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.