Friday, December 11, 2015

Celebrating Acheivements this Christmas Season

Congratulations everyone on the completion of another successful academic term at LeTourneau!

We will celebrate with our graduates this weekend at December commencement. Dr. Paul Corts, former president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities will be our guest speaker.

Next semester, we will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first classes at our original institution LeTourneau Technical Institute.

This week began in celebration. Several of us were Houston Monday to learn that SACSCOC will be sending us a letter saying that no additional reports are needed on our Bachelor of Science in Nursing, following the submission of a Referral Report after the onsite visit, which was conducted last spring. Our nursing program soon will be seeking specialized, professional accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Congratulations to Dean Quiett and our Quality Assurance team for all of their great work!

What do presidents from all across the South discuss at SACSCOC? We heard a report on the start of the Tennessee Promise, the new program that allows students in that state to earn an associate's degree at no cost. It's of importance because many politicians at the national level and in Texas are promising similar go-to-college free programs. Early college high schools are already up and running in Texas and these make it possible for students to earn up to an associate's degree while still in high school -- at no cost to the student.

More students earning associate's degrees can be an opportunity for us as these students seek the bachelor's degree. LETU will become more affordable for students who want a Christian education but can't afford all four years in residence.

And these celebrations lead us to Christmas -- the celebration of God entering our world. Why did He come? The Bible teaches He came to seek and save the lost. A university bearing Christ's name as a Christian university can join in this mission. God will use our academic programs to seek and save the lost in our time and place. As the Wise Men did, we bring the gifts of our talent and knowledge to surrender to the Christ and His will to redeem the earth.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Dr. Yoni Adonyi Recieves Prestigious AWS Award

Monday in Chicago, I was honored to see our own Dr. Yoni Adonyi be inducted into the American Welding Society's prestigious 2015 Class of Fellows. 

The Fellow honor is the highest honor AWS bestows on individuals who have made distinguished contributions to the field of welding science and technology.  Founded in 1919, the AWS is the premier professional organization of over 70,000 members worldwide that seeks to advance the science, technology and application of welding and allied joining and cutting processes. 

Yoni has a stellar reputation for sustained professionalism and career accomplishments in the field of materials joining and in materials joining/welding education and research. 

For nearly two decades, Yoni has taught welding and joining processes, metallurgy, design, power systems and nondestructive testing at LeTourneau University.  He also holds the university's first endowed chair at LETU, the Omer Blodgett Chair of Welding and Materials Joining Engineering, which he has held since 1998. Some of his contributions are in the areas of solid-state weldability of high performance steel for bridges, including friction stir welding and high frequency welding hybrid process development.  He has co-authored a patent and is co-author on two more pending patents.   

His dedication to his profession and to our students at LETU have blessed a generation of LETU engineering alumni.  We are thankful for him and for the award the AWS has bestowed on him this week.

Friday, October 30, 2015

LETU Alumnus Wins Big on Shark Tank

A LeTourneau University education equips students to pursue their Christian faith by doing excellent work.  One of our LETU alumni is reaping the fruits of his labors as seen last week on the ABC television network program, "Shark Tank."  Another LETU alumnus is scheduled to appear on the same program tomorrow.

The TV show has become a celebration of entrepreneurial spirit and bold vision.  From our founder to this fall's freshmen, LETU continues to be the place for those seeking bold new solutions informed by the ancient virtues of our faith.

Friday night's episode of "Shark Tank" was a big win for 2001 LETU aviation graduate JD Claridge of Sandpoint, Idaho, who is the founder, president and CEO of xCraft, which makes a revolutionary hybrid unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or "drone," the X PlusOne.

He and his business partner, Charles Manning, walked into the "Shark Tank" to seek $500,000 in funding for 20% share of their company and walked away with $1.5 million in funding for a 25% share, along with historic participation from all five shark investors.

The five "shark" investors included Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O'Leary, Daymond John and Lori Greiner, who each put up $300,000 and will each receive a 5% share of the new business.  The sharks are all seasoned investors and entrepreneurs who are as valued for their experience and mentoring advice as for their cash investments.

A video demonstration showed that Claridge's patent-pending, hybrid, remotely piloted aircraft combines the vertical takeoff, hovering and landing capabilities of a helicopter drone, but also can climb to 10,000 feet and turn to fly like an airplane at 60 mph.  It is anticipated to sell for about $1,800.

It also can run autonomously on a flight plan built on a personal computer software.  Claridge and Manning demonstrated the drone as they walked into the shark tank following the aircraft, with Claridge at the controls, landing the aircraft gently on a table before the shark investors.

Claridge, an aerospace engineer, is the inventor of the drone. He and Manning, CEO of a mobile analytics tech company, partnered to commercialize Claridge's design. While in the "shark tank," the team also showed a patent-pending product still being developed that will turn a smartphone into a drone, aptly named the "Phone Drone," anticipated to retail for about $400.

Claridge said we are witnessing a new dawn of aviation--the age of unmanned flight.

At LeTourneau University, we agree.  LETU's new Remotely Piloted Aircraft program is right on the cutting edge of training for this fast-growing field that has immense potential for growth over the next decades to come.

Claridge and his ingenuity in this invention remind me of our LETU founder R.G. LeTourneau who looked for a new, better way of doing things. And with that innovation was a commitment and perseverance to overcome obstacles and succeed.  We congratulate him and wish him all the best.

Tomorrow night, another LETU alumnus Mike Hostetler and Julie Phelps Hostetler are scheduled to appear on "Shark Tank" at 8 p.m. with their business idea called "Rent Like a Champion."  We hope they also find success in the shark tank.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Education Partnership with the C12 Group

Faith and work integration has long been a distinction of a LeTourneau University education.

For 70 years, LETU has combined our legacy of faith and innovation with our world-class business education to inspire students and graduates to share the Good News of Christ around the globe--in every workplace, in every nation.

To further that end, I am proud to share that LETU will soon be announcing a new partnership with a group of America's leading business owners and executives, known as the C12 Group.  This organization, founded in 1992, is one of America's leading CEO roundtable organizations with members who seek to achieve excellence through professional development, Christian accountability and peer sharpening as they conduct business with an eternal perspective in mind.

LETU will begin in January 2016 offering classes to cohorts of C-12 member institutions who can choose from our current undergraduate business programs:  Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science in Health Information Systems, Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management, Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems; as well as our graduate business programs:  Master of Strategic Leadership, Master of Business Administration, Master of Healthcare Administration and Master of Engineering Management. 

My thanks go to LETU Dean of Business and Technology Dr. Ron Sones and LETU Center for Faith and Work Executive Director Dr. Bill Peel for making this partnership happen.
Our flexible, online formats will allow these C12 students to maintain their busy schedules while completing their degrees.

LETU will benefit from the opportunities to work with established, faith-focused companies that can, in turn, provide valuable internship opportunities for our current students. Research projects can grow out of this partnership to enable LETU faculty and students to help solve company-specific challenges to prove that doing business according to biblical principles is the best way to run a business.

LETU's School of Business & Technology prepares professionals to make an impact for Christ at the intersection of career and God's calling.  Our programs prepare graduates to better understand how to live their faith at work in some of the most demanding and impactful fields.

We stand ready to welcome these new students to LETU, where they can experience the power of an education driven by faith, so the decisions they make in the board room on Monday reflect the same God they serve on Sunday.  Business is a rich environment for strengthening bonds of faith between professional and personal lives, to ensure that the lives we lead bring honor and glory to God.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

What can we Learn about the State of American Christianity from the Pope?

The visit of Pope Francis to the United States encourages me because of the overwhelmingly positive reception he is receiving, even from those with no affinity for organized religion.  How people are responding reminds me that a "God-shaped hole" exists in all of us.

An AT&T vice president said the papal visit is equivalent to 15 Super Bowls.  All the cellular carriers are upgrading their system capacities in New York, Philadelphia and Washington where the pope is visiting.  Six thousand additional police officers will be deployed when he arrives in New York City tonight.  Two million are expected to gather to hear the pope in Philadelphia Saturday.
Perhaps faith is not dead in the United States after all?

Pope Francis, in remarks to President Obama yesterday, said Catholics are committed to building a tolerant and inclusive society.  But the pope then gave a warning:

"With countless other people of good will, they are likewise concerned that efforts to build a just and wisely ordered society respect their deepest concerns and their right to religious liberty.  That freedom remains one of America's most precious freedoms."

In that moment, the pope articulated the concerns of many.  In the name of tolerance, religious liberty is under attack; it is being redefined by lawmakers and justices.  Do we have the liberty to practice our faith outside the church walls?  Will we retain the liberty to worship through our daily work in our everyday workplaces? 

In Christian higher education, we seek religious liberty and respect.  We ask for freedom to make hiring decisions consistent with our faith.  We seek to create a Christ-centered community of voluntary membership that teaches Christian virtue along with the arts, humanities and sciences.  We ask government to honor our concerns for offering only those employee benefits consistent with our faith.

In a nation built on the shrine of individual liberty, I should acknowledge two freedoms that people of Christ do not enjoy.  We are not free to react with fear and disregard when others around us are disagreeable.  Instead, we are called to relationships built on love, even when that love is unearned.  Likewise, Christ followers do not have the liberty to ignore the Holy Bible and the ancient wisdom of our faith.

I pray that many in the crowds attracted to Pope Francis this week are seeking hope and meaning in their lives - hope that we know is only available from God through Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we have good news for those who seek.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poverty Conference Coming to LETU

I've been thinking about poverty this week.  The struggle is a daily routine for many of our campus neighbors.  In the 70 years LETU has been in existence, our society has advanced in many ways.  Think of how the technology of today compares to 1946!  Yet, when it comes to poverty, has our society really made any progress?

Poverty steals hope.  It robs this and the next generation of a brighter future. And poverty engenders violence.  Right here in Longview, we read headlines of increasing violence and shootings in our community. It is a complex problem but one important key to combat poverty is education. 

This week, we've been planning our part in an upcoming conference.  LeTourneau University is proud to be one of the sponsors of the Junior League of Longview's October 15 Poverty Conference, featuring Dr. Geoffrey Canada, who will speak on "The Crisis Facing Our Youth: What Adults and Communities Can Do to Save Our Children."

An educator, author and social activist, Canada is renowned for his work in education in Harlem, where poverty strikes deep.  He knows poverty personally.  He grew up in the inner city.  New York's South Bronx district was his home, as the third of four sons being raised by a single mom.  In his mid-teenage years, she sent him to live with his grandparents to get out of the inner city.  Reports say he understood his calling at an early age.

Canada went on to earn an undergraduate degree in psychology and sociology from Bowdoin College and a master's in education from Harvard Graduate School of Education.  He has been prominently featured in the award-winning 2010 documentary on education titled "Waiting for Superman."  He has also been featured on TED talks and on the CBS News' 60 Minutes for the revolution in education he has begun in Harlem, New York, which is called the Harlem Children's Zone to increase high school and college graduation rates among students there by providing social, medical and educational services. 

The impact of his school has grown from a neighborhood to nearly 100 square blocks, reaching an estimated 10,000 inner city students, providing hope and a future.  His school has a 95% college matriculation rate. Fortune Magazine named him in 2014 among the World's 50 Greatest Leaders.

He is quoted as saying that these inner city children succeed because they get what middle-class and upper middle-class students get:  safety, structure, academic enrichment, cultural activity and adults who love them and are prepared to help them succeed.

The Poverty Conference is for anyone who has concerns about how poverty and crime are affecting our area, from educators and church members, to business leaders and elected officials, to parents, friends and community volunteers.  Canada will speak in the morning, with breakout sessions in the afternoon, on topics including community revitalization, economic impact and local opportunities for engagement.  Some of our own LETU professors will be involved in leading some of those sessions.

LeTourneau University has a stake and a part to play in the well-being of the Longview community.  I hope you will encourage those you know to attend.  For more information and to register for the conference, visit

Friday, August 28, 2015

Building New International Opportunities

I was pleased to meet with a visitor from India this week to discuss a potential international partnership. Ashok Daryani is President of International Relations at Sharda University in Nolda, Delhi. Shardia University has over 20,000 students and 1,200 faculty across three campuses in India.

India is second only to China in the number of students sent to the United States for higher education.  With many Indian students selecting majors in information technology, engineering and technology related fields, LETU is in a prime position to welcome students from India into these programs here in Longview. 

The number of Indian students studying in the United States has nearly doubled to over 102,000 in the past 15 years, reflecting both a demand for quality higher education among Indian students and the growth of the Indian economy.  Today, LETU hosts more students from India than from any other foreign country except South Korea.

Thanks largely to Kelly Liebengood, Alan Clipperton and Rebecca Haesecke in our Office of Global Initiatives, in the past few years, LETU's international student enrollment has grown from about 50 students in 2011-2012 to maintaining an enrollment of over 100 each semester since Spring 2013. LETU now has active matriculation agreements and exchange programs with more than 13 institutions in 7 countries. 

We are currently pursuing opportunities to take quality Christian higher education abroad into countries like Sri Lanka and South Korea.  Just last fall, our Rwandan students led us in a Walk to Remember the Rwandan genocide, which allowed them to become our teachers as they shared stories of the devastation and reunification of the people of their homeland.  We currently continue to host government scholarship students from Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. 

This fall, our newest international students come from over 18 countries from as far away as Mongolia and as close as Canada.  Most of them are here for our engineering program.

These accomplishments emphasize that our commitment to become a university of global influence continues.  Our every workplace every nation vision requires us to be a global institution where our students, our faculty and, most importantly, our Christ-inspired love and Christian values, can flow across national borders and cultures.

Ashok Daryani of Shandra University traveled all the way from India to visit with LETU President Dr. Dale A. Lunsford about a potential educational partnership.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Welcoming the Class of 2019 to Campus

New Student Orientation is underway!   

These incoming students bring with them energy and excitement for this life-changing journey.  Their arrival reminds me that the year ahead is full of new promise, new friends and new experiences.  Not just for them but for all of us.

LETU new students are a diverse group.  They include first-time freshmen, transfer students, graduate students and online students.  Many come from Texas but also from 19 nations in Asia, Africa, North and South America and Europe.  You've seen many of them moving into our residence halls today.  There are many others who are new but not residential students.

The new students are joining our student leaders and YellowJacket student athletes who are already back on campus.  Returning residential students will be arriving this weekend and classes begin Monday.

The average SAT of this incoming class is 1140 (the U.S. average is around 1000).  Many arrive with a love for math and science, others come motivated to solve the equations of human relationships and explore the mysteries of our faith.  In that way, we are carrying on our tradition of educating the future movers of men and mountains.

Student Life has organized a new student orientation program with three objectives:  confidence, competence, and connections.  There is much anxiety in these types of transitions for students of all ages and level of experience.  And there is anxiety for parents also.  I'll host a coffee for parents tomorrow morning ahead of a number of orientation experiences designed just for them.

Tonight, the faculty will gather in the Belcher Center in full academic regalia to welcome new students and parents to LETU.  One of our traditions is the ivy planting:  students are symbolically planted into this learning community where their growth is our objective.  It is also a night of worship and mutual dedication to honor God in our new work together.

When the planned events of this orientation are over; when the parents are gone; when the first conflicts with a roommate or with family have become evident and the first homework grade is disappointing, let us remember that we can continue with the orientation work of building confidence, improving competence, and creating connections. 

Our "Welcome to LETU, We're glad you're here" might be more powerful on those days than it is even this week.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

How is Beekeeping like Education?

A friend in town keeps bees. He allowed me to help him harvest honey and see firsthand the industrious work of the honey bee. It's really fascinating. Beekeepers and educators have something important in common.

I've been in Austin this week where I serve on the board of directors of ICUT:  the association of 40 Independent Colleges and Universities in Texas. The group includes large institutions like Baylor and TCU and much smaller colleges like Parker and Wiley.

ICUT completed an impact analysis to quantify the important contributions of independent colleges and universities in Texas. We do much to make Texas a better place. That's where the beekeeper analogy comes in.

The bees cared for by beekeepers  make honey but more. Those same bees pollinate nearby orchards making fruit possible and that fruit benefits humans, animals and birds. Colleges exist to educate students but those students contribute much to make our communities better.

For example, did you know college graduates are much less likely to smoke, be obese, or suffer from prolonged illnesses?  They are less likely than non college graduates to abuse alcohol or use illicit drugs. College graduates are much less likely to become incarcerated and cost society.

So much good happens in our society when we raise the educational attainment of our communities.  College grads bear fruit of many kinds beyond higher salaries. I'm proud LETU is part of Texas independent colleges enrolling 175,000 students and making a better Texas.

Friday, August 7, 2015

LETU Partners for the Future with Longview ISD

Increasing the affordability for local students to attend LETU has long been one of our goals.  For example, a few years ago, we announced our Future of East Texas Grant to lower costs and provide incentive for local students to come live on campus.

Last week, I signed a new partnership agreement with Longview Independent School District that will lower the cost of a LeTourneau University college education for qualifying Longview High School students. 

Longview's incoming 9th grade students this fall may begin earning college credit hours from LETU, free of charge, since the school district pays the costs of tuition, textbooks and transportation, as part of LISD's Early College High School program.  The program is made possibly, indirectly, by House Bill 5 that requires incoming high school students to select a vocational endorsement entering high school.

During four years of high school, students start out slowly, taking 3 to 6 college hours their first year, then ramping up to 18 to 30 hours of college courses in their sophomore, junior and senior years, accumulating up to 60 credit hours, or an associate degree. 

The first direct degree pathway that LETU is offering is toward a degree in aviation management.  Other programs are being discussed to announce in the future. 

Depending on academic program, a student could save as much as $50,000 in college-related expenses by participating in Longview's ECHS program with LETU.

Longview ISD is one of only 154 school districts across the state that the Texas Education Agency has designated as an Early College High School.  It is the only ECHS in Gregg County.

This program makes college more affordable, but also gives students an opportunity to find out earlier about career opportunities.

Students who enter this program can transition seamlessly into campus when they finish high school, qualifying for more lucrative freshmen scholarships, even though they will already have hours to classify as juniors.  They would not be considered transfer students, who are identified as those who have completed up to 12 hours of college credits after having graduated from high school.

I want to thank LETU Dean of Aviation and Aeronautical Sciences Fred Ritchey, LETU Vice President for Enrollment Services Dr. Terry Cruse and our dual-enrollment coordinator Sharleen Hunt for their work in making this partnership a reality.

This partnership provides the opportunity for LISD students to take classes on our campus, similar to the opportunities we already provide home school students.  And it is similar to the program we announced earlier in the year with Pine Tree ISD for students interested in our nursing program. 

What a great way for high achieving students to experience one of the nation's leading Christian institutions first-hand.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Summer Reading Recommendations

I'm writing today from northern Oklahoma, where Marsha and I are spending some quality time together at the family wheat farm. This land of small towns and big skies is special to us. The pace of life slows here. My hope is that each of you, too, have been blessed with renewal as you spend time connecting with family and friends this summer.

Summer is also a time for me to enjoy reading. Some of my favorites this summer have been:

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown

While Hitler was taking control of Germany and planning the 1936 Berlin Olympics to showcase his Nazi regime, a strong, young Joe Rantz was working to survive the Great Depression, earn an engineering degree from the University of Washington, and make sense of a troubled relationship with his father. This true story tells how nine young men from Seattle won the gold medal in rowing and stole some of the spotlight from the Nazi public relations effort. What you learn about rowing will make you wish for a rowing team here at LETU.

Called by Mark Labberton

This book by the president of Fuller Seminary reminds us that in our quest to find God's call in our life, we shouldn't miss the clear essential charge he has given us: to love God and to love others. LETU has been equipped with a unique calling to claim the workplace for Christ. Yet, we only understand that calling in the context of our mission to love God and the neighbors God has given us.

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit

From the chaos of the holocaust to the present danger of Iran with nuclear arms, the history of Israel is more complicated  than I had understood. This narrative history of the modern nation of Israel is written by Israeli journalist and commentator Ari Shavit from interviews, personal diaries and letter, as well as historical documents that tell a compelling story of the Israeli-Arab struggle. Shavit writes:

"The act of concentrating the Jews in one place was essential but dangerous. If another historic disaster were to strike here, it might be the last. The founding fathers and mothers of Zionism realized this. They knew they were leading one of the most miserable nations in the world to one of the most dangerous places in the world." This dramatic story is still being written in the headlines of our daily news coverage.

Many of you may have read other great books you have enjoyed this summer. Send me your favorite books. I always keep a list of what to read next.

Friday, July 10, 2015

LETU Lands Spot on Beautiful Campus List

LeTourneau University is a beautiful campus.  We all know that.  But it sure is nice when others take note, too, like this past week when Online Christian Colleges website listed LETU as one of the top 50 in its "Most Beautiful Campuses."

The website ranked LETU 19th in its list, ahead of some other campuses you may know: Baylor (37th) in Waco and SMU (49th) in Dallas.  The honor was also featured this week in the Longview News-Journal and local television news.

While our campus doesn't boast expansive "ocean views, majestic mountains, stained-glass windows and enchanting cathedrals" (like many of the campuses ranked ahead of us), we do have a beautiful campus steeped in history as a former World War II-era military hospital.  Our campus is a special place set aside for the important work of higher learning. This "most beautiful campus" is the work of our Facilities Services Department, led by Ben Haywood.

Their time and talent (and sweat!) have gone into the careful planning and meticulous upkeep of our university buildings and grounds. Their work was recognized only a few months ago when the local Keep Longview Beautiful Award was presented to the campus. 

All work done well can bring glory to God.  Our facilities team demonstrates this truth -- and it's thrilling to see the world notice.

I hope the world knows that the most beautiful thing about our campus is the life-changing moments that happen here.  Marty Lane and her Conference and Events Services team have welcomed hundreds of campers so far this summer.  She reported that in the past two weeks of IMPACT camp, 55 students made first-time decisions for Christ, along with 40 other re-commitment decisions, here at LETU.  We still have two more residential camps coming this summer, so let's all pray for the Holy Spirit to continue this work.

All of this reminds me of Isaiah 40:  "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever."  Now that's beautiful!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Importance of Intercollegiate Athletics

The American Southwest Conference President's Council is meeting in Dallas today. I'm honored to report that I was selected to serve as Chair of the President's Council for the 2015-16 academic year.  This year is my first of a two-year commitment to serve on the Executive Committee. 

Members of the Council are presidents from the conference schools: Belhaven, Concordia Texas, East Texas Baptist, Hardin-Simmons, Howard Payne, LeTourneau, Louisiana College, Mary Hardin-Baylor, McMurry, Ozarks, Sul Ross State, University of Texas-Dallas, and University of Texas-Tyler.  The University of California-Santa Cruz is an affiliate member in women's golf.
The American Southwest Conference (ASC) is an NCAA Division III athletic conference. More than 180,000 student-athletes compete at 450 NCAA Division III institutions across the nation.  Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes who do not receive athletic scholarships and compete in shorter practice and playing seasons than student-athletes at Division I and Division II schools. In addition to serving this year as chair of our conference President's Council, I'm also a member of the NCAA national president's advisory group.
The ASC was founded in 1996, and LeTourneau joined the NCAA conference in 1998. Today, the conference is one of the nation's largest Division III conferences, stretching from far west Texas into Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The ASC awards championships in 16 sports and LETU competes in 13 of them. 
Today in Dallas the conference presidents are reviewing progress and considering proposed changes in conference rules. 
Intercollegiate athletics are important at LETU. More than 200 student-athletes are enrolled. 24 student-athletes were among those who graduated from the university in our May commencement. A member of our men's tennis team, Morgan Weaver, is a mechanical engineering major who was this spring elected student body president. 
Our LETU Athletic Director, Terri Deike, is a recognized leader within the NCAA, and the students in her athletic program are consistently earning grade point averages higher than the overall LETU student body. Assistant Athletic Director and Head Coach Robin Harriss led our baseball team to LETU's first NCAA conference tournament championship last year. Our courts and playing fields are among our largest classrooms and our coaches are among our most influential teachers.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Celebrating Graduation and the 2014-2015 Academic Year

We just graduated over 300 new professionals Saturday, and this weekend the Enrollment Services and Student Life staff are hosting our first SWARM event for new Fall 2015 students. 

One academic year closes with pomp while the next year gears up with enthusiasm.  It seems there is little time to rest and reflect between the end of one academic year and the beginning of the next.

When I did take the luxury of stopping to reflect on 2014-2015, it was easy to list several major advancements for the university:

For the 21st time, LETU was ranked by US News in the top tier of our peer schools: #27 in the Western US region and #13 on their list of "Great Schools at Great Prices."

According to a study conducted by PayScale, LETU is second only to Rice University among Texas independent universities in ROI (return on investment). Is a college degree worth it? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" here where a LETU degree pays great dividends for students in the job market.

This year saw our largest-ever enrollments in a number of important categories:  largest graduate student enrollment, largest international student enrollment, and largest engineering school enrollment in the university's history. These results come from our work the last five years to become a university of global influence and the leading STEM university in Christian higher education.

Enhancements to our campus facilities continued last year. It was the first full year operating our beautiful Anna Lee and Sidney Allen Family Student Center. We opened three new labs for engineering students: the Keck Mobility Lab, the NSF-funded clean room microfabrication lab, and the Maker Lab.  Our new School of Nursing also opened a new nursing skills lab in MSC.

Finally, this last year saw LETU demonstrate servant leadership to East Texas. One of our own, Deena Shelton of Psychology, was named as a "2014 Emerging Leader" in Longview. The number of local high school students concurrently enrolled in LETU classwork grew significantly and our new health sciences partnership with Pine Tree ISD was welcomed enthusiastically. Our Counseling Center continues to reach out into the community with much-needed mental health services.  The Longview Chamber of Commerce flattered me with their 2015 Chairman's Award.

I'm grateful for your dedicated service that the Lord has blessed in the academic year just completed.  Now, on we go to 2015-16!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Celebrating Success

In the next few days at the Lunsford house, we are celebrating Mother's Day, my birthday, and our 30th wedding anniversary.  And for LETU, it's a time to celebrate the successful end of our academic year. 

Students are finishing finals and over 300 are preparing to walk the stage on Saturday to receive their hard-earned and well-deserved diplomas.

We have 145 graduates in the morning ceremony in aviation, arts & sciences, education and nursing and 170 graduates in the afternoon in business and engineering.

We are truly honored to have Ray C. Davis, the principle owner and the co-chairman of the Board of Directors of the Texas Rangers Major League Baseball team, as our commencement speaker Saturday. 

Originally from New York, Ray graduated from LeTourneau in 1966 with a business degree.  After leading STEMCO here in Longview, he went on to build a distinguished career in the oil and gas industry. 

He was a founder of Energy Transfer in 1995 before taking it public in 2004.  He retired from there in 2007 as co-CEO and co-chair of the board.  Today, Energy Transfer operates 71,000 miles of pipeline.  In addition to leading the Texas Rangers, Ray is now the chairman and CEO of a family-owned diversified investment company called Avatar Investments, L.P.  
He has served on the board of directors of Crosstex Energy and as Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of Cornerstone Natural Gas. 

In 1980, he was elected to the Board of Trustees of LeTourneau College and served our school during an important time of transition.

Recognizing his business expertise,  he was appointed to Major League Baseball's Executive Committee in 2015.

I know him as a man who values hard work, integrity, and faith in God.  I pray that is something others will say about every one of our new LETU graduates.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Building & Strengthening LETU Connections in South Korea

This week, I am in South Korea with Dr. Kelly Liebengood, Alan Clipperton and Dr. Joonwan Kim building new relationships and strengthening old ones with several university presidents here. 

Monday, we visited Catholic Kwandong University President Dr. Myung-Hun Chun in Kangnung and had an opportunity to present LETU, talk about our graduate engineering programs and promote a dual degree program.   We talked about developing a nursing license program and talked about the TEACH program and recruiting exchange students.   

From there, we traveled to Pohang to meet the new president at Handong Global University, Dr. Soon Heung Chang, who is an MIT-educated nuclear engineer.  Our last partnership with this evangelical Christian school was signed in 2005, and while I was here, we renewed our longstanding partnership agreement and discussed ways for further collaboration.  HGU has about 3,600 undergraduate and 450 graduate students.   

We also visited Daegu University,  where LETU engineering professor Dr. Joonwan Kim graduated.  We met for the first time with Daegu University President Dr. Duckryul Hong, learned a lot about the school and signed a partnership agreement.  Daegu University has 17,500 undergraduates and nearly 2,000 graduates and is not affiliated with any religious organization. 

From there, we visited President Dr. Hyung-Tae Kim at Hannam University, an evangelical school of about 12,500 undergraduates and 1,273 graduate students.  This was our first visit to their campus, however Hannam University president visited LETU last May, so it was my pleasure to return the favor. 

Wednesday, we visited and signed our first agreement with Dr. Augustine Jungku Lee at Sungkonghoe University, which is an Anglican Church-related school of over 3,000 undergraduates and nearly 500 graduate students.  We also met the dean of Student and International Student Affairs Dr. Daniel Seongchan Kim, whose son is studying electrical engineering at LETU.

Before we come home, we are scheduled to have a short meeting with Hanyang University President Dr. Young Moo Lee in Seoul to learn more about the school and discuss ways we can work together. HYU is ranked 4th in Korea and about 250th around the world, with nearly 23,000 undergraduate students and over 6,500 graduate students. It has no religious affiliation.  We have hosted and sent exchange students to and from HYU for over a year.  Alan Clipperton has worked a lot with this university in his former place of employment. 

Also while in Seoul, we have plans to meet with and renew our friendship with former HGU president Gil Young Kim, who is now employed with the United Nations.

This trip is important for expanding our international relationships.  Korea is LETU's gateway to Asia. It is essential for our graduates to be exposed to this region of the world.  And for students in Asia, a Christian university focused on STEM programs has much to offer.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

LETU Students Organize Event to Remember Rwandan Genocide of 1994

LeTourneau University is blessed to have citizens from 37 different nations on campus.  They come here as students of our academic disciplines and the U.S. culture.  But, these students can also be teachers. 

This Saturday, on April 11, is a great example.

Several of our Rwandan students will become our teachers as they have organized an event "Urumuri Rutazima," which means "Flame of Eternal Peace," in commemoration of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.   

The student-led event has attracted the attention of special guest Professor Mathilde Mukantabana, ambassador of the Republic of Rwanda to the United States, who will speak at the event. 

April, which was the month that the genocide began in 1994,  has now become a month when Rwandans across the globe pause to remember the atrocities and seek to heal their country through forgiveness and reconciliation. 

The event begins with prayer at 3 p.m. at Speer Chapel and will include a solemn unity walk around the university loop.  The walk mirrors one that occurs each year in April when the President of Rwanda leads his people from the parliament building to the stadium where just the simple act of being together in solidarity brings healing, peace and reconciliation.  It also represents a time to celebrate the rebirth of their nation. 

The program includes an educational short film, a student-written play and poem, along with a testimony of a genocide survivor. 

One of the organizers was quoted in the Longview News-JournalSunday: "We rose from ashes to a nation," Mutesi said. "Now, there is no more Hutu; there is no more Tutsi. We are all Rwandan, and that is beautiful." 

We are all invited.  I hope you will come to campus Saturday to learn and celebrate God's healing in Rwanda. 
Pictured with Dr. Lunsford, center, are Charity Mutesi, left, and Tamara Birasa,  right, who have organized Saturday's event to commemorate the rebirth of Rwanda following the 1994 genocide in their home country.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Honoring LeTourneau Faculty

LeTourneau University is not defined by programs nor facilities.  It is our faculty and staff and the way we interact with our students and community that define LeTourneau University. 

That's why it was a pleasure to honor several faculty this week who have recently been recognized by their peers, administration and university trustees for meritorious service to LETU.  At a lunch Tuesday, Dr. Coyle and I gathered with those who have just received tenure or been promoted. A list is found here.

Education transforms lives.  Our faith in Christ transforms lives.  That's been my personal experience.  And the transforming power of education and faith is why we are here.   Our faith and staff at LETU do a great job of modeling the intersection of faith and learning.  It's a combination of powers that God can use to redeem our world.

Professor emeritus standing was awarded to Dr. Paul Kubricht and Dr. John Feezell, in recognition of outstanding service, steadfast and professional leadership, and faithful dedication to the academic and Christian of LETU.
Tenure is the means whereby LETU rewards  contributions by faculty to the university, students and the community and is an earned privilege for excellent service, signifying a greater sense of belonging, institutional acceptance, stability and community with the university. 

Tenure was renewed for Lois Knouse (4th renewal), Matt Poelman (2nd), Dr. Andree Elliott (2nd), Dr. Judy Taylor (2nd) and Brad Wooden (2nd).

First time tenure awardees included Dr. Bruce Hathaway, Dr. Jesse French, Jeff Johnson, Dr. Mark Jonah, Dr. Seung Kim and Norm Reese. Jesse, Mark, Seung and Norm were also all promoted from assistant to associate professor. Jeff was promoted from instructor to assistant professor. Bruce is already a full professor.

Promotions from assistant to associate professor included Dr. Darla Baggett and Dr. Curtis Wesley, while Dr. Karl Payton, Dr. Kathy Stephens and Dr. Judy Taylor were each promoted from associate to full professor.

As you see them around campus, be sure to congratulate them for their accomplishments. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

LETU to Announce Health Sciences Partnership with Pine Tree ISD

LeTourneau University and Pine Tree ISD will soon announce a new dual credit health sciences partnership to begin in Fall 2015.

This new program will allow qualified PTISD students to enroll in specialized dual credit health services courses at LETU to gain dual high school and college credits, starting in their freshman year of high school. 

What this new program does is enable these talented high school students to complete several college-level hours toward a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree by the time they graduate from high school. By streamlining their education, they can complete college more efficiently--in less time and at less cost--because they can begin their freshman year in college with as many as 30 credit hours, nearly a whole year ahead.  LETU faculty and dean will maintain full control of course content, curricular outcomes and assessments.

House Bill 5 that was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry creates a high school diploma that provides students a variety of postsecondary options in school and workforce by earning endorsements in one of five areas, including Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

HB5 enables school districts to partner with higher education and industry to develop rigorous courses at the local level to address the workforce needs in the community. In the fall of 2013, Longview Regional Medical Center increased its capacity of beds to 230, nearly doubling the number from the previous year. And Good Shepherd Medical Center has added a 74,000-square foot outpatient and 24-hour emergency center. 

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a third of occupations expected to see rapid growth are related to health care in the coming years.  Employment for registered nurses is expected to increase by 26% before 2020.  More than 700,000 more nurses will be needed, partly due to the aging population and increase in people with multiple, chronic health conditions requiring increased care.

The growth in the number of people needing health care coupled with professional nurses reaching retirement age increases demand for nursing education programs like the one we have begun at LETU.

This new dual-credit partnership will help us meet these needs for qualified, compassionate, Christ-centered nurses who make a difference in the future for all of us.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Benefits of Christian Higher Education

Here's some encouraging news to share. Students in Christian higher education are more satisfied with their experience than students on secular campuses. 

I looked at the data at the recent annual meeting of CCCU presidents in Washington, D.C.

Comparing the experience of our CCCU students with those at other four-year private institutions is eye-opening.

72% of CCCU students report that their school shows concern for them as individuals compared to only 56% at other private schools. 74% believe the "faculty care about me as an individual." 

Overall, 68% of students at CCCU schools are satisfied with their education experience. This compares to 56% at other private campuses.

Add this to other measures, including that CCCU students have higher graduation rates and loan repayment records,  and you must conclude Christian higher education is doing a great job. And student benefits are both worldly and heavenly.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Awarding Service in Longview

Tuesday evening was memorable for me. Longview Chamber of Commerce chairman Brad Tidwell presented me with the Chairman's Award for service to the Longview community before a crowd of about 500 people at the chamber's annual banquet at Maude Cobb Convention Center.

The Chairman's Award is presented annually to a person who demonstrates dedication and vision for the Longview Community. The program included a short video.

I was honored to be recognized, but humbled, too, because promoting the growth and prosperity of Longview is truly a privilege to me. I see LeTourneau University's future and the future of the city of Longview as distinctly linked together: What is good for Longview is good for LeTourneau University, and what is good for LeTourneau University is good for Longview.

Over the past few years, I have lead a citizen's task force to make improvements to the I-20 corridor so people don't get the "wrong view" of Longview. I've been involved in leading fact-finding trips to other cities to help spur creativity and positive thinking for improvements to consider for Longview. Most recently, I have had the opportunity to serve on a committee drafting a long-term comprehensive plan that can serve as a road map for the city's future. Our successes have been the result of a team effort, benefiting from the talents and abilities of many in the community working together.

I greatly appreciate having been selected, along with LeTourneau University alumna and Longview Chamber of Commerce President Kelly Hall, who was surprised to also be honored with the Chairman's Award for her tireless efforts to improve the city. Kelly is one of the most outstanding Chamber professionals in Texas.

Very many of you care deeply about our community and have supported my efforts. I share this award with you!