Friday, January 26, 2018

Rebuilding After Harvey: God's Provision

In late August, Hurricane Harvey slammed the Texas Gulf Coast causing at least $125 billion in damage, widespread flooding, and severe economic hardship for many families. Harvey made history as the costliest storm on record.

We have an education center in Houston, and many LETU students live in Houston and the Gulf Coast region. Among our residential students, many of their families back home were hit hard by Harvey.

To help with tuition assistance for LETU students impacted by Hurricane Harvey, LETU set up a Hurricane Harvey scholarship fund. Many generous friends of the university have donated to the fund.

To date, more than $12,000 in aid has been awarded. These funds enabled these students to return this semester, students who might otherwise not have been able to continue their college education.

One such student, a senior civil engineering major from Houston, said she found it difficult last fall to focus on school when she knew her parents' family business that they had built since the 1980s had flooded and they lost all their files, their equipment, their furniture--and their steady income.

"There was a very high chance we could not afford for me to finish the semester," she said. "Luckily they had enough savings to finish helping me pay for last semester, but it was going to be quite difficult to afford the spring semester."

That's where the LETU Hurricane Harvey scholarship made a difference.

"I had been wondering what God would do to provide," she said. "He had provided quite a bit of gifts from my coworkers, church, my parents' clients, as well as my fellow students in the Honors College here at LeTourneau."

Once she applied for the scholarship and was interviewed by LETU's Student Life Office, she learned she had received a scholarship.

"It took about a week to sink in that this semester was going to work out," she said.

"The community of God has been revealed to me in a whole new way over these last few months as I have seen how so many people have trusted God and shared his love with my family," she said. "I have learned that LETU is truly a Christ-based and trusting university. They are people of God who want to share his love and be a strong community to support each other."

To those who have donated to the fund, I thank you, and the students whose lives have been blessed thank you.

Just recently, I received an email from the Independent Colleges and Universities of Texas (ICUT) that LETU is receiving an additional grant to be used as emergency aid for students impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

It will take time for those hurt by Harvey to rebuild. I thank God that LETU can be a part of easing the burden for our students and their families during that process.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

YellowJacket Athletics: A Strong Start to 2018

This past week, LeTourneau University has had its share of history-making moments, the most recent of which was closing ALL of our offices statewide for two consecutive days, due to the arctic blast that dropped snow and dangerous icy road conditions across the state. It is good to be back today.

Our decision last year to expand our athletics program to include track and field for both men and women made history Friday with our first track meet--where 7 YellowJacket women and 12 YellowJacket men combined to set 13 inaugural school records.

Freshman track and field athletes Ro Galloway and Austin Parrish earned the first American Southwest Conference track honors in school history, being named Field Athletes of the Week for their performances at the Leonard Hilton Memorial Invitational in Houston, Texas on January 12.

Galloway, a nursing major from Texarkana, Texas, recorded a long jump of 14 feet-10.75 inches and ran the 60-meter-dash in 8.42 seconds, setting two initial school records.

Parrish, a kinesiology major from Carthage, Texas, cleared 14 feet-1.25 inches in the pole vault in his first collegiate track meet, earning a spot in the top eight.

LETU track and field coach Don Hood said he was pleased with our athletes' efforts. Their next competition will be Friday, Jan. 26, at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Then on Saturday, I had the privilege of dedicating the new seating in the Solheim Arena between the Women's and Men's basketball games. The upgraded bleachers and chair-back seating in our Solheim Arena have made a remarkable difference in the quality and comfort of the facility.

Watching the women's and men's teams play was a joy from the comfort of chair back seats, surrounded by my family, who were all there for the game to cheer on the YellowJackets.

We are grateful to all of those who have contributed to make improvements to our athletic facilities and our programs, and many joined Athletic Director Terri Deike and me for a short reception in the Stuedler Lounge after the dedication.

At Saturday's men's basketball game, Nate West, a business major from Houston, scored a career-high 28 points in the YellowJackets' 80-63 win against University of Texas-Dallas. West was named the ASC East Division Co-player of the week for his performance.

The YellowJackets' next home basketball games are coming at 2 p.m. (women) and 4 p.m. (men) Saturday, Jan. 20, at Solheim Center against Louisiana College.

I hope we will all make it a point to attend more games and support our athletes as we enjoy these beautiful blue upgraded seats and bleachers for years to come.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Our 'Star Over Longview'

Today, it was a joy to celebrate Gerrie Forbis, who was honored at the 2018 Stars Over Longview Award Ceremony and Luncheon at Maude Cobb Convention Center. Gerrie works in our office as an executive administrative assistant to the provost and is a remarkable resource for all of us with her institutional knowledge.

Longview Regional Medical Center and the Women's Advisory Council honors 12 women each year who "generously share their time, talents and loyalty to our community and its citizens." That's our Gerrie.

The hospital publishes an annual Stars Over Longview calendar featuring one of its stars for each month of the year. Our Gerrie is the centerfold as July's Star of the Month.

Gerrie's community service work dates back to the 1970s as a member of the Evening Pilot Club of Longview and later the Longview Pilot Club, serving on projects to benefit the community and serving in several leadership capacities in both clubs. One of her projects was helping establish an organization to assist families with children who had epilepsy. A Leadership Longview alumna, Gerrie has served as chair of the New Member Committee of the Longview Chamber of Commerce and also has served on the board of the Longview Community Theatre. In her 51 years working at LeTourneau University, Gerrie has worked with all but the first of the university's presidents.

The event featured guest speaker Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, who shared her childhood experience with a community center of volunteers who became a big part of her life. She knows firsthand how important it is to give back to the community. She congratulated the recipients and encouraged us all to be involved in serving the community with the gifts and talents God has provided.

Surrounded by family members and many of her LeTourneau University family, Gerrie shined as the star that we all know that she is. Congratulations, Gerrie!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Happy 2018, Everyone!

Each new year is a gift from God: a new opportunity to glorify God in our daily work.

Can one glorify God through improving factory tools? Norm Reese's engineering students are learning this is true. Today's Longview News Journal newspaper featured the Frontier Wheelchairs Team and the work they recently did to streamline wheelchair construction at a Hope Haven International factory in Antiqua, Guatemala.

Our students repaired wheelchairs, built therapy bars for patients to use in therapy, built fixtures, and built a hydraulic press to enable factory workers to do their work more efficiently, even after our students left to come home. The factory can now build better wheelchairs with less labor. See the LNJ story here.

Let's be sure to pray for each other. We are in the midst of a terrible flu outbreak in East Texas. My daughter Hannah is one of the many diagnosed with the flu. She's a nurse and informs me East Texas is tops in the nation in flu occurrences.

Flu season, which usually starts in January and even as late as February, has hit early this year. School districts before Christmas--like White Oak ISD--and now this week--like Sunnyvale ISD--have canceled classes due to a high level of flu-related absences.

And many here at LETU have been hit by the flu.

Students in both our residential and global programs will be starting classes again Monday, January 8. We can all do our part to help avoid spreading the flu. Frequent hand washing and using hand sanitizer can help. Avoiding close contact with people who have flu symptoms is a good practice, as is using disinfecting wipes on surfaces that might harbor germs-from doorknobs, faucets and telephones to your own computer mouse and keyboard. If you come down with the flu, stay home until you recover. We will miss your company, but we'd rather not share your germs.

Welcome to 2018 everyone, and may God bless our work and keep us healthy.