Friday, December 9, 2016

December Commencement

Saturday will be another momentous and celebratory day on our campus as 214 LeTourneau University undergraduate and graduate students will be rewarded for their hard work as they qualify to receive the degrees they have worked so hard to achieve.

Families and friends will gather, some visiting the university's main campus for the first time.

Our keynote speaker is Texas Senator-elect Bryan Hughes, who is a Republican from Mineola, Texas, who recently won the Senate District 1 seat formerly held by retiring Republican Senator Kevin Eltife.

Hughes will take office when the Texas Legislature convenes in January in Austin. Hughes is no stranger to political life. He is the former Texas State Representative for District 5.

Like me, Hughes is the first member of his family to receive a bachelor's degree.

As an East Texas native, Hughes attended Tyler Junior College and the University of Texas at Tyler, earning his BBA in Economics, cum laude, in 1992. He earned his law degree in 1995 from Baylor University School of Law and was honored to serve as law clerk from 1995-1997 for U.S. District Judge William Steger of Tyler.

In his first run for public office in 2002, Hughes was elected with 52% of the vote against a long-time incumbent. In 2004, he was reelected by a 62% margin and in 2006 with 82% of the vote. He ran unopposed for reelection in 2008 and 2010. Facing his first ever opposition in the Republican Primary in 2012, Hughes was honored to be elected by a 77% margin. In 2014, Hughes won by 92%, his highest margin ever, until this last election, in which he won the Republican nomination in May and ran unopposed for the Texas Senate seat in November.

Hughes was honored in 2007 with Tyler Junior College's Valuable Young Alumnus award. In 2008, he was chosen as Baylor University's Young Lawyer of the Year. In 2013, the University of Texas at Tyler named him a Distinguished Alumni.

He has received numerous awards for his work in the Legislature, including the Taxpayer Champion Award from Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, the Horizon Award from Texas Right to Life and "Defender of the American Dream" from Americans for Prosperity. In 2011, Texas Right to Life named Hughes the Pro-Life Whip of the Texas House.

Hughes is also a committed Christian. He is a leader in his church, a champion for the unborn and he understands the integration of faith and work in his daily life.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

YellowJacket Student-Athletes: Character that Lasts a Lifetime

At this holiday time of year, many of us (including me) spend countless hours enjoying college football and basketball on television. 

However, the purpose of college athletics is education, not entertainment, and certainly not money. 

LETU Athletic Director Terri Deike and our entire staff of coaches in our YellowJackets athletics program understand that. They seek to instill in our student athletes the values of a statement that reads: 
"We are committed student athletes of integrity, accountable for our choices, united in the pursuit of academic, athletic and spiritual excellence."
Their work is paying off.

Just this week, the American Southwest Conference announced the Fall 2016 Team Sportsmanship Awards, presented by the 13 ASC Student-Athlete Advisory Committees to eight ASC member institutions.

The SAAC Team Sportsmanship award honors the member institution in each ASC championship sport that best displays positive qualities of sportsmanship and fair play from its student-athletes, coaches and fans throughout the season.

LeTourneau University led with three team SAAC awards for sportsmanship: men's cross country, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Two other colleges received two awards, and five other colleges each had one award, but LETU led as the only college that received three team awards.  

The women's soccer honor was shared among three other colleges (Hardin-Simmons, Louisiana College, McMurry) and the women's volleyball honor was shared with one other college (Belhaven).

I particularly liked how the ASC news release was worded: 
"LeTourneau led..."  

I believe we do lead the conference in the character we bring to athletic competition. Our student-athletes receive a transforming education both inside and outside the classroom. I have often said that our athletic facilities, including our soccer and baseball/softball fields, our basketball, volleyball and tennis courts and our gymnasiums are some of the largest classrooms we have on campus. 

I am proud of Terri, our coaching staff and our student-athletes for exemplifying these God-honoring values and for the character they are building that will last a lifetime.  

More details on the Fall 2016 ASC Sportsmanship Awards can be found online here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Father of the Bride

I knew the day would come. In fact, I've known for 27 years that the day would come. Yet, when it was time for me to stand at my daughter Rachel's wedding and give the traditional toast to the bride and groom, I struggled to find the words.

Rachel married Cord DeMoss at a picturesque venue in Quinlan, Texas, on October 29. It was a beautiful Texas autumn evening for an outdoor wedding. We were surrounded by family and friends. The bride was beautiful, the groom handsome, the mother of the bride elegant and the couple's minister from Watermark Church in Dallas did an outstanding job pointing all in attendance to the God who created these two and brought them together to live as one forevermore.

When it was time for the toast by the father of the bride, I described my daughter as a "no-backup-plan" kind of person.

I told two stories of how Rachel has demonstrated that she is a determined individual who sets ambitious goals for herself and works through all adversity to achieve those goals. When her ever-so-practical father asked many years ago what was her backup plan should she not make the team as a Kilgore College Rangerette, she confidently stated that she had no backup plan because she would make the team. And she did, and she did again with other goals!

My prayer is that both Cord and Rachel will bring the same attitude to their marriage. Now, that they've chosen each other and made a vow before God, there is no backup plan -- they will make their marriage work in the good days and also in the trials to come. Only with God's grace and mercy is this possible.

My advice to all the young fathers of daughters I know: start working on your wedding toast, it will be upon you more quickly than you can imagine.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


We are recruiting future students to LeTourneau with new marketing materials that tell the world we are the Christian polytechnic university. We are a community of builders and have been for 70 years. Our alumni tell our story of engaging students with Christian virtue and professional competence.

In 1998, Juan M. "Nacho" Lopez arrived at LETU as a 16-year-old missionary kid from Mexico who had not lived in the U.S. since he was 9. He said he knew immediately he made the right choice through the brotherhood, kinship and mentorship he found.

He tells of the faculty and staff at LETU who built into his life some important life lessons. He cited Gerrie Forbis for modeling that "true love for students can be worn on the sleeve and shine like a beacon for all to see." He credited faculty for lessons taught in and outside the classroom. Each had built a legacy in this student's life.

"I appreciate those faculty who pushed me into taking the professional engineer's exam and who taught me to enjoy subjects that were not appealing, and to power through even distasteful work and turn out the best work I could produce," he wrote.

The #LeTourneauBuilt life that Lopez leads today includes being a tenured professor and the youngest person to hold the office of academic director and program chair for graduate biomedical engineering at UPAEP (Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla) in Puebla, Mexico.

He is an accredited scientist in Mexico with a federal fellowship distinction, one of about 165 in the state of Puebla. He is a charter member of two research and academic foundations, one of which is a new national research network for Mexico spanning more than 40 universities in Mexico and around the world. He serves as a charter member and advisor to the UPAEP Office of Technology Transfer, serves on the UPAEP Advisory Council for Research, and serves as the external science representative for the State of Puebla's only federally-accredited research IRB for the Health Secretariat for Puebla, Mexico.

"I am someone willing to put my best effort forward, and hope that every day is a testimony to the lives of those who have poured their own lives into preparing mine," Lopez said. "Each person's own story at LETU intersected with mine and gave me a treasure to cherish. Their time, love, faith, and investment in me is something that I hope to pay forward with each and every one of my days."

Let's celebrate the lives that are #LeTourneauBuilt.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The 2016 Faith@Work Summit

LeTourneau University's Center for Faith and Work just hosted the very successful Faith@Work Summit in Dallas at the Westin Galleria that attracted more than 400 academic, business and church leaders from all over the globe from Thursday through Saturday.

The Summit brought together some of the best minds to consider how to extend Christ's transforming power and presence into workplaces around the world and to provide a time and place for those attending to develop new ideas, initiatives and collaborations to move the faith and work movement broader and deeper.

Our Center for Faith and Work Executive Director Dr. Bill Peel, with the assistance of Amanda Battaglia and Peter Battaglia, deserve great credit for the two years of painstaking planning and successful execution of this memorable event. From inviting the speakers, handling booking details, building the website, handling social media, working with the professional production company that live-streamed the event, and so many other details, the Summit was a heroic effort that was a great success.

The purpose was to gather these leaders from every kind of industry to move deeper and broader-learning together from each other and seeking thoughtful answers to three questions:
  1. How can we help Christians deepen their understanding of what it means to follow Christ in their particular line of work?
  2. How can we broaden the reach of the Faith at Work movement to new audiences that remain largely unaddressed?
  3. How can Christians in business, workplace ministries, Christian schools, universities and seminaries work with the church to develop whole-life disciples?
We know that our work matters to God. He has uniquely equipped each of us to further His kingdom through our work-wherever we are. We recognize that the workplace is the most strategic workplace in the world and that we, as Christians, have an opportunity to make a difference in the places where we work, but also at LETU, in preparing the next generation to make a difference in their future workplaces.

For those interested in reading more about the faith and work movement, I would recommend three books:
  • The first would be "Workplace Grace: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work," the leading text on workplace evangelism around the world, written by Dr. Peel, who helped emcee the Summit.
  • Tom Nelson's book "Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work" is another book that balances the theological and practical to outline how we can join God in his work in the world.
  • "Integrated Generosity" by Mark Trewitt is another great book that you may find motivational and educational as it provides best practices for personal and business finances in light of stewardship.
I'm very proud of what Bill and his team put together. LeTourneau University is a leader in this important movement, and while we may be a little school with a big vision, this vision of graduating students who will claim the workplace as their place of Christian ministry is a big vision--one with eternal results.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Shaping the Next Generation of Christian Leaders for the Workplace

This week is surely going to be a memorable one, first, as I prepare to welcome 400 academic, business and church leaders from all over the globe to attend our Faith@Work Summit in Dallas this evening and, also, as Marsha and I prepare for the wedding of our daughter, Rachel, this weekend. Both of these events are the result of hours and hours of careful planning and preparation, and I am confident that God will be honored and glorified throughout them both.

As Christians, we seek to honor God in every area of our lives. That includes our work. The Summit in Dallas this weekend provides a unique opportunity for leaders to learn from each other and create collaborative partnerships to further faith/work integration, which studies show results in higher job and life satisfaction.

Seminaries and universities are considering how to shape the next generation of Christian leaders for the workplace. One way LETU is involved in that is the launching this week of our new Passage Institute for Youth and Theology to equip youth to consider God's call on their lives and how their faith informs their decisions, before they make their college and career choices. Studies have shown that youth who have engaged in serious theological study and intentional Christian practices have a more resilient faith.

The Passage Institute is made possible by a generous $600,000 grant from the Lilly Foundation and provides for 50 high school sophomores from all over the Ark-La-Tex region to participate in a meaningful mentorship program at LETU. Those students selected to become Passage Fellows will begin with a week-long residential camp in June 2017 on our LETU campus, followed by a year-long mentorship program with a Passage Mentor from their local church, guided by the Passage Institute, and followed by a second week-long residential campus experience.

During that first week-long campus experience, students will have intensive study in classic Christian theology, discipleship, worship, ministry practice and outreach. Seminars will be led by LETU theology faculty.

When these high school fellows return the following summer, in June 2018, they will be called to lead, mentor and serve the next class of incoming Passage Institute fellows.

LETU theology professor Jonathan Lett is the director of outreach for the Passage Institute. He is encouraging parents, pastors, youth pastors, church leaders and others to nominate youth who they believe will benefit from this level of study. Applications require an essay and references and are being accepted online now at Application deadline is January 15, 2017.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Poverty Conference 2016: Wes Moore

Today I had the pleasure of welcoming about 700 community members to the Junior League of Longview's 2016 Poverty Conference featuring best-selling author, entrepreneur and television host Wes Moore in our Belcher Center. I'm proud that LETU is a sponsor of the conference and that the initial poverty conference was the idea of former LETU professor Dr. John Fezzell.

Moore is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Moore is also the founder and CEO of BridgeEDU, the host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and executive producer and host of PBS's Coming Home with Wes Moore.

Poverty is a challenge for Longview and East Texas, one that has direct links to crime rates and quality of life. I applaud the efforts of the Junior League for taking ownership of this conference and convening leaders from a variety of agencies to coordinate their efforts to address poverty here in East Texas.

Keynote Wes Moore shared his testimony and some of the lessons he has learned along the way, about how making choices led to the difference between success and failure.

Growing up in a single-parent household, first in Baltimore, Maryland, then in the Bronx in New York, Moore pushed limits, defied authority, ran into trouble with the police, and wound up in handcuffs for the first time by the age of 11. By 13, he was sent to a military boarding school in Pennsylvania. Today, he is a Rhodes Scholar, decorated veteran, White House Fellow, author and business leader.

What a transformation!

In his presentation, Moore described the importance in his own life of being mentored and surrounded by people who believed in him before he could believe in himself. He described his mentor as someone "willing to help you carry your dreams until your shoulders are broad enough to carry them yourself."

Moore emphasized the importance of having high expectations of our youth and helping youth see a future that is bright. He said he learned in the U.S. Army that you can't hit a target you can't see. He said that holds true for our youth, as well. We must set expectations for youth and help them put their eyes on the target.

Our strategic plan calls for LETU to serve our local neighborhood. We know education is a key to fighting poverty. How might we contribute to the fight here in Longview?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hearts of Service and Hands Full of Tools

"What is in your hand?"

That is the simple question that God asked Moses in the Sinai desert before God uses the staff in Moses' hand to deliver the Israelites from Pharaoh, to part the Red Sea, to win the battle with the Amalekites, and to bring water from the rock in the desert.

That staff was a pretty impressive tool. And it reminds me of how God equips us all in various ways, like he is equipping a group of our civil engineering students with a great heart of service and a handful of tools to make a difference in the lives of our community.

LETU's Habitat for Humanity (H4H) Club has acquired the use of a 12' x 6' box trailer and is outfitting it with hammers, nails, saws, screwdrivers, shovels, rakes, ladders, extension cords and a host of other tools and equipment for their weekly construction ministry. The student chapter of American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) is partnering with the club in hopes of being a blessing to others who have need.

ASCE President Rachel Smithers said, "Our hope with these resources is to be able to give of our time and eager readiness to help anyone who may need it." Smithers sent out an email to encourage others at LETU to "give us ears all over campus" to suggest projects that they knew about that could bless widows and the elderly in the area, and even assist some of our own LETU faculty, staff and students.

Smithers said the group is hoping to seek out where the Lord is calling them most, and then to plan a work day to help meet needs. Smithers, who is also a regular volunteer for the H4H Club, said the club approached LETU's student senate to ask for funding to purchase the trailer, the sale of which was facilitated by one of our engineering alums.

Dr. David Dittenber is the faculty sponsor for both the student chapter of ASCE and the H4H Club, which has been working since last fall on Habitat houses on Sabine Drive in Longview, providing much of the labor as anywhere between 15-40 LETU students work on the houses every Saturday. He says that ASCE also has about 30 to 40 civil engineering students attending their monthly meetings where they bring in people to talk about their work in civil engineering.

The two groups have talked about doing service projects together, and this trailer enables these LETU students to use "what is in their hands" to respond to disaster efforts and respond to the community as needs arise-much like students did last year in Lindale when several volunteered to help clean up after tornadoes.

Our students take seriously their call to make a positive impact on the lives of the community. I heartily applaud their efforts.

When we offer what we have in our hands to God, no matter how simple, He will use it to do His work, to bring glory to Himself. We just need to be willing to ask ourselves, "What is in our hand? 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

An LETU Education Recognized as Quality Investment

We have received much positive feedback this fall on the quality of the LeTourneau educational experience. Many sources now rate colleges, and it is always encouraging to see the good things that others notice about us.

In case you missed all the good news, here's a summary:

Washington Monthly's 2016 college guide identified "Best Bang for the Buck" schools that "help non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices." LETU was ranked number 4 among all universities in the South. And we were the top ranked university in Texas.

Kiplinger included LETU among their top 100 "Best Values in Private Colleges." We were 76 on their nationwide list. The Kiplinger 100 included only five private universities in Texas: Rice, Trinity, SMU, the University of Dallas, and LETU.

U.S. News and World Report included LETU among their top tier of universities for the 23rd year this fall. Among "Best Regional Universities in the West," LETU was ranked 27 which is up from 32 last year. In their collection of "Great Schools Great Prices" LETU was the ranked 4 in the West. U.S. News also included us at number 15 on their ranking of "Best Colleges for Veterans." Also, our engineering program moved up in the rankings; from 39 last year up to 31 this year in their ranking of "Best Engineering Programs in the United States."

SmartAsset included LETU in their rankings of the 100 top universities for starting salary of graduates. We were ranked number 2 among Texas private universities behind only Rice.

This summer, Online Christian Colleges included LETU in their "50 Most Beautiful Christian Campuses." We were number 19.

Increasingly, these college ratings are more about significant outcomes like graduate salaries and less about reputation or endowment. Taken together, one can see that LETU is a good choice for students who understand that college is an investment in one's future success.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Remembering a Faith & Work Leader

Howard E. Butt, Jr., a leader of the Faith and Work movement, recently died in his home in San Antonio at the age of 89. Link here.

If you don't recognize Howard Butt's name, you probably know his business, the H-E-B grocery store chain, which also operates Central Market grocery stores, and the H.E. Butt Family Foundation.

H-E-B was founded by his grandmother, Florence Butt, in 1905, when she moved her sick husband and three small sons to Kerrville, Texas, from Memphis, Tenn.

Today, H-E-B is a $20 billion enterprise that is ranked in the top 20 of Forbes' list of "America's Largest Private Companies" and operates more than 350 grocery stores throughout Texas and Mexico. Until 1976, H-E-B stores remained closed on Sundays.

The late Texas business executive and our founder, R.G. LeTourneau, had a similar worldview. They both saw their daily work as a holy calling. They both learned to rely on God's provision in their families and businesses. They both were well acquainted with Billy Graham and both traveled around the country as preachers on the church revival circuit.

Our LETU Center for Faith & Work has partnered with the Butt Foundation on a number of projects including articles for The High Calling of Our Daily Work, Making Mondays Meaningful (a curriculum to help churches make whole-life disciples), and most recently the upcoming Faith@Work Summit in Dallas on Oct. 27-29, which will bring together speakers from all over the world to discuss advancing the call to find God in our workplaces--which is something that R.G. LeTourneau and Howard E. Butt understood so well.

Also like LeTourneau, the Butt family had an eye toward philanthropy, contributing a percentage of its earnings to improve the communities where it operates, from promoting education to supporting food banks and disaster relief efforts.

H.E. Butt Family Foundation was first established in 1933 with a mission committed to "the renewal of society through the renewal of the Church; Church renewal through the renewal of the family; family renewal through renewed individuals."

In 1961, Butt founded the 1,900-acre Laity Lodge in the Texas Hill Country to provide a mental and spiritual retreat center where Christians could decompress from their frenetic lives and find God and experience peace of mind.

Laity Lodge ministry may be one of Butts' greatest legacies, along with his "High Calling of our Daily Work" radio ministry that provided insights and practical biblical wisdom.

God is redeeming all of creation - including the workplace and the marketplace. Like R.G. LeTourneau, Howard Butt was called to be part of this re-creation. It's our joy to also be part of God's renewal.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

LETU Nursing: Healing East Texas

East Texas is not a healthy place. Residents of the 35 counties of Northeast Texas are more likely to die from stroke, heart disease and cancer than other Texans, according to a recent study. In fact, if Northeast Texas was its own state, the research concluded, we would rank worst in the U.S. for stroke deaths and 49th in fatal heart disease.

The report reminded me of the potential of our new LETU School of Nursing. The students we educate here can make a real difference to our region.

Our School of Nursing Dean Kimberly Quiett and her nursing faculty, Jennifer Bray and Shirley Ballard, recently hosted a successful visit by a three-member Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education accreditation team that was here last Wednesday through Friday.

CCNE is the autonomous accreditation arm of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. The CCNE is officially recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency that contributes to the improvement of public health by ensuring the quality and integrity of undergraduate, graduate and residency nursing programs.

The CCNE accreditation team was here to verify information in our self-study that was submitted to them back in July. Their primary purpose is quality assurance and they came to confirm that what we say is evidenced in our work.

For example, they reviewed student assignments, our policies and procedures, and the university handbook and the nursing school's handbook. They looked to see what kind of support the school received from the university administration, both physically and fiscally. They reviewed budget reports, toured our physical layout, our lab facilities to make sure that we deliver on what we promised in our self-study.

The CCNE team met with people across the university to ensure we provide good customer service to our students, including our library services, tutoring and student life support. They were also interested that we participate in quality assurance and institutional effectiveness programs.

To meet national accreditation, we have to show connection between our course objectives and our program outcomes and our school goals and our university goals.

So, why is this CCNE accreditation important? Students can qualify for outside scholarships that can only be used at nationally accredited schools. Students interested in going into the military need to graduate from a nationally accredited school. And graduate nursing schools generally prefer applicants from nationally accredited schools, which makes our students more competitive.

Although I'm sure our program was well regarded, the final results of the team's assessment and the CCNE's decision will not be revealed until around April.

I expect LETU nursing to become the premier Christian nursing program in this region, and CCNE accreditation will help us reach that distinction.

Dean Quiett and her faculty have built a curriculum that integrates Christian virtues into the practice of nursing. We've just begun to market our new program and recruit the best students to LETU. Let's pray God uses our work to heal East Texas.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

70 Years of Spiritual Development

We've reached our official "census" date for this new academic term and God has provided 2,712 students for us to serve in Fall 2016.  That's down slightly from last year at this time but significantly more than the handful of students who gathered for LETU's first academic term 70 years ago in Fall 1946. 

Our alumni now stretch all across the earth:  it's literally true to say the sun never sets on the LeTourneau Nation!  Our university's impact into workplaces and nations has grown significantly since our founding.  Praise the Lord for what He done, is doing, and for what He will do in the next 70 years.

1,236 of our Fall 2016 students are enrolled in the residential campus program and 856 are living on campus.  The spiritual growth of these students through our Chapel is a long-standing element of the LETU experience.  Today was the first meeting of our Chaplain Search committee, formed to conduct a national search to fill the vacancy created when Dr. Harold Carl left us this summer after 14 years of noteworthy service.  Harold and Gwen are now living close to their son near Kansas City and have assumed the most fun role of life:  being grandparents!

Dr. Kristy Morgan, our Dean of Students, will chair the search committee.  I'm grateful for the students, faculty and staff who are willing to serve on the committee.  Our goal is to identify top candidates, bring them to campus for interviews, and have a new chaplain in place for the Spring 2017 academic term.  I'm so grateful to our missionary in residence Marv Smith and others who are administering our chapel programs in the interim.  It's been a thought-provoking Spiritual Emphasis Week with distinguished visitors guiding our students in asking the hard questions of our faith.

Please join me in praying for an approachable leader who will lead and facilitate the spiritual formation of our students.  Because that is the core task of this position, we will update the position title to "Campus Pastor" in place of the current "Chaplain."  Our students need a shepherd; someone to lead them and feed them as they develop intellectually and spiritually during their LETU years. 
The Campus Pastor will continue to manage our chapel program including worship, our growing small group "Life Group" opportunities, and ministry with LeTourneau Student Ministries (LSM) through our great tradition of spring break mission trips. 

Join me in asking God to bring someone who understands the unique context of spiritual formation in the life of a college student and someone equipped to pastor students who come from a growing diversity of faith backgrounds and cultures.  The Christian virtues are best taught and transferred in community, and so let's pray for a Campus Pastor who understands the process of spiritual formation in community.

Even as we seek a Campus Pastor, let's also affirm that the spiritual formation of our students is the responsibility of all of us -- it's not just something that happens in Chapel. On this 70th anniversary of LETU, let's recommit to our own spiritual development and the discipleship of all those in our community.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Hands-On Virus Hunters

As I mentioned in my state of the university report August 15, our biology students have an extraordinary opportunity to participate in research.

It's the latest example of the unique educational experience at LETU. 

When Blake Maxfeldt arrived as a freshman biology major and baseball pitcher, he didn't know he would get to do hands-on research his first year in college, or that would get his name in the newspaper for finding and naming a new virus. But that's just what he did.

Maxfeldt found a new virus after digging in the dirt in a flowerbed by the Solheim Recreation Center to get a moist soil sample as part of a research project in Dr. Greg Frederick's freshman biology class.

LETU is one of only a handful of universities in Texas, and the only one in East Texas, working on this "virus hunter" project in coordination with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Maxfeldt decided to name the new virus the Solheim virus, and it is one of the first novel viruses to be isolated on the LETU campus.

Hands-on learning is one of the hallmarks of a LeTourneau University education. This is one example where LETU students learn through hands-on research and real world applications that many students at other universities only get to do as graduate students.

Frederick says the goal of the HHMI program is to identify new viruses that can infect and kill bacteria that cause diseases, like tuberculosis.

Maxfeldt, who is now a sophomore, says he already knows the work he is doing will stand him in good stead in a few years when he applies to graduate schools. He wants to be an orthodontist.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Meet Missionaries in Residence Marv & Jan Smith

This first week of classes and chapel services marks the first time in 14 years that we have started the school year with a vacancy in the office of our university chaplain, who has left LETU with his wife to pursue the calling of being closer to their newborn first grandchild.

While we certainly miss them, I am delighted to introduce our new Missionary In Residence Marv Smith, who will be filling in to host our chapels this fall as we search for a new chaplain.

Marv and his wife, Jan, have a long history of serving in overseas missions that began when they boarded an airplane years ago bound for Kenya, on the eastern side of Africa. They have now served with Africa Inland Mission for 35 years, working first in Kenya and most recently in Tanzania.

Marv has held a variety of positions over the years, including evangelism and church planting on an island off the north coast of Kenya, 10 years as the principal of a Bible school. Other roles included training and encouraging others to share the good news with Muslim peoples and serving in mission leadership.

For the past four years, the Smiths served on the south coast of Tanzania, sharing the Gospel in a small town that has been a center of Islamic culture for a thousand years. Tanzania lies just south of the Equator bordering the Indian Ocean, with Kenya and Uganda to the north.

Marv and Jan are actually returning to LeTourneau University, having served as Missionaries in Residence and as International Student Coordinators at LETU from 2003 to 2007. They have told me they loved their time at LeTourneau University in the past and are looking forward to serving again as our Missionaries in Residence this year. Marv's office will be in the Belcher Center, and I hope you will all give Marv and Jan a big LeTourneau University welcome.

And to Marv and Jan, welcome back. We are blessed to have you here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Excitement and Promise of a New Semester

Today is move-in day for around 380 new students, transfer students and those who are returning after taking a break in their college studies. We are pleased to welcome these students who are coming to us from 31 states across the country and 12 countries around the world. 

We have students moving in today who are coming from Canada, Cayman Islands, China, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Korea, Madagascar, Mexico, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam.
I had the great pleasure today to welcome several of our new students to our campus for the 2016-2017 academic year who are "legacy" students, meaning that one, or both, of their parents are LETU alumni. For example, Dave and Carmelita Boyce of Tampa, Fla., are here with their son, Joshua, who is an incoming freshman student. Dave was wearing his KZX shirt and told me about living in the KZX "barracks" on campus.

Dave graduated in 1990 with his computer science/technology degree. Carmelita graduated in 1991 with her degree in biology. They said they didn't fall in love at first sight. They became friends first--then they fell in love. 

What a wonderful blessing it is that these alumni loved their alma mater and chose to send their children here these many years later.    
Every semester begins with a lot of excitement and promise. This year is no different. Our Fall 2016 freshman class of 270 students has an average SAT scores of 1157 and ACT scores of 25.2. Their high school grade point average of 3.6 puts them in the top of their classes. While many of them are drawn to us for our engineering programs, they represent every major on campus. The ratio of men to women in this incoming class is 2:1.  
And as soon as a new fall semester begins, it is time for our admissions counselors to start over attracting students for the next year's class. Executive Director of Admissions Carl Arnold says his six admissions counselors will be hitting the road to recruit the 2017-2018 freshman class beginning Monday, Sept. 12. But first, his office will host the first Fall 2016 YellowJacket Preview for high school students on Monday, Sept. 5.  
I was delighted to get to welcome those students and their families that I met today, and it reminded me how important it is for all of us remember that futures are built here at LeTourneau University-one student at a time

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Faith & Work Focus: Tony Dungy

I was at the NCAA corporate offices in Indianapolis recently for a meeting of the President's Advisory Group, a body that provides feedback to NCAA President Mark Emmert and his leadership team. Also this past year, I was chair of our American Southwest Conference President's Council. I've come to dearly appreciate the educational value of intercollegiate athletics. Our sports fields and courts are truly our largest classrooms.

Since returning home, I've been immersed in the Olympic Games of Rio. The skill and discipline of these world-class athletes and the hours of television programming in air-conditioned comfort is the perfect remedy to our August heat.

But lost in the Olympics coverage was another powerful sports moment: the induction of Tony Dungy into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Dungy was the first African American head coach to win a Super Bowl (Indianapolis Colts, 2007). He is one of the NFL's most articulate Christians. If you are discouraged by the mean-spirited political rhetoric of this season, take 15 minutes and watch Dungy's Hall of Fame Speech here. He is a class act!

Even, if you have no interest in professional football, Tony Dungy merits being in a Hall of Fame for those who have integrated their faith and their professional work.

Coach Dungy said this at the induction ceremony: 
"I'm just sorry that my parents, Wilbur and Cleomae Dungy, aren't alive to see this, because they'd be so proud. My dad always preached to us to set our goals high and not complain about negative circumstances. Just look for a way to make things better. My mom taught us as a Christian, your character, your integrity and how you honor God were so much more important than your job title. One of her favorite Bible verses was Matthew 16:26: 'What would it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul.' And I know that she's happy to know that her son never forgot that verse."
Coach Dungy has said that in his 30 years of professional football, he has seen many forfeit their souls for worldly gain. Unfortunately, we've all seen this tragic trade in every industry and walk of life. Hopefully, Dungy will be an example for generations to come that it is possible to reach the pinnacle of professional success without sacrificing your faith.