Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mentorship Experiences: Breakfast with Fred

It was a great pleasure to welcome the Breakfast With Fred Leadership Institute to campus this week. Brenda Smith, daughter of the late Fred Smith, Sr. (1915-2007), founded BWFLI to make an impact on the next generation of leaders and carry on the legacy of her late father.   

The late Fred Smith Sr. (1915-2007) was a Christian businessman known as a man of wisdom and principle-centered thinking. His career spanned 65 years of executive positions during which he continually mentored leaders. He consulted with corporations like Mobil and Caterpillar, wrote books on leadership, and was a keynote speaker for national sales and marketing groups across the country. 

At the end of his life, Fred Smith, Sr. was known for meeting top executives for breakfast as he mentored and helped others be successful based on his lifetime of experiences. BWFLI continues Fred's legacy by "Stretching and blessing the next generation of leaders, to the glory of God."   

During this two-day event, our students were able to meet with about a dozen highly successful Christian business leaders from diverse professional backgrounds with a wide array of life experiences and faith and work journeys. These mentors shared their stories and experiences in numerous roundtable and classroom discussions and at breakfast, lunch and dinner settings with our students all across our campus and at the Abbott Center. 

Wednesday's featured chapel speaker, Scott Shively, was one of our BWFLI mentors. His involvement in the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the Texas Quality Award led Shively to emphasize formal quality principles throughout this last 25 years of full-time employment as he built a successful transportation company.   

Having these high quality Christian business professionals on campus provided our students with the opportunity to learn and develop relationships with leaders who are willing to share those things life has taught them. Six years ago, we hosted BWFLI, and many students developed mentoring relationships then, as well. I appreciate the efforts of our Dean of Students Kristy Morgan and her committee for all the hours or organization and planning to make this BWFLI visit a great success.  

And on another note, today begins the NCAA Division III American Southwest Conference Men's Basketball Conference Tournament on our campus, for the first time in university history. Be sure to welcome our guests on campus and go the extra mile to share hospitality and the love of Christ to the players and their fans and families visiting with us. 

Our YellowJackets play against Sul Ross State at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the Solheim Arena. It would be wonderful to fill the stands. Fear the Sting!

You can see the entire ASC tournament schedule here.   

Thursday, February 9, 2017

YellowJacket Basketball: History in the Making

Monday morning at my president's coffee, it was a pleasure to celebrate our men's and women's basketball teams. They are both having great seasons representing LETU as they compete in the East division of the American Southwest Conference.

Our LETU women's basketball team, coached by Leslie Reinecker, is currently in third place in the east and will represent us in their conference tournament on Feb. 23, 24, and 25 at Howard Payne University.   

Our LETU men's basketball team, coached by Dan Miller, is making LeTourneau University history by capturing first place in the east for the first time ever-holding the best record (17-5) that the university has ever held since joining the NCAA Division III. 

With a 10-4 record in the American Southwest Conference, the men currently boast the best record in the conference in BOTH divisions, and are leading the East division by two games over UT Tyler.

With only two more conference games remaining, even if we lost both games and UTT won both games, we would still have the tie breaker because we beat them in both of our earlier games this season.

Because we are in first place in the east division, LETU has the privilege of hosting the conference tournament for the first time ever right here on our campus in Longview at the Solheim Arena on Feb. 23, 24 and 25.

The right to host the conference tournament is flipped each year to the top seed in either the East or the West division, and this season, the East division will host.

This conference tournament could result in a historic first division title for men's basketball. They also could break the all-time wins record at LETU which was set in 1971-72 with a 19-10 finish.

Seven other teams and fans will converge on LETU to determine first place in the ASC during this conference tournament, which also provides LeTourneau University with a unique opportunity to share the love of Christ as we show hospitality to hundreds of fans and players who will be visiting.  Athletic Director Terri Deike will soon be asking for volunteers to help with the conference tournament. I hope we have great volunteer participation.  

Last fall we welcomed 235 student-athletes to participate in 13 sports. 79 were freshmen and 156 were returners to LeTourneau. 223 of them returned this spring for a retention rate of 94.8%. We were also fortunate to add 11 transfer student-athletes this spring for a total of 234 student-athletes.
And next year, we will be adding track and field. Our athletic program is growing in number and achievement.

Kudos to head coach Reinecker for her work with the women's team and to head coach Miller for his work with the men's team. Our outstanding coaches and athletic staff work diligently to instill in our student-athletes the five core values of commitment, integrity, accountability, unity and excellence upon which our program is built.  

I encourage everyone to attend our last regular season home games Saturday, when we will honor our seniors and their parents with a reception. Wear your LETU t-shirts and let's celebrate the dedication and achievement of these outstanding student-athletes.  

Fear the sting!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

March for Life

Marsha and I made a short walk Friday from the annual meeting of CCCU Presidents in Washington, D.C., to the National Mall to join the 2017 March for Life.

It was the first time we had ever participated in this event, and it was a special moment for us. We joined a sea of thousands who flowed past the U.S. Capitol and up to the Supreme Court. 

Around us were people from all states, of all ages, Catholics, Protestants, and I even saw a sign for "Secularists for Life."

An annual event, the first March for Life was January 22, 1974. It was the one-year anniversary of the Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized abortion throughout the U.S.

Every year since, pro-life citizens have come to Washington to mark the sad anniversary of this decision that threw out state laws and made abortion legal and available on demand. Since then, 57 million babies have been lost to abortion.

The large crowds seemed hopeful at this year's March. They had, for the first time, been addressed by a Vice President of the United States who said "life is winning again."

For the first time in eight years, pro-life leaders were invited to the White House.

I'm optimistic too, but I also shudder at the thought of how God will judge our generation for these 57 million deaths. How much stronger would our nation be today if these children had been born and given the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

This issue is personal for me. I was adopted at birth -- my birth mother was unwed and already raising children alone. The physician who arranged my adoption was also performing abortions. Evidently, he saw the two options as equally acceptable solutions to the problem of an unplanned pregnancy. If not for God's grace, I would have been lost to abortion, also.

A core of my identity is knowing that my Savior has given me both this earthly life and life into eternity.

He spared my life at its very beginning for His purposes: 
"For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)