Thursday, September 28, 2017

Honored by Treasure, Talents and Time

Marsha and I are traveling this weekend to Pennsylvania to meet with the many friends and alumni of LETU in the keystone state. Also on the trip are staff from the alumni office, the development office and our residential admissions team. When traveling meeting LETU friends, I'm reminded often that we stand on the shoulders of so many who have given their treasure, talents and time to build our fine university.

Douglas Orre is just one example. Mr. Orre had no children of his own, and so at his recent death, he left a significant gift to the students of LETU, who he adopted as his own. That estate gift or "planned gift" is making possible the installation of beautiful new bleachers in the Solheim Arena this holiday break. This new seating will bring more LETU blue into the arena and give many of our guests chair-back seating for the first time. It's a very nice addition to our campus.

Planned giving is important. For many, the end of life provides the best opportunity to support the charitable causes one holds dear. Our planned giving efforts were recently recognized when the LETU planned giving website won a major award at the National Practical Planned Giving conference. Nicola Greene attended the conference in San Diego and received the award for Best Gift Legacy Website of the year as a best practice example of how to use a website for gift legacy showcase and donor engagement. The award is especially significant since we were competing against large state schools and large charities such as St. Jude's and The Salvation Army. Our award will be listed on the Crescendo website here for several months. LETU also will be featured in October in an email blast that goes to 17,000 philanthropic entities. Great work, Nicola!

We received another award this week related to Information Technology. LETU has been recognized as a 2017 National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NSCAM) Champion for our efforts to promote cybersecurity and online safety awareness. You can see the entire list here on the organization's Champion's page. Big thanks to Michael Davis in our IT department for his work on submitting LETU for this honor.

This award places us in very good company among businesses and organizations of all sizes who are dedicated to a more secure and trusted internet. NCSAM is coordinated and led by the National Cyber Security Alliance and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Great work, Michael and our entire IT team.

The first full month of the 2017-18 academic year is now complete. Please continue to pray for our students and their families as they adjust to life on campus. Pray that God will lead them to find the joy in learning and less stress in meeting the requirements of their academic work.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Every Workplace, Every Nation: Expanding Global Relationships

This week I had the pleasure to welcome visitors from China to our campus. Their interest in LETU reminds us of the global mission of our fine university.

Amy Wang, a professor from Jilin Normal University in China, is here for the Fall 2017 semester teaching linear algebra on the Longview campus in a new exchange program.

Next semester, we are making plans to send LETU mathematics professor Dr. Curtis Wesley to teach at JNU. Building the relationships to enable these kinds of exchange programs is LETU Associate Vice President for the Office of Global Initiatives Alan Clipperton, who first visited JNU in 2016.

Also, we have been pleased to host six faculty from Shanghai Civil Aviation College. They have been here two weeks participating in a workshop on teaching aviation maintenance at LETU's School of Aviation and Aeronautical Science at the Abbott Aviation Center. SCAC delegates have met with LETU aviation maintenance faculty, observed in classrooms and participated in classroom discussions, as well as held conversations with several of our aviation maintenance students-all with the goal of learning how LeTourneau University educates the next generation of aviation maintenance professionals.

In China the aviation industry is booming and the need for skilled, professional workers in every area of aviation is motivating SCAC to consider partnership with LETU. Alan visited SCAC in April 2014 and he has worked closely with Fred Ritchey and Sean Fortier to put together this two-week training program. The SCAC delegation told me how much they admired the effective hands-on education our students receive.

We seek to expand our relationships and develop new partnerships abroad; recruiting more international students to claim workplaces in every nation for Christ.

Dr. Lunsford, Dr. Mason and Alan Clipperton met with the six-member Chinese delegation from SCAC.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Nationally Ranked, Christ-Centered Education

On Tuesday, the 2018 U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of "America's Best Colleges" were announced.

Once again, I'm proud to say, LeTourneau University moved up in the rankings, with this year making 24 years that LETU has ranked in the top tier, classified with other similar institutions that offer no doctoral degrees in a geographic region that spans all the way from Texas to Alaska.

LETU was honored by the following:
  • 23rd in the "Best Regional Universities in the Western Region." (LETU ranked at 27 in 2017 and 32 in 2016.) And, among only Texas schools on the list, we were in the top 10-ranking 6th.
  • 11th among "Great Schools, Great Prices," a listing of schools that provide best value for similar regional universities in the West.
  • 15th among "Best Colleges for Veterans."
  • 29th among "America's Best Engineering Schools," in a category of over 200 ABET-accredited engineering schools nationally whose highest degree is a bachelor's or master's degree. Among Texas schools, LETU was at the top.
We also were listed alphabetically among "A-plus Schools for B-students," which is a list of schools that provide great opportunity for students to thrive with hard work and spirit, even if those students' test scores and class standings were not A's.

To rank so well in all of these areas speaks to the quality of our faculty and staff.

These rankings are released each fall and, while no rankings are unflawed, these are considered the most notable of the annual published college rankings.

But there is other good news.

Our LETU Fall 2017 enrollment total is 3,003, up 10% over last year's enrollment of 2,721 and showing significant increases in our aviation, nursing and high school dual credit programs. Enrollment numbers are official after the 12th class day.

We can be proud that we are making a nationally ranked, Christ-centered education affordable for families, a record number of whom are from right here in East Texas.

As more high school students choose to earn college credits before they finish high school, they enroll at universities with credits that save them time and money toward their degree. And many of the dual credit students who study at LETU, choose to come here after they finish high school.

And while we are attracting more local and Texas students, we are still increasingly a global university with 90 international students from more than 30 countries-showcased by the parade of flags carried by our international students at our opening convocation.

For all of these points, LETU is blessed, indeed. And as if all of these blessings weren't enough to make the week special, Wednesday I was invited by my 6-year-old granddaughter Linley to sit beside her at a special grandparent's lunch at her school. I am blessed to be her "Poppy."

Friday, September 8, 2017

Meet the Rothfus': New Missionaries-in-Residence

New Missionaries in Residence Ed and Debbie Rothfus with Dr. Lunsford in Ed's office in the Belcher Center, where Ed has on display some of the pottery pieces he has created, including the piece seen hanging on the wall behind them. 
LeTourneau University's new Missionary-In-Residence Ed Rothfus has been collecting specific prayer requests in the wake of Hurricane Harvey from our students, faculty and staff and is providing community prayer opportunities. Many families within our LETU Nation have been affected and will continue to be affected for the foreseeable future.

Ed and his wife, Debbie, have served in overseas missions for 16 years. They have recently come to LETU from Kijabe, Kenya, East Africa, where Ed has taught high school art and pottery at the Rift Valley Academy, a Christian boarding school. Debbie is the school librarian.

The Rothfus' are originally from Cuba, New York, south of Buffalo, where Ed taught art for 11 years in public school. Their calling into missions was to "stand in the gap" for the children of other missionaries. Founded by African Inland Mission in 1906, Rift Valley Academy's purpose is to meet the educational needs of missionaries' children. More than 500 students from over 20 countries and 70 mission organizations attend RVA. A friend of Ed's reminded him that "God needs good art teachers at Rift Valley Academy, too."

Besides providing spiritual insights and interaction with missionary and "third culture kids" at LETU, Ed is also teaching an honors seminar on Art and Imagination to about 25 LETU students this semester.

Ed and Debbie have not served at LETU as Missionaries in Residence before, but they are not new to LETU.

Two of their three children have attended LETU. Their older son graduated from LETU in 2014 with a computer science engineering and network services degree and their twin daughter is currently enrolled, scheduled to graduate in December with her degree in kinesiology K-12. The Rothfus' other twin, a son, graduated in May from John Brown University in Arkansas with a degree in construction management.

Ed's office is in the Belcher Center. Be sure to give Ed and Debbie a warm LETU welcome. We are blessed to have them here.