Wherever I have met LETU alumni across the world, I have often heard stories of "Doc" McKinley. He had a personal charisma and a passion for teaching that former students cherished decades after his classes.

You'll be reminded that our work here at LETU has eternal impact if you take a few minutes to read the guestbook at his obituary site. Former students from across the nation have posted comments. They remember his little Metropolitan automobiles that he drove and the bicycles he rode on campus. He was a musician and a pilot, a true "renaissance man" as one.

McKinley's 7 a.m. classes were a rite of passage for students at what was then known as LeTourneau College.

As an educator, what strikes me are the many references to McKinley's book, Scanning the Plan. Whether you agree with his theological position or not, everyone who has taught must admire the fact that this book continues to be referenced by students decades later.

We are all blessed by servant leaders like Doc McKinley who have gone before us, building this Christ-centered university we enjoy today.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

I-20 Corridor Development Update

After several weeks of work, the Mayor's Task Force on the I-20 Corridor has finalized a report. As chair, it is my pleasure to make the final presentation to the Longview City Council tonight.

As all of us who work at LeTourneau University know well, the I-20 entryway into our city gives guests the "wrong view of Longview." Our city is blessed with a strong economy and hospitable people in the heart of the most beautiful geographic region of Texas. Unfortunately, one's first impression of the city is everything but this reality.

Interstate 20 brings more than 36,000 autos and another 10,000 trucks past Longview each day. This is a tremendous opportunity for economic development. Now is the time for Longview to capitalize on the opportunity we have with an interstate highway, regional airport, and Amtrak train service.

The good news is that redevelopment of our I-20 entrances has already begun. It is good for south Longview, of course. It is good for our university as we strive to make a good first impression when prospective students and their parents arrive from all 50 states. I-20 is the front door of our entire community and, therefore, redevelopment of this area is important for the growth of our entire city.

Our task force will recommend that the city take the lead in removing and redeveloping the former hotel site at I-20 and Estes Parkway. This is a major roadblock to the development of new business.

Another roadblock exists near the Wal-Mart Super Center south of the interstate. We will recommend that the city consider cost effective ways to improve the city's visibility to those driving I-20. We will applaud the city's intention to incentivize a hotel/conference center project and encourage study of the location both north and south of the interstate on Estes Parkway.

Important to the future will be the creation of a small area plan or overlay district that will guide the development of "destination businesses" that will draw visitors from the interstate as well as residents from the north.

Much of the I-20 corridor itself is a flood plain outside the city limits. The task force believes this could be added to the city's impressive park system and encourage future development of an urban recreation area that would take advantage of the Sabine River.

The unattractive I-20 entryway we have now is the result of many years of neglect. It will take many years to redevelop this passage. My prayer is that this task force will be the first step in this journey of reclaiming our I-20 corridor as a magnificent gateway to our increasingly livable, lovable Longview.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Railway Adventures

I grew up listening to the train whistle in Tulsa. Many years ago I read Paul Theroux's Riding the Iron Rooster, a wonderful travel novel about riding the train through China. His journey fascinated me. Later, Marsha and I enjoyed several weeks of riding the trains throughout Britain. Most recently, one of my favorite LETU memories is taking the bullet train out of Seoul, Korea, with former professor Kyun Lee.

Train travel has always interested me and that's why I think Longview's Amtrak stop is a wonderful asset.

This weekend was a treat. Marsha and I took the Texas Eagle from Longview to Chicago and back. We hear the train whistles daily from our house, but this was the first opportunity we had to "ride the rails" out of Longview. It's a great adventure that I recommend.

When on time, the Texas Eagle departs Longview at 6:15 p.m. and arrives in Chicago at 2 p.m. the next afternoon. However, the Eagle seems rarely on time. The train is for those who have decided they are not in a hurry. I enjoyed this "not in a hurry" attitude. From Longview, I was surprised at the beautifully restored train depot in Marshall, impressed with the inspiring gateway arch monument in St. Louis, surprised with Abe Lincoln's Springfield and awed at Chicago's downtown skyline.

Take the Eagle home from Chicago and arrive in Longview the next morning. The train then continues west to Ft. Worth, then south to San Antonio, and then west again to El Paso, Tucson, and finally, Los Angeles.

I downloaded podcasts that gave a brief, but interesting, history lesson for many places along the route. The Texas Eagle route is home to the birthplace of several U.S. presidents, as well as following much of the path of the old Route 66.

Best of all about my train adventure over the weekend? Marsha and I had much time to just sit and talk and focus on each other and celebrate our 28 years of marriage.

Soon we will be back to air travel as we have plans to visit Connecticut for an LETU reception hosted by LETU friends Jim and Marjie Brake. We also plan a visit soon with the LeTourneau Nation in Alaska.

Thanks to those of you who asked about our family following the devastating tornado in Moore, Okla., last week. All are safe, and we are again proud of that self-reliant Oklahoma spirit on display for the world to see.

Friday, May 17, 2013

LeTourneau Nation: Global Travels

This week it is easy to see LeTourneau University fulfilling our strategic vision to be a university of global influence.

The Wheels team recently arrived safely in Kenya. Karen Rispin and her four students are continuing their research, collecting data that could lead to better wheelchairs for the disabled in developing countries. They will return in June.

One group of 19 traditional students is returning today from a study abroad trip to Israel with Drs. Kelly Liebengood and Viktor Roudkovski. Students on that trip prepared by studying something specific that they presented to the group while they were there.  The students benefit by doing the research, and then in person what they have studied.

Another group of 16 trad and nontrad students are studying church history and exploring Scotland in a study abroad trip with School of Arts and Sciences Dean Dr. Larry Frazier for course credit. They return Saturday.

A group of four students is in Spain until May 27 on a study-abroad trip where they are learning more about the Spanish language, culture and history with LETU's Rebecca Haesecke.

Dr. Stephen Ayers is leading a group of eight engineering students in his homeland of Australia where the students are being exposed to international professional engineering practices outside of the United States. They will return May 27.

Outside of our school-sponsored study-abroad and global service learning opportunities, we know of other LETU students who are also serving in the countries of Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti and Mongolia. Keep up with the LeTourneau Nation this summer on Facebook.

One thing all of these trips have in common:  Our students are gaining hands-on, global experience that will enrich their education by exploring new cultures, new foods and new places.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Spring Commencement Celebrations

The campus grounds were immaculate. The food was excellent. The stage was beautiful. Smiles and hugs were everywhere. LeTourneau University people really know how to make guests feel welcome, and we did it again with Longview Commencement 2013 last weekend. Thank you so much for making it a special day for families from around the world.

This coming Saturday, our Houston Commencement 2013 will honor hundreds of graduates and family members with the same genuine hospitality that is a gift shared by so many at LETU. Marsha and I will miss the Houston event because we will be in Denton celebrating the graduation of our oldest daughter Rachel.

She will receive her Bachelor of Science in Merchandising from the University of North Texas. After graduating from Kilgore where she was a Kilgore Rangerette, Rachel went to UNT to dance and study merchandising and fashion design (offerings we don't have here at LETU). After graduation, she has a job with a Dallas designer.

Last year, we had the joy of celebrating with daughter Hannah, who is now an RN working at Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler.

Our two girls were still in high school when Marsha and I first came to LETU. Where have the years gone?

From up on the stage, looking out on the Belcher Center last Saturday, I saw again that commencement ceremonies are celebrations of academic success, to be sure, but also they are celebrations of the blessings of family. In Denton this coming Saturday, I'll be happy to not be sitting onstage, but instead  be in the audience celebrating the gift of my family.

For more on LETU's Spring Commencement celebrations, head over to the IncrediblyLETU blog

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sweet Alumni Connections on the West Coast

This past week, several of us traveled to the West Coast, meeting new friends and reconnecting with former students and supporters of LETU. Starting in Los Angeles, we also traveled to Cupertino and Seattle. I ended up in Vancouver, Canada, visiting an alumnus from the 1960s who remembers fondly his days here in Longview.

I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Pratt in El Segundo, Calif. Chris graduated from LETU in 1991 with a degree in electrical engineering. He went on to earn a graduate engineering degree from Cornell and marry his wife Peilin, a Harvard Law graduate. While practicing engineering in L.A., Chris became interested in the Internet and e-commerce. A simple experiment in selling candy demonstrated the potential of the technology. Soon, he left his job working with electric vehicles to start

The night we visited (the Pratts were kind enough to host an alumni reception), the warehouse was filled with over 300 tons of every candy I could imagine. Orders arrive day and night, and Chris ships large orders of candy daily. Who buys? Often his customers are planning candy buffets for weddings and showers. Go to their website, and you'll see that you can sort by color to create that perfect buffet.

With Chris and Peilin Pratt in their candy warehouse in Los Angeles, Calif.
Chris is no Willy Wonka! I can see that he uses the analytical reasoning of his LETU engineering education to refine the logistics of his business and improve both customer service and profit. I could also see his LETU heart in the care for his employees and the fun, supportive work environment Peilin and he have created.

You can learn more about the Pratts' company in one of their YouTube videosYou can see their other website videos here.  

When Chris graduated from LETU over two decades ago, I'm sure his candy company was not even imaginable to him. As our newest graduates cross the stage this coming Saturday, only God knows what new businesses they will start and what workplaces they will claim for Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Foundation Through the Ages

LeTourneau University's Homecoming 2013 surely was the most successful in many years. Congratulations to Martha Steed who led the way and to dozens of others who worked behind the scenes to welcome home hundreds of our alumni. The weekend clearly demonstrates that our former students will travel hundreds or thousands of miles to return to campus, see old friends, and rejoice in all the good God has done in their lives and at their alma mater. It's always a blessing for us to host them when they visit. I saw in their laughter and tears that it was a special blessing for them to be here with their friends.

Dr. Lunsford with the LeTourneau family.
Louise LeTourneau Dick (seated) with her brothers Ben and Roy.
Ben's wife, Betty, is standing in the center.
Roy's wife, Shirley, is not pictured.
The three surviving children of R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau were all together on campus -- a memory I will forever cherish. Roy LeTourneau spoke in chapel to our current students and then again to our Golden Jackets -- those who graduated 50 or more years ago. It was a rare opportunity for today's student body to hear the booming LeTourneau family voice speak about Mr. R.G.'s commitment to make God his partner in his life's work. And it was a treat to listen to our Golden Jackets ask Roy to tell stories from decades ago when Pop LeTourneau drove his Volkswagen around campus and Mom LeTourneau cooked for homesick students.

Our guests were amazed at the physical changes on campus ('Where are the barracks?') I believe they were even more amazed to find the commitment to Christ still alive and central to who we are as a community. While many things had changed, the faith foundation of our university was still there.

Some of the students you see on campus today may return here 50 years from now for a similar homecoming. The university they find will be built on the foundation we are laying today. As those before us did, let's continue to build on the solid rock of Peter's confession that Jesus is Lord. That's a foundation that will last through the ages.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The LETU Board of Trustees: Doing God's Work

Our LETU trustees are on campus from across North America to attend the semi-annual board meeting.

Last November, board elections were held, and this meeting is the first for Pat Bertsche to serve as the board chair. Pat and his family live in St. Charles, Ill. He is the chief financial officer for Camcraft, Inc., a family owned manufacturing business that makes precision-machined engine system components to exacting specifications. (Watch this recent video on LeTourneau University's Center for Faith & Work website about how the Bertsche family runs Camcraft as 'God's business,' allowing Biblical principles to guide their work).

With new LeTourneau University Chairman of the Board
Pat Bertsche, CFO of Camcraft, Inc.
A 1989 LETU alumnus who earned his degree in industrial management, Pat has been involved in financial management, strategic planning and business operations for years.

He has a heart for Christian education and served as the superintendent of the Westminster Christian School, formerly having served as its board president. He loves LeTourneau and has coordinated numerous alumni meetings around the country and even hosted alumni events in his home.

Other new officers include our vice chair Larry Mercer of Dallas, Texas; our secretary Paul Abbott of Jenks, Okla.; and treasurer Merle Stoltzfus of Elverson, Penn. This week's meeting is also the first for three new trustees, including Gene Frost of West Chicago, Ill., James Nolt of York, Penn. and Dean Waskowiak of Longview, Texas.

While on campus, board members toured the Allen Center construction site. This group toured with LETU Dean of Students Corey Ross. Want to see the latest progress as the building goes up? Check out our live construction cam.
I am grateful for all of our trustees. They come here to share their wisdom, their experience and their love for LeTourneau University. Please join me in welcoming them to Longview, and to campus, and thanking them for their service.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

I-20 Corridor: Share Your Ideas for Beautification & Economic Growth

City of Longview Mayor Jay Dean has asked me to chair a citizen's task force to study the economic development of our I-20 corridor. Development of the Interstate 20 corridor is a significant opportunity for the city of Longview to expand economic growth and take advantage of a resource that brings over 37,000 vehicles per day past the Estes Parkway and I-20 intersection.

Anyone who travels north on Estes Parkway toward our LeTourneau University campus can see that this entrance into the city does not represent Longview as the economically vibrant, beautiful city that it is. Our prospective students and their parents drive to campus from I-20 when coming to preview LeTourneau University. They pass several abandoned and shuttered buildings as well as unattractive and overgrown lots. Unfortunately, it is their first impression of Longview.

We at LeTourneau University have a vested interest in being part of beautification and economic growth efforts in South Longview. Because this is our city's front door, all in Longview will benefit from a redeveloped I-20 corridor.

Having been outspoken on the need for improvements, I was eager to get started. Our task force is meeting through May in MSC 3 to consider ideas and develop recommendations for the Mayor and City Council. It's wonderful to have these city leaders and concerned citizens on our campus and to see the valuable asset they have in LETU.

To help with getting input from the community, the Longview Chamber of Commerce has launched a website,

I invite those of who are Longview community members to click on the link and share your ideas. The website offers guided questions such as:
  • What type of economic development would you like to see along Longview's I-20 corridor?
  • What types of development would encourage you to visit the Sabine River bottomlands?
  • What can the city do to encourage private developers to make an investment along our I-20 corridor?
  • From your experience, what cities do a great job of attracting visitors from their interstate highway?
Because so many of you, as LETU faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends, live and work in the local community, you have a unique perspective on South Longview. I hope you'll let your good ideas be heard on this website. If nothing else, voice your agreement with the urgency that now is the time to reclaim this neighborhood for the sake of all of Longview.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Good News of New Life

The Thursday before Jesus was crucified, he gathered for the last time with his disciples and celebrated the Passover meal which today we call the Last Supper.

Those intimate moments between Jesus and his disciples have inspired artists throughout the centuries to depict what that scene might have looked like. From the 22nd chapter of the book of Luke, we know that Jesus and his disciples reclined at the table as He gave thanks for the cup and bread and then shared it with them.

Shortly thereafter Jesus humbled himself and washed the feet of his disciples, even the ones who would betray and deny him. And it was later that evening, in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, He prayed in anguish, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

It was not to be. Instead, He was betrayed, arrested, denied, mocked, beaten, judged and crucified. That Friday was a dark day, but as we know, Sunday was coming with a resurrection power that would forever change the world.

As we look toward Easter Sunday, I encourage us all to take time to silently reflect on the promise fulfilled by Jesus' death on the cross. Through Him, we have victory, new life, and the promise of eternity. That is Good News!

Thursday, March 21, 2013


LeTourneau University is an incredible place. Every single day, I marvel at the creativity and ingenuity of our students, our faculty and our staff. The difference that each of you make is immeasurable.

To those of you who work with our students every day, you are our front lines. You are changing lives, molding them into the men and women who will truly make profound differences in every workplace and every nation. They do this by carrying both the Good News of Jesus Christ as well as their hearts and minds into the world that surrounds them.

Each and every one of you are part of this incredible LeTourneau story. You are LeTourneau University.

This year, we've started communicating with our alumni in a fresh way to stay in touch with them and keep them up to date on some of the most exciting things happening on campus. The initiative has a simple goal: to tell the story of LeTourneau University through emails, a blog, and (for those who enjoy a more visual experience, an infographic).

Any of you who are a part of the LeTourneau Nation (faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, friends of the university, and more) are part of this incredible story. In every classroom and office on campus, and in every workplace one of our graduates inhabits, incredible pieces add up to the single greatest university in the world. And any time you'd like a look into the latest at LeTourneau, you'll find the content from all of our alumni communications, and more, at the blog link above.

If you have an incredible story that you think should be told, we want to hear about it. Email your story ideas and let us help to share your successes and the little pieces of incredible that make up this amazing place. Or, request to receive IncrediblyLETU alumni communications to stay up-to-date about your incredible alma mater.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Hip Hop Meets Faith & Work

Do you know Hip Hop? Do you know the Grammy Award-winning artist Lecrae? Trust me, our students know him and his music. He is one of the voices of their generation. I don't know him but I know Tim Tebow and Bubba Watson, and they are fans of Lecrae's rap music.

He recently challenged the church with a message that strikes me as true when he said:

"The reason why the church typically doesn't engage culture is because we are scared of it. We're scared it's going to somehow jump on us and corrupt us. We're scared it's going to somehow mess up our good thing. So we consistently move further and further away from the corruption, further and further away from the crime, further and further away from the post-modernity, further and further away from the relativism and secular humanism and we want to go to a safe place with people just like you. We want to be comfortable."

Lecrae recently mentioned our LeTourneau University Center for Faith & Work in a tweet. In doing so, he shared our Center with over 580,000 of his followers. If you think about Hip Hop as his workplace, then Lecrae is doing exactly the same as we ask of our mechanical engineering or accounting graduates.

In another indication that our new Center for Faith and Work is becoming part of the global conversation about the integration of faith and work, director Bill Peel was invited to give three lectures on the topic at a Singapore church last week. I joined him at Hope Church Singapore and in several meetings with business and ministry leaders. I was encouraged to learn how many first-generation Christians in Asia are now asking the complicated question of how to make Jesus their Lord, not just on Sunday but also on the other six days of the week.

I believe they were encouraged to hear the story of R.G. LeTourneau who claimed God as his partner in business. They were eager to hear what Bill has labeled "workplace grace" as a mechanism for sharing God's love at work. They have no "Christian University" like LETU in Singapore. They have only comprehensive state universities and private seminaries. They were encouraged an institution like LETU existed; one with a mission to graduate competent professionals with Christ-like character. It was liberating for them to hear that they didn't have to choose work or ministry; instead, work done for the glory of God is ministry.

I returned home praying that God would clearly show me all He is doing in Asia and how LETU might join in that work.