Thursday, January 31, 2013

YellowJacket Basketball: Fear the Sting!

Have you noticed that the LeTourneau men's basketball team is currently on pace to make the American Southwest Conference Tournament for the first time since 2008-09?

It has been an exciting year: You'll want to see this video of the Jackets behind by 12 with less than 2 minutes to play coming back to defeat Mississippi College here in Longview.

The Jackets are 8-5 in the ASC, sitting in second place, just one game behind University of Texas at Tyler, who sits at the top of the ASC East.

LeTourneau travels to Mississippi College and Louisiana College on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

If they win those games, it will set up a showdown between the UT Tyler Patriots and LETU YellowJackets in Solheim Arena at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7.

I served as a dean and vice president at UT Tyler for seven years. Our athletics director Terri Deike was UT Tyler's first women's basketball coach. I know I can speak for Terri when I write that defeating UT Tyler is especially sweet!

If the Jackets win that game and go on to win the ASC East this season, then LETU would host the 2013 American Southwest Conference Tournament at Solheim Arena from Thursday, Feb. 22, to  Saturday, Feb. 24, marking the first time in school history that the Jackets would have won a division and hosted a tournament.

I want to encourage you to put the Thursday, Feb. 7, game on your calendars and come cheer for the YellowJackets. It promises to be a great game.

If you want more information about the team, you can go to or visit our live stream of the home games at

Fear the Sting!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Drayton McLane: Investing in Education

There are three associations of college presidents in Texas, and each year since 1977, the Council of Public University Presidents and Chancellors (CPUPC), the Independent Colleges and Universities in Texas (ICUT) and the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) have all partnered together to present  the prestigious Mirabeau B. Lamar Award for outstanding service to higher education in Texas.

Past winners include former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby, Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, businessman Red McCombs, the Exxon Foundation and the Welch Foundation.

This year I was honored to be asked to serve on the selection committee for this award.

Yesterday, in Austin, I was present for the ceremony honoring the 2013 recipient: Drayton McLane, Jr. of Temple, Texas.

McLane is chairman of the McLane Group holding company, founded in 1992, and is the CEO of McLane Advanced Technologies, a global logistics and technology solutions company he founded in 2004.

McLane, 76, grew up working in his father's grocery business that had been established by his grandfather in 1894. Earning his undergraduate degree in 1958 from Baylor University and an MBA in marketing at Michigan State in 1959, McLane became president and CEO of the family business in 1978, assuming the chairmanship in 1992. The grocery distribution network evolved into a computer-based technology business for McLane, who sold the grocery business to Sam Walton in 1990. As a baseball fan, I know McLane best as chairman and CEO of the Houston Astros from 1993 to 2011.

A philanthropist with both his money and his time, McLane has served in leadership roles on the boards of several heath care and educational institutions. He is a major benefactor to both Baylor University and the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor. He has served as chairman of the Board of Regents at Baylor University, where the McLane Student Life Center and McLane carillons are named in his honor. He is currently a trustee for the Baylor College of Medicine. At UMHB, McLane Hall is named in his honor, and he sponsors the McLane Lectures, featuring notable speakers such as former President and first lady George H.W. and Barbara Bush.

McLane told the assembled college and university presidents yesterday in Austin that philanthropy has been a great joy, and that there is no greater return on investment than investing in the education of our young people.

I have seen this same joy in many of our LETU friends who understand that we have been blessed so that we may bless others.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Developing Longview's "Front Door"

My leadership role at the Longview Chamber of Commerce ends tonight with the annual Chamber Banquet. Over 600 will gather at Maude Cobb to celebrate Longview's business community. It has been impressive to watch how well the Longview economy has survived the Great Recession which began in 2008.

Unemployment here never reached the levels found nationally and, while growth in Longview did slow, we are one of few places with recent growth in both population and income.

Longview has also built an exceptional Chamber of Commerce with more than 1,000 business members. The Chamber is one of a very few to be recognized with "Five Star Accreditation" by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Last year, Longview's Chamber was runner-up for the national "Chamber of the Year" award.

With Kelly Hall, president of the Longview Chamber of Commerce
Longview Mayor Jay Dean has asked me to chair a task force he is creating. The task force will be charged with making recommendations on what the City Council can do to encourage and facilitate development of our I-20 corridor that runs through Longview. The interstate is in our neighborhood, and obviously development is important to LeTourneau University. But I-20 is important to all of Longview because it is the "front door" to our community.

Economic development of South Longview will happen only as the result of private-public partnerships. The city government can take action to encourage and protect the investment of private developers who will see the heavily traveled I-20 as an opportunity. In fact, just the appointment of the task force is a huge step forward in saying to private developers, "We want to help you bring economic growth and beautification to South Longview."

I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I can certainly see the opportunity and sense the urgency for Longview to act. And I appreciate LeTourneau University having a voice in the process. After all, we are "Longview's University."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Within His Reach

I've earned three college degrees. I've been called to education as my life's work. Call me old-fashioned, but I admire a well-crafted lecture or a complex concept thoughtfully laid out in an essay. I love "Jesus the teacher." This is the Jesus as a boy lecturing in the synagogue. This is the Jesus they called rabbi, who tutored one-on-one and also masterfully taught  thousand with parables. Sitting at the feet of the great teacher is one of life's great joys given by the holy Scriptures.

But as I said in our first Chapel on Wednesday (view here), Jesus came to save, not only teach. And he came to save not just the religious good guys but detestable sinners and society's bad guys. Jesus came to save the kind of people we most don't want to associate with. We see them as "evil" or "sinful" or just plain "stinkers" who we don't want in our nation, our family or even on our campus.

Mark 5 is a good example of Jesus reaching out to heal the most unclean person imaginable in his world: a violent, nude, demon-possessed man living among the dead in a cemetery (and next to a herd of pigs). Jesus the teacher would not show up at this cemetery, but Jesus the savior came for just such a venue. Jesus the teacher might have lectured the wayward man, but Jesus the savior healed him and commissioned him to go and tell others how God had been merciful to him.

I'll be honest: the demon-possessed man of Mark 5 is just an extreme example of me. I have not been entered by demons, but I have allowed the evil one to invade my life through past sins, emotional traumas, and my choice to withhold forgiveness from those who have hurt me. I need a savior, and Jesus is that to me.

Is anyone beyond the reach of Jesus the savior? The pitiful creature in Mark 5 was within his reach. The pitiful creature that is Dale Lunsford was within his reach. You are within his reach. In word and deed, let's testify of God's mercy to everyone who will seek him. Let's avoid the temptation to judge those we find "sinful" as beyond the reach of his saving grace.