LeTourneau University President Dr. Dale A. Lunsford’s
State of the University 2008 Address
August 18, 2008
The 2008-2009 academic year of LeTourneau University marks the 63rd fall in the history of LeTourneau Tech, College, and University. This new year is a milestone for me. Thirty years ago in the fall of 1978, I arrived at The University of Tulsa as a freshman. A new graduate of Tulsa Central High School, I was feeling very fortunate. A good ACT score and an endowed scholarship allowed me to enroll at the expensive private university in town — something my parents alone could not have provided.
When I arrived at Tulsa, I was a journalism major aspiring to work in mass media news. I dreamed of writing features for the Rocky Mountain News in Denver or perhaps maybe even a news script for ABC News in New York. My goals changed while I was a student, but I was always motivated by a vision of what could be.
Our university, too, should have a clear vision of the future to which we feel God is calling us. This morning I want to introduce the vision approved by our Board of Trustees in April. But, first allow me to remind us that the year just completed was a year of great blessings.
POINTS OF PRAISE FOR 2007-08
Thanks to God, we were able to balance our $50.6 million operating budget again this year. Let us never take His provision for granted.
On the revenue side, we continue to rely almost exclusively on student tuition. After paying out $5.6 million in financial aid, we collected $40.2 million in tuition and fees which is nearly 80% of all our operating funds. Most of the remaining revenue came from our auxiliary operations like housing and dining.
On the expense side, our largest single expenditure was again for instruction, research, and academic support. The number of full-time faculty increased by 2 last year to 74. Our next largest category of expenditure is institutional support which includes the significant expenditures for health, tuition and other employee benefits. We also spent $5 million on capital projects. This includes our ongoing Campus Management software conversion, security enhancements in the residence halls, much-needed improvements to our baseball infield, Belcher Center construction expenses that continue to arrive, and several miscellaneous remodeling projects on campus like Heath-Hardwick 104.
These financials remind us how important student enrollment is. Last year we saw growth in the number of traditional students enrolled, although the total headcount of all enrollments dipped slightly. The 1,327 traditional students enrolled last fall was the largest ever at LeTourneau. The reason: Improvement in the number of continuing students who returned. Thanks to Student Affairs for leading our retention initiatives and thanks to all of you for understanding that our goal is not to enroll students but to graduate students. I can also report growth in the number of degrees granted. In addition to 749 diplomas awarded, we issued 350 educator preparation certificates.
In a world characterized by economic and political uncertainty, I remain prayerfully optimistic about both the recruitment of new students and the retention of our current students. On census date, we will report on final Fall 2008 enrollment.
The Belcher Chapel and Performance Center completed its inaugural year of operation with great success. In addition to the 139 university events held in the facility last year, Cynthia Hellen and her staff sold more than 36,000 tickets to other performances targeted to the community. That’s 36,000 guests to our campus! Generous sponsorships and ticket sales allowed us to cover the expense of our performance season — a significant achievement in the first year of an arts center.
Our students had a fantastic year in their academic competitions: This past spring, LeTourneau’s Emily Brown was again named the top female collegiate pilot in the nation. And consider these performances by our student teams:
- First place at the Texas state calculus competition
- First place in the district ASME design competition
- First place in regional IEEE circuit design competition
- First place in SAE aero design competition
This is a notable example of just how talented our faculty and student partnerships are. In these competitions we out performed students from Embry Riddle, the Universities of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Louisiana Tech, Texas Tech, and notable others.
In addition to these student achievements, we continue to receive national attention for the quality work being done here. We were again included in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. U.S. News and World Report again included us among the highest rated master’s level universities in the Western United States. In a recent front-page story, a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Dallas Morning News chronicled our LEGS work in Sierra Leone. The Wall Street Journal reported on our four-day summer work week. The Chronicle of Higher Education just reported on Linda Fitzhugh’s plan to help our new students by paying those annoying new baggage fees airlines are charging. The School of Graduate and Professional Studies was named the nation’s number two online program ahead of the University of Phoenix and other major competitors. The School of Graduate and Professional Studies was also recognized for innovative programs at the recent Christian Adult Higher Education Association conference.
Each year the Piper Foundation honors the most outstanding faculty in this great state of Texas. This year, for the first time, a LeTourneau University professor was honored: Roger Gonzalez. This award is just the latest example of how Roger’s good work has brought recognition to all of us.
In previous years, Roger has also brought the campus support from the National Science Foundation. This year, the NSF awarded LeTourneau $500,000 for scholarships in the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. Professors Joonwan Kim and Craig Varnell deserve much praise for their hard work in securing these dollars for future LeTourneau University students.
We made significant progress in growing our relationship with Handong Global University in South Korea. Ten LeTourneau students studied there last fall in Korea. I visited in the Spring, speaking in chapel and conveying to leadership how much we value our relationship. This fall, we expect 20 Korean students from Handong to be here in Longview studying with us. LETU Engineering Dean Tom Hellmuth has created the mechanism to enable this exchange. And thanks to the good work of business professor John Feezell, we joined together with Handong to host the Global Industrial Field Experience and Korean business students were here this summer working with area firms.
THE PASSING OF EDITH HARDWICK
While we praise the successes of this past year, we also recognize the loss of a dear friend to the university this past year. The university family lost one of its matriarchs this summer — Edith Maxine Hardwick. She was the wife of LETU’s fourth president, Dr. Harry Hardwick. I did not have the opportunity to meet Mrs. Hardwick, but many who knew her and husband tell stories have fond memories of their tireless work for the university. She served with her husband here at LeTourneau from 1968 to 1987 and she left Longview for Minnesota just a few years ago. Edith Hardwick lived 91 years of faithful service to her Lord.
RENEWING OUR UNIVERSITY VISION
Our most significant undertaking last year was the renewing of our university vision. Thank you for joining together to participate in this process. My goal was for a visioning process that would honor God and be inclusive and I believe we were successful at that. We began with seven days of prayer and then all faculty and staff had the opportunity to give input in small discussion groups conducted across the university. We even conducted a session in Spanish for our staff who speak English as a second language. Alumni and students also were represented. With the advice of campus leaders, I spent considerable time learning and listening and seeking God’s direction. Finally, the Board of Trustees reviewed what had come through you and me. They added their own unique perspective as leaders who have been long-time strategic planners for LeTourneau and as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who love this university.
The vision that has emerged is one built upon more than 60 years of faithful work by founders, faculty, staff, and students. It is a vision that reflects how God has uniquely equipped the university to join in His work for this generation. It is a vision not radically new, but eternally grounded.
Any organization’s vision is a statement of a desired destination. A strategic plan identifies a path for reaching that destination. Working with the vision I present today, we will go forward now to develop a strategic plan to present to the Trustees in April 2009. I will be seeking your help through the university’s strategic planning committee. Our desire is to know God’s vision for LeTourneau University. The potential pitfall in this task is to be presumptuous — to presume to know God’s will. With humility, I have tried to guard from this by remaining close to God’s Word. In it, we receive clear instruction on His will for us in this age. At the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection, Jesus told us to GO and to make disciples of all nations. We don’t have to guess about this or presume to know. The call is clear. His resurrection introduced a new age, one that continues until His return and an age in which we now live. And the clarion call of this age, His will for us, is to GO and make disciples.
The British clergyman John Stott has observed that in the Old Testament, God’s chosen people were to COME to Zion to exalt the one true God. In the Great Commission, Jesus now calls God’s people not to come to the holy land, but to GO. The flow is not to Jerusalem but from Jerusalem; not the nations flowing into the church, but Jesus is calling for the church to flow out into the nations.
Therefore, a godly perspective of LeTourneau’s vision is for His love to overflow from this place to all the earth. I’m convinced we shouldn’t sit here and wait for our work to come to us. We must go to the world. We must go and make disciples.
And so, how do we go?
We go as God has uniquely equipped us.
We go to join where God is already at work.
We go out of the overflow of our own hearts.
How has God uniquely equipped LeTourneau University? We have inherited a legacy of leadership in the important work of integrating personal faith and professional life. God has equipped us with strong programs staffed by outstanding faculty and high-ability students. He has also equipped us with skill in creating active learning experiences for our students. Finally, and most fundamentally, He has equipped us as an interdenominational community of believers who understand that genuine higher learning cannot occur without Jesus Christ at the center of all we do.
Engineering genius, entrepreneur, Christian missionary — R.G. LeTourneau led a life that was full enough to leave several legacies. Our founder remains a hero to many today, especially those who seek to understand what it means to run a business without sacrificing your faith. His story is a staple in the Christian business literature, and last year when a Yale University professor wrote the history of how we have sought to integrate our work lives and our faith lives, R.G. LeTourneau was prominent.
R.G. LeTourneau’s testimony that God needed businessmen just as much as pastors or evangelists is one that is still important today. In carrying his name, our university has been equipped to continue his message of encouragement: that one can serve the Lord in one’s workplace; that there is no hierarchy of callings — the calling to be an engineer or teach third graders is just as valuable to God as the call to full-time ministry.
Mr. LeTourneau’s legacy is, in part, why LeTourneau University is unique among our peers. We don’t educate professionals as an extension of our liberal arts mission. The sending of professionals into the world is our core mission. We are a rare university that has developed expertise in serving both traditional students and working adults. We are not a small liberal arts university. We are one of the leading engineering programs in the nation. We are one of the preeminent university aviation programs anywhere. We prepare more teaching professionals than any other private university in Texas. Our School of Graduate and Professional Studies educates thousands of business students across Texas — a state which is now home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other. In a place becoming the business capital of the U.S., LeTourneau is one of the most important educators of business professionals.
And we educate these professionals in a unique way. We understand the value of "learning by doing." You see our commitment to active learning everywhere — in Baja car design competitions, in business students working to take back troubled neighborhoods in Dallas, in biomedical engineering students who design ingenious prosthetic legs, and in student ministries meeting practical needs among our neighbors in South Longview. We understand that higher education should not be bound within a lecture hall.
Finally, God has equipped LeTourneau University as a collection of sincere Christ-followers not defined by a particular denomination but instead unified in faith in Jesus Christ. Our student body today includes 40 different Christian denominations! Together, we see the Bible as God’s Word and we unapologetically proclaim that lordship of Jesus in all creation. Through Him, all things were created and by Him all things hold together. Therefore Jesus is the central actor in all academic disciplines from aeronautical science to materials joining to youth ministry.
Unapologetic about our commitment to Christ, innovative in employing hands-on learning experiences, exceptional in the quality of our graduates, and identified with the integration of faith and work in the daily Christian life, LeTourneau University has been uniquely and divinely formed.
GO AND JOIN GOD
Our vision can be found at the intersection of the university’s distinctive gifts and God’s ongoing work. I want to point you this morning to two venues where God is at work.
First, God is making disciples in the workplace. It is in the workplace where we spend most of our time and energy. It is in the workplace where most of our relationships are formed. Our work is central to our existence. In workplaces large and small, in this culture and others, people are seeking to find significance. Believers are increasingly frustrated with compartmentalized lives that separate their work life from their faith life. They feel pulled to make choices inconsistent with their values. They struggle with demands that undermine their marriages and families. They are searching to know what it means to serve Christ in their work.
Consider Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonalds, who said: "My philosophy is God first, family second, and McDonald’s hamburgers third. But on Monday, the order is reversed." As Christians mature in their faith, they are increasingly dissatisfied with this worldly logic. If God is first on Sunday, shouldn’t He be first on Monday as well?
On the other hand, non-believers in the workplace also seek meaning in their toil. Rather than meaning, they often find tasks that drain them physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They are disappointed in work’s material rewards that fail to satisfy. I have seen this exhaustion and disappointment reflected in an explosion of books and conferences recently on "workplace spirituality." All people want their work to be significant in some way.
Christian leaders have acknowledged that God is using this turbulence to make disciples. Former LeTourneau board member the evangelist Billy Graham said: "I believe one of the great moves of God is going to be through believers in the workplace." His son, and a former LeTourneau student, Franklin Graham has seen God at work in his ministry: "God has begun an evangelism movement in the workplace that has the potential to transform our society as we know it."
Our founder was at the beginning of this movement. The LeTourneau name is still associated with the call of God in the workplace. The university that bears his name and has a history of quality professional education can, and should, join what God is doing.
We have a singular opportunity to take a leadership role. We can graduate men and women who understand what it means to be a Christian engineer or a Christian pilot. We can be a source of continuing education for all who seek to break down the barriers between Sunday and Monday and live as Christ’s ambassadors in their workplaces.
Allow me to point you to another place where God is doing a mighty work and LeTourneau is distinctly equipped to join in that work.
The Christian church is 2,000 years old, but in the last century a seismic shift has been underway. According to the Institute for the Study of World Christianity at Calvin College, 80% of the world’s Christians lived in Europe and North America in 1900. Today, 70% of the world’s Christians live in Africa, in Asia, and Latin America. Only 30% live in North America and Europe. Christianity is now predominately a non-Western faith. The "average Christian" in the world today doesn’t look like us or live like us or share similar ancestry with us. Consider Africa, in 1900 only 9 million Christians lived on the continent. By 2000, it was estimated that there were 400 million African Christians.
These lands where Christianity has been growing are also lands of great human suffering. These are places where LeTourneau faculty and staff can make a difference. These are also places where we can be eyewitnesses to the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. God is at work, and we can be part of it.
If the Christian church has been globalized, so have all other aspects of our lives. Many Americans this morning drank coffee from Columbia, ate an orange from Mexico, dressed in clothes made in Vietnam, and drove to work in a car built in South Korea burning gasoline from Saudi Arabia. They sat down at a computer assembled in China and read an e-mail from Singapore announcing that jobs were being outsourced to engineers working in India. And at the end of this long day, they will relax at home on a chair made with leather from Argentina, and on their Japanese television watch a program produced in England.
In this brave new globalized world, our university doesn’t have the luxury of operating as a Texas or even a U.S. university. We must think as a global university. We must prepare our students to serve the global Christian church and to be effective in the global economy. We can recruit students and faculty globally and use the distance education technologies we’ve already developed to extend our classrooms worldwide.
To be sure, from the days Mr. LeTourneau traveled the globe, this university has reached beyond the U.S. Because of the work our alumni are doing, it is true that the sun never sets on LeTourneau University. Additionally, we have a growing number of faculty from around the world and international students from nations as diverse as Nepal and Nigeria. Our student mission projects often reach out to other cultures. But the success of our LEGS project demonstrates to me that God can use us to have an even greater impact. And our adult education centers in Dallas and Houston also give us an opportunity to reach into metropolitan centers that are home to immigrants from all corners of the world. God is already at work equipping us to become a global university.
The developing nations of the world need our ingenuity, technological expertise, and professional skills. Imagine LEGS not just as artificial limbs but as multidisciplinary teams of our faculty and students developing solutions that are workable in primitive environments, sustainable after we leave, and delivered with a love that points people to the Good News of Jesus. I know that we can select communities around the world where our engineering students can improve electricity delivery, our education students can equip teachers to teach, our business students can implement micro financing mechanisms for local artisans and our aviation students can provide logistical support to local churches. And we can help in a way that builds that community’s own human capacity rather than building their dependence on us or any other outside charity. In this way, our students experience remarkable learning laboratories; human suffering is eased; local human capacity is built; and the one true God receives the glory for it all.
There are many ways to answer the Great Commission. God has uniquely equipped LeTourneau to claim the workplace as our mission field. He has equipped us to join Him in meeting human needs and exalting God across the world. We can make disciples by educating professionals who are exceptional in their work and who live lives that bring glory to God. We can inform our students to see the eternal impact they have through their work. And we can demonstrate that their God-given talents and their LeTourneau University education can be used globally to bring hope as part of God’s bigger plan.
GO OUT OF THE OVERFLOW OF OUR HEARTS
However, to be successful in achieving this vision, we must be a campus where the spiritual growth of faculty, staff, and students is a top priority. We must be intentional about our own personal spiritual growth and humbly admit that we are God’s still-unfinished work. The making of disciples should begin within us.
As an institution, we will continue, without compromise, to hire only Christian faculty and staff. This is an essential commitment but it is not enough. The university should also be committed to the labor of Paul, which was "to present everyone mature in Christ." This commitment goes beyond students and includes our faculty, staff, alumni and ministry partners.
The greater our own spiritual maturity, the greater is our ability to mature others.
A VISION FOR 2015
And so, what might 2015 look like if we can move forward toward this vision? Here’s a viewpoint:
I see a LeTourneau University that is no more the ‘best kept secret’ in higher education.
Our professional programs in are admired. The work of our faculty recognized. We build on our historical leadership in engineering and aeronautical science and, in all of our schools, we grow existing programs while launching new undergraduate and graduate programs. We are a university comprehensive in every way, reaching out to a diversity of learners with innovative delivery methods and a variety of academic programs.
We are a global university serving the global Church and preparing professionals for a global economy. Our graduates have a clear understanding of what it means to be a Christian in their chosen professions. The world’s leading employers come to us because our students are known for their competence, character and résumés of practical experience.
I see hundreds of students from outside the U.S. studying here in Longview. There is a steady flow of students and faculty between LeTourneau University centers in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe. A new LEGS, LEGS 2.0, gives each discipline a mechanism to create applied learning opportunities for students. The result is students who graduate with valuable practical experiences while the people of developing nations benefit from LeTourneau ingenuity and witness the love of our God. LEGS 2.0 is for all majors and all campuses.
Our successful adult programs stretch far beyond Dallas, Houston, Austin, and Tyler in 2015. It was one giant leap in the history of LeTourneau to extend beyond this campus to the large cities of Texas. But our destiny is to leap again and extend LeTourneau University education worldwide. LeTourneau is also a significant provider of non-degree, continuing education for people of all ages.
I see LeTourneau recognized as the center for thought on what it means to be a Christian professional: a Christian teacher, a Christian psychologist, a Christian engineer, a Christian accountant. We assist the church in discipling believers who desire to become ambassadors for Christ in their workplaces. We are a resource for business leaders who want to know how they can stay true to their faith in the secular marketplace.
Ours is a campus of revival where prayer is ubiquitous, discipleship is intentional, and the Lordship of Jesus Christ is the beginning point and the ending point in every field of study. We are known as a university where the Great Commission of Matthew 28 and the Lordship of Christ in Colossians 1 informs everything we do. Our chapel program provides spiritual growth opportunities for all of the LeTourneau community, not only students. We seek the leadership of the Holy Spirit and appreciate that we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Well, that is the view from my vantage point. I welcome your thoughts. Together in strategic planning, we can define the details of our vision and set goals for 2015. But we have already seized some opportunities that will begin to move us toward our vision.
We are providing our School of Aeronautical Science a new home. A recently constructed building became available at the airport and we took a good opportunity to purchase it. Renovations will soon be underway. The result will be a modern facility worthy of the nation’s best aviation program in a location where all the school’s faculty and students can be together and all the major field courses is taught. Aeronautical science students will continue to live here at the Mobberly Avenue campus, eat here, attend chapel and their general education courses here. But they will study their major where they most want to be — at an airport.
After 40 years at Skipper Hall, we are moving our dining services to what has been the Assembly Building. We have contracted with the premier campus dining provider in the nation and when completed later this year, our students will be pleased with a new menu in a beautiful new venue. The goal is not to create gourmet dining but to simply promise students and their parents that we will provide smart food choices, healthy and appetizing and of a quality that complements the quality of our academic programs and residence halls. This improved food service will position us to better recruit and retain students. And the facility will give us room to grow enrollment.
Associate Vice President Scott Ray and his team implemented extensive changes this summer as part of reengineering the delivery of services for adult students. This innovative approach will use advocacy teams to enhance student success and improve our responsiveness in the marketplace. Expect future growth in our working adult programs.
Also, I have made some executive-level organization changes. The result is a structure that better fits my management style and puts us in position to implement the vision. I have learned this year that we are blessed with campus leaders of significant experience and solid relationships with Jesus Christ. This is also true of two new members of our leadership: We have selected Carol Green from George Fox University to head our School of Graduate and Professional Studies and Robert Wharton from Union University to head our Business School. We are pleased they are here.
I have two New Year’s resolutions to request of you.
First, would you resolve to join us financially in building the new airport campus and the new dining hall? Many of us will be hard at work this year seeking funding for these two new capital projects but you understand, better than others, how much these new facilities will make a difference. We will now have the capacity to send more mission aviators into the world. We will have a comfortable place to eat lunch together and to share meals with students. Your financial help is important. It will help us to retire debt. Your participation will motivate others to help also. Please consider it.
Second, will you resolve to keep praying for your university? I know you are a people of prayer. I have felt them in my first year. Please don’t grow weary or complacent or just too busy. That sacred conversation with God always reminds me that this university is in His hands. We are His. This University is His.
In conclusion, I am deeply persuaded that this is God’s vision for LeTourneau. It is what He has been preparing for the last 60 years. Look at what He has done with this tiny technical school operating out of a maze of abandoned Army barracks! Look at how He has collected a group of faithful and talented men and women and bound us together with a powerful unity of the Spirit! Who can deny that He has had His hand on this place?
No other university can do what we can do. We can educate a new generation of men and women who will go with competence and character into boardrooms and operating rooms and classrooms. We can instill in them timeless values and give them global experiences that will build their résumés and position them for immediate success in their careers. With successful careers, they will have the platform to become salt and light. Our graduates will model servant leadership. They will create workplaces where character matters and families are honored. They will support God’s work in the local church and mission field. Hearts will be changed. Lives will be changed.
You have done so much good here. But, I ask you to see the unique opportunity we have to go and make disciples in every workplace, in every nation.