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a message from the president “If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.” — Plato I’ve been outnumbered by women at home for quite some time. My wife, Marsha, our daughters, Rachel and Hannah, and now our granddaughter, Linley, have all given me a keen appreciation for the unique and many contributions of women. When I first became the president of LeTourneau University in 2007, I spent some time getting to know Roy LeTourneau, one of the sons of our founders R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau. He made it very clear that while his dad got much of the credit for being the founder of the school, it was his mother, Evelyn, who was the driving force behind it. It was her original idea to start the school on the grounds of a vacated army hospital. She was the one who worked to get it ready to open, including taking inventory of more than 230 buildings on campus before the first class was held in March of 1946, less than a year after the end of World War II. For the first 15 years of the school’s history, all of the students were men, many of them returning service men in need of training for civilian jobs. In 1961, the school welcomed its first women students, changed its name to LeTourneau College and began offering liberal arts courses. It would evolve much later to become LeTourneau University in 1989.

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And now as we mark the 50th year of women students at LeTourneau, the Board of Trustees has elected the first woman to chair the Board. Nancy Mendez is a former LETU student who now serves as the assistant city manager of Whittier, CA. Nancy’s term as board chair seems to be the most fitting way for LeTourneau to enter into the next 50 years of women on campus. This issue of the NOW magazine reminds us how much things have changed and how far we have come in 50 years as it celebrates the arrival of women students on campus. We are proud to remember Evelyn LeTourneau and to take a look back at what college life was like for some of the school’s first women students. We also see how some of our more recent alumnae have made a difference through leadership in their fields as they take their education and their faith into every workplace.




contents Claiming every workplace in every nation as our mission field, LeTourneau University graduates are professionals of ingenuity and Christ-like character who see life’s work as a holy calling with eternal impact.

LeTourneau University is an interdenominational Christ-centered university offering academic majors in the aeronautical sciences, business, education, engineering, healthcare, the humanities and sciences. LeTourneau University also offers undergraduate degree programs in business, education and psychology and graduate programs in business and education at educational centers in Austin, Bedford, Dallas, Houston, Tyler and online. NOW is published three times per year (Fall, Spring, and Summer) by LeTourneau University, 2100 South Mobberly, Longview, Texas 75607 w Sent free upon request to Editor, P.O. Box 8001, Longview, Texas 75607. w Postmaster: Send address changes to: NOW, P.O. Box 8001, Longview, Texas 75607. w E-mail us at


First Women On Campus


Remembering Mom LeTourneau


News and Notes


Discovering Purpose


Nancy Mendez: Leading By Example


Dr. Andrée Elliot: Faculty Feature


Daughters of the King




ADMISSIONS: PHONE: 903-233-4300 TOLL FREE: 800-759-8811

DEVELOPMENT: PHONE: 903-233-3800 TOLL FREE: 800-259-LETU


Ellen Bancroft joins the 1962-63 Pioneer Yearbook staff as layout editor, along with (from left) Dave Hall, artist; Terrell Robbins, assistant layout editor; and Carl Constable, copy editor.

Written by Kate Gronewald

These six women grace the pages of the '61-'62 Pioneer as the first female freshmen of LeTourneau College. 4 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011


he rides up Mobberly Avenue in the back seat of a station wagon piled high with hardtop suitcases. Butterflies race in her stomach. Her hair is bobbed like Jackie Kennedy’s and her faith is in a man who told her about LeTourneau College. Venturing off to college seven states away is always a monumental occasion, but this is even more so. It is radically adventurous, because what awaits Susan Till is a wall of decades of tradition, a wall that she’ll be the first to climb. Well, almost the first. Her freshman roommate, Ellen Bancroft, is already hiding out in their room, waiting until she is no longer the only female student on campus to venture over to the dining hall to place her tray amidst a sea of men. This was 1961. In film, it was the year of West Side Story, The Parent Trap and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In current events, it was the beginning of John F. Kennedy’s presidency, the Vietnam War and the building of the Berlin Wall. On the airwaves, “Let’s Twist Again,” “Blue Moon” and “Stand By Me” were playing on American radio dials. Three years before the British Invasion, another invasion of sorts was taking place in South Longview. As fall classes began at LeTourneau College, it was official. It was the year of the woman. The fall of 1961 marked LeTourneau Technical Institute’s official transition to LeTourneau College and its first semester as a coeducational school. One by one, cardigans and Keds made their way to campus via a handful of the first women of LeTourneau College – at a ratio of approximately 100 male students to one female student.

Finding the First Females

Birne Wiley, a LeTourneau graduate and the school’s public relations director, traveled throughout the United States speaking at churches and interviewing potential students. Both Till and Bancroft lived in New York (though they had never met), and it was during one of Wiley’s trips to this region that they first heard about LeTourneau College and an opportunity that their parents made sure they seized. Bancroft grew up in the Philippines as a missionary kid and spent her senior year of high school in Johnson City, N.Y., wondering and praying where she should attend college. She remembers Wiley visiting her church youth group, as a fellow member had been accepted to LeTourneau for the fall of 1961. The two chatted at a fellowship event afterward about LeTourneau’s move to become coeducational and attract some female students. While she doesn’t remember all she and Wiley discussed, Bancroft knows she went home certain she would be applying to LeTourneau. “My dad had aspirations for his five children to go to college,” Bancroft said. “He had no money to help us, but his strong determination was in all his children, and amazingly enough, all of us did graduate from college.” Till spoke with Wiley in July, and within a month she was pulling up to campus. Her family’s background and influence were strong motivations for her journey down South. Her grandparents were first-generation immigrants from Sweden; her dad and uncles had only earned their education through the eighth grade. They worked on farms and in factories but had bigger dreams for their children. “My parents always believed in higher education,” Till said. “My mother always said she didn’t care if I used it, but that girls should receive an education in case something happened and they had to take care of themselves one day.”

The arrival of the first female students on campus was much the result of a charismatic public relations representative and the parents of brave girls who placed a priority on Christian education.

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Bonding in the Big House

Before long, Till climbed out of her family’s station wagon and joined Bancroft on campus. Arm in arm, the two braved the dining hall. They are quick to remember it was very clear there were only men on campus. “I am 6 feet tall, and Sue was about 5 feet tall or so,” Bancroft said. “And later on, I was amused to learn that the guys had labeled us ‘Mutt and Jeff,’ as we wandered around the campus together before other girls arrived.” One by one, their fellow first female classmates pulled up to the well-kept grounds of the Big House, the women’s dormitory which was then located in an area that today is a soccer field near the university pond. R.G. and Evelyn LeTourneau, or “Mom” and “Pop,” lived in the residence until that fall. However, the crepe myrtles and hedgerows now announced the first women’s dormitory, and each woman to walk through the columned entrance of the Big House knew they were bravely entering new territory – but they weren’t alone. 6 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

Joining Bancroft and Till in the Big House were Ardella Kemmler, from Pennsylvania; Judy Sebens, from Washington; Joanne Duncan, from Oklahoma; and Carmen Simich, a transfer student from Peru. No matter where the girls called home, they quickly bonded over life together on campus as the “firsts.” The Big House, with its two stories and floral curtains, served as more than a place for the women to store their things and spend their nights. It became the women’s home during their first year at college. The women’s housemother, Mrs. Ruth Arnold, chaperoned them, performed daily room inspections and made sure they followed the rules. (And rolled her eyes in exasperation when they were typical, rambunctious young folks.) Life in the Big House only lasted one year. The women moved into the barracks their sophomore year and into the women’s residence hall when it was completed during their senior year. However, one moment of Big House life is frozen in time. A black and white photo reveals the women spending their downtime in the lounge. Mrs. Arnold sits in her chair knitting while two women read magazines at the coffee table. Sebens kneels behind one of them, brushing her hair. Simich stands barefoot, snacking. In the background, stands the source of evening entertainment – three women at the upright piano, Bancroft playing her accordion while Till sings next to her. There is something powerfully universal about their camaraderie. “I loved the dorm life – the late night study

sessions, the encouraging of each other, laughing and sometimes crying with one another, and the times of venting frustrations,” Bancroft said. “I always felt we were all good friends as well as becoming good friends with the girls who came in during the next three years we were there.” Friends and frequent Big House guests included Patricia McClelland and Judy Drury, both local LeTourneau students and perhaps school’s first female commuters. However, there was more than gender and shared experience that drew these women together. True to LeTourneau’s history, there was a unity formed from faith. “Each having been brought up in a Christian background, that connection was very strong with all of us,” Till said.

Living and Working on Campus

Life on campus for the first women to call themselves YellowJackets was dramatically different than today. The women had a curfew of 9 p.m., couldn’t leave the Big House before 6 a.m., were only allowed to wear dresses or skirts and blouses, and had to secure permission to leave campus with an approved driver. Despite the restrictions and their clear place as the minority gender on campus, the women managed to have plenty of fun and jumped right into student activities. They participated in events such as Fall Carnival, Homecoming and Frontier Days. They also got involved in student groups, including Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, Pep Club and Scandinavian Club. Several sang with the college choir and formed a women’s trio. Till even crooned in a quartet with three guys called “Three Hits and a Miss.” Social events were a highlight for this new student segment. The on-campus fraternities named the women honorary members, and they routinely enjoyed attending campus festivities as an entire student body. Not to mention, none of the women complained about having too large a pool of potential dates. Soon, the women were far from the days of being too intimidated to plop their trays in the dining hall. They were quickly comfortable holding their own around campus. They ate, played games, chatted and studied together at the hangout spot of choice on campus – the Dog House, a glorified on-campus concession stand in the Student Union barracks building that served coffee, burgers, milkshakes and a daily break from textbooks. A few of the women even formed a cheerleading

Above, the first female students spend some spare time in the lounge of the Big House.

LeTourneau College expanded its academic programs to include Arts & Sciences in 1961 — Above, LeTourneau College men and women learn together in chemistry lab. Below, Yellow Jacket staff members work on the biweekly student newspaper (from left): Tom Hickman, sports; Ellen Bancroft and Sue Till, feature writers.

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squad. Till and Sebens started the tradition, drumming up YellowJacket spirit with their megaphones and fellow squad members Homer Jentes and John Cardie. The 1962 school yearbook reports, “In flashing array, they leap, kick, and twist in perfect conjunction with one another to elevate the spirits of the spectators, and thus encourage the team members themselves.” Those LeTourneau College yearbooks document their campus involvement. The first female students started appearing in the 1962 edition, slowly establishing their part of LeTourneau history. They began making their permanent mark on the pages, seen snacking in the Dog House, studying together in their housecoats in the Big House and sitting in wooden desks with pens at the ready and legs crossed at their ankles. The yearbook’s very name, the Pioneer, remarkably connotes the attitude of each of these women. Flipping through the yellowed pages, readers today quickly notice how the women’s bouffant “hairdos” and full skirts immediately jump out in striking dissonance against the pattern of the men’s crew cuts and pant legs. Previously, photos of young females in the yearbook were relegated to sweethearts and wives of LeTourneau’s male students, or the school’s secretaries and librarians. The women even landed major leadership positions during their first fall on campus. Simich served as a junior class officer, while McClelland served as a freshman class officer. By their senior year, several had served as officers in multiple classes, clubs and Student Senate. The first women also dotted i’s, crossed t’s and

8 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

proofed page layouts on the yearbook and school newspaper, assuming traditionally male functions. Kemmler became the first female editor of the YellowJacket, while Bancroft and Till worked as feature writers. Bancroft also managed the Pioneer as co-editor and later editor. As the women interacted with the men on campus while attending classes, chapel and various school activities, they quickly realized what gentlemen they were – generally quality men of character who treated them nicely and respected their place on campus. They also spent time with the wives of many of their LeTourneau classmates (over half of the men were married students.) Married students frequently entertained the female students in their homes. “Mom LeTourneau had encouraged a sense of family, and I think that sense lasted on, as I knew everyone—married guys and their wives and families, as well as the single students,” Bancroft said. Life on campus wasn’t all play, but a mix of fun and hard work. The women took up campus jobs on days they didn’t have class, just as the men did. Till put in hours at the student union, the print shop and the switchboard (she was manning the phone lines the day JFK was assassinated). Bancroft earned extra money to help pay for expenses in the cafeteria and the library, as well as by flipping burgers at the Dog House and typing in the admissions office. “We had to study, and we had to work, but we had a good time,” Till said. “It was unique in many ways.”

Judy Sebens (near left) and Sue Till (above) form the '62-'63 LeTourneau College cheerleading squad. Top left: Ardella Kemmler works away as the first female editor of the Yellow Jacket ('62-'63).

Earning an Education

Both Till and Bancroft graduated in 1965 with degrees in education. During their senior year, they became LeTourneau’s first student teachers, along with classmates Judy Drury and Joan Bauer. While the majority of the first class of LeTourneau College females majored in the liberal arts, several broke the mold. Simich was an industrial engineering major, while Kemmler graduated with a degree in chemistry. Others studied missionary technology and Bible. Regardless of their majors, all felt welcomed by the faculty. “The faculty members were very good and encouraging to us—I liked all my teachers,” Bancroft said. “I worked for a few months for Dr. Kenneth McKinley, head of the Christian Service Department, grading test papers for him. He was a dear man of God. When he found out I played the accordion, he had me play duets with him—he on his accordion and me on mine –in chapel a few times.” Till remembers having personal contacts with every single professor on campus and feeling the freedom to choose any career path offered. A professor teaching architecture on campus once asked her to sit in on one of his courses since she thought she might be interested in the field. It was even the same with aviation, she said. Her first plane ride was in a LeTourneau aircraft. “It was very, very open,” Till said. “They didn’t isolate us from any of the programs. We all knew it

was a technical school, and we grew up in an environment where most girls were expected to grow up to be secretaries or housewives. To attend a college that was open enough to accept girls in those other majors – that was very forward thinking, and it says a lot about LeTourneau.”

Life After LeTourneau

The first women of LeTourneau College have gone on to become career women, world travelers, wives, grandmothers (some are even great-grandmothers) and more. Ellen Bancroft (Page) became a registered nurse. She met her husband of 46 years on campus, thanks to the prescience of matchmaker and English instructor Mrs. Edith Gingrich. The two have maintained LeTourneau College connections around the world. “We lived in South Africa for three years in the mid-70s, and during that time we visited a LeTourneau alumnus in Swaziland who was working there with TransWorld Radio,” Bancroft said. “I have lifelong friends from those days.” She recognizes the impact the leap of faith she took to attend LeTourneau College has made on her life, from earning her degree to meeting her husband and adjusting to adult life in the United States after growing up overseas. “LeTourneau was a big part in my acclimatizing to becoming more ‘American,’” Bancroft said. “I also can look back and see how God led me there and provided for me.” LeTourneau University | 9

Judy Sebens (Stebbins) still works part-time as a nurse and has been married to David Stebbins (IE, ’64) for 48 years. They live in Long Lake, Minn. Kemmler is still a practicing physician in Evanston, Wyo. Susan Till (Carvella) graduated with certifications to teach English and history. She later earned her master’s degree in education and recently retired after 36 years teaching special education. She still tutors children and serves on the Board of Directors of the Learning Disabilities Association of Western New York. “I always tried to teach by example and carry out those Christian values, those examples I had been raised with that had been further developed in college,” Till said. “LeTourneau was good preparation – LeTourneau was the foundation.” Till lives with her husband of 43 years only a mile from where they grew up in Lakewood, N.Y.

She clearly sees God’s guidance throughout her life, including sending her in a station wagon to LeTourneau College. “God directed my steps to LeTourneau,” Till said. “Some people don’t believe things happen for a reason, but I’ve always believed that they do, and there’s got to be a force that has guided it all.” “We first girls on campus really shared some unique opportunities and experiences,” Till said. Their impact on LeTourneau College and every female student who has come after them – to study engineering, fly planes as missionary pilots, learn to teach, perform skits in Hootenanny talent shows and enjoy residence life to the fullest – will forever be imprinted not only in ink on the pages of aging yearbooks, but in the hearts and lives of everyone connected to the LeTourneau legacy of adventurous achievement. n

LETU student AnaLisa Bond contributed research for this article.

The article below appeared in the July 15, 1961 issue of the NOW magazine announcing LeTourneau College's first year as a coeducational institution and welcoming the first women to enroll in LeTourneau courses. Also new for the '61-'62 school year were academic degree options in the Arts and Sciences, including Bible, business administration, chemistry, education, English, history, mathematics and physics.

10 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

Looking Back: Celebrating 50 Years of Women on Campus The year 1961 was a historic one. Alan Shepard made the first U.S. manned space flight, forever changing the boundaries for the next generation. Freedom Riders rode buses into the South to focus attention on local Jim Crow laws that segregated public schools, public transportation and public housing laws. The Commission on the Status of Women was established to explore how issues of education, employment, Social Security and tax laws related to women. That was also the year that the all-male LeTourneau Technical Institute of Texas took a bold step forward when it became LeTourneau College and opened its doors to female coeds. The school has never been the same. Many things have changed since 1961, when Ricky Nelson was singing about being a “Travelin’ Man” and Elvis Presley was crooning “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

Today, rap and hip hop musicians garner Grammy nominations by the fistful, and pop icons continue to push the envelope of performance art. Instead of World Book Encyclopedias, we have the Internet at our fingertips. Instead of telephones with curly cords and rotary dials, we carry in our pockets push button cell phones that shoot pictures and video, play music and send text messages. We communicate today instantly through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Technology and opportunity have changed the world forever. But those aren’t the only things that have changed. Here are just a few facts gleaned from a variety of historical publications and websites that reveal how much our daily lives have changed in the past 50 years. n

1961 John F. Kennedy David Dean Rusk 69.7 years $35.25 $1.15 $12,550 $5,315 $110 $2,850 $1 .04 cents .27 cents $1.05 .21 cents .30 cents .67 cents

2011 U.S. President Secretary of State Life Expectancy in U.S. Price of an Ounce of Gold Minimum Wage Per Hour Average Price of a New Home Average Annual Income Average Monthly Rent Average Price of a New Car Movie Ticket Postage Stamp Gallon of Gasoline Gallon of Milk Loaf of Bread Dozen Eggs Pound of Bacon

Barack H. Obama Hillary R. Clinton 78.3 years $1,372 $7.25 $232,800 $39,423 $780 $28,400 $7.90 .44 cents $3.10 $2.65 $2.78 $1.65 $3.68

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er head bowed and eyes closed, Evelyn LeTourneau began to pray with the young men who came to visit with her. These young men needed to receive Jesus into their hearts, so He could change them and give their lives purpose and meaning. When she finished offering the prayer, Evelyn looked into their young faces and knew their lives would be changed for eternity. She listened to prayers of salvation with many young people throughout the years in all the places she had lived, from Stockton, Calif., to Peoria, Ill., to Toccoa, Ga., to Vicksburg, Miss., and finally to Longview, Texas, where she and her husband, inventor and industrialist R.G. LeTourneau, founded a technical school in 1946 that is today LeTourneau University. While the school this year celebrates 50 years since it opened its doors to female co-eds for the first time, the true first lady of LETU will always be “Mom” LeTourneau. Throughout the years, she became known simply as “Mom” for her hospitality and attention to the physical and spiritual needs of those around her. She was even honored to be named the American National Mother of the Year in 1969. Some folks might have had a different impression of the prospects for Evelyn Peterson LeTourneau’s future when she ran away to get married at age 16 to a man 12 years her senior in a quick ceremony in Tijuana, Mexico, without her parents’ consent. Only three years later, at the age of 19, her first baby, Caleb, died during the 1919 flu epidemic in Stockton, Calif. Following the baby’s death, she and her husband rededicated their lives to serving the Lord. They served him together until R.G. died in 1969. Her youngest son, Ben LeTourneau, who today is retired and lives with his wife, Betty, in Longview, says, “I remember Mom got a letter one time that was addressed simply to ‘Mom’ in Longview Texas, U.S.A.” “There was never any doubt in our minds about the love between Mom and Dad,” Ben says. “We never heard them fight or even have cross words with each other. And they saw we were taken care of.” Ben’s older brother, Roy LeTourneau, says the roots of LeTourneau University date back to when the family was living in Toccoa, Ga., when their dad opened a factory there in 1939 to train machinists. “He built a dorm for them and they worked during the day and studied in the evening,” Roy says. “My Mom became ‘Mom’ to those boys, because she cared for them when they were sick and led many of them to the Lord.” In 1945, during a flight over Longview, looking for a site to build another factory, the LeTourneaus saw the vacated U.S. Army’s Harmon General Hospital. “It was Mom who made the suggestion that it would be a good place to put a college,” Roy says. “While Dad

Remembering Mom LeTourneau

Written by Janet Ragland

12 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

supplied the money, manpower and machines to get the college going, it was always Mom who was the motivating force behind it.” Ben agrees, “She’s the one who really founded the school,” he said. “She loved the school until the day she died. She used to keep a container of cookies for the students who came to visit her.” In those early days, the students were mostly returning service men. “Mom was also counselor to many of the students,” Roy said. “She looked after their well being.” Roy says he remembers living on campus in a converted barracks that Mom made into a two-story home with nine bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms. “There was a supporting column in the middle of the kitchen so she made a round table around it that would seat about 10 or more. The dining room would seat 25 or more. There were two supporting columns in the living room so she built a long sofa around the ends and on both sides between them. There was room for quite a large gathering in the living room. At Christmas, Thanksgiving and other times, it was not unusual for us to have 25 to 35 around the tables for dinner.” Roy says they never locked the front door, and he doubts that his mother ever took the keys out of her car. “We never knew who would come in during the night, take an empty room and show up at the breakfast table. When my Aunt Edna Farnham would come and visit, she would often say she was going to bed early so no one would get her room!” Their sister, Louise LeTourneau Dick, is the oldest of Mom’s surviving children and the only daughter. She was 14 when Ben, the youngest of her siblings, was born, and she grew up mostly in Stockton, California, but she remembers her mom always had a keen eye for detail. One day, she and Mom were visiting with a pastor who wanted to show off his church. “As you came in the back, it was very lovely, but Mom told him there was something wrong,” she says. Then her mom marched up the aisle and moved the service vessels for communion because they weren’t centered on the table. “We laughed about it,” Louise says. “Most people were in awe of her, but Mom never did realize her position.” Beginning in 1946, the year LeTourneau University began, there was another Louise LeTourneau in the family, but this one was Mom’s daughter-in-law, married to her son, Richard. “Mom lived through the Depression and she had a strong sense of gratitude for everything,” she said. “She loved to share the things of Christ and what He had done. Mom was a great help to me and was a tremendous influence on me as a new bride. I dearly loved her.” She remembers hearing the story about the day Mom returned home in Vicksburg from a church meeting and trip to the grocery store to find her curtains were on the floor because her husband needed the copper tubing in the curtain rods for use at the plant.

“It didn’t make her mad,” she says. “She just went and got some more curtain rods.” Through the years, numerous men and women were touched through the godly example of Mom LeTourneau. One of those was Gerrie Forbis, who worked for two decades as administrative assistant to Mom’s late son Dr. Richard LeTourneau when he was president of LeTourneau College. Forbis spent a lot of time with Mom while typing and editing Mom’s autobiography/cookbook, Recipes For Living in the early-1970s. “She was a gracious lady, thoughtful and thought-provoking,” Forbis says. “Mom was independent. She could take care of what she needed, but she also was definitely the woman behind the man. She entertained missionaries and kept the family going. And you never had to wonder what Mom was thinking; those boys did what she said.” Mom often greeted students and their parents at the beginning of each term. Forbis remembers Mom attended nearly every graduation. “They always had a corsage for her,” she said, and “Mom was always a favorite to give dorm devotions.” Forbis remembers a special chapel service in 1980 to celebrate Mom’s 80th birthday. “The women students brought Mom 80 long-stemmed red roses all throughout the chapel service. After that year, the Evelyn LeTourneau Outstanding Senior Women Award was given by the Women’s Council.” Linda Fitzhugh, who was a 25-year-old assistant director of admissions in 1978. “What I remember most was her resourcefulness,” Fitzhugh says. “She used what she had to cobble together what the school needed, and she was always so eager to encourage us. She mentored about seven of us younger women in student affairs, modeling for us devotion to family. She was a very gracious lady.” Many recall the story about Mom serving her tamale pie for 8,000 guests at a dedication of the LeTourneau plant in Vicksburg, Miss, just another example of not being deterred by big challenges. When Mom LeTourneau died May 12, 1987, six months before her 87th birthday, an adaptation from Proverbs 31 was printed in the program of her memorial service. It read:

“If you can find a truly good wife, she is worth more than precious gems. Her husband can trust her, and she will richly satisfy his needs. She will not hinder him, but help him all her life. She buys food and serves an army of industrial workers; she considers a field and turns it into a camp for youth; she organizes a technical college and travels across oceans with messages of good news. When she speaks, her words are wise and kindness is the rule for everything she says. Her children stand and bless her.” n LeTourneau University | 13

newsandnotes LETU NAMED BEST ONLINE CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY LeTourneau University was ranked the number one Online Christian College and University of 2011 by www. The website also ranked LETU 22nd among all secular and private colleges and universities that offer online programs in the nation, such as top-ranked Penn State.

LETU STUDENTS WIN 4TH AT ASME INTERNATIONAL LETU engineering students won fourth place in international competition at the 2010 ASME “Earth Saver” Student Design Competition held at the Vancouver Convention and Exposition Centre in British Columbia, Canada. The students were challenged to use their knowledge, creativity and problem solving skills to develop an autonomous system that sorts recyclable materials such as glass, metal, aluminum and plastic. Team members included Philip Cowles of Prescott Valley, Ariz.; Michael Stockholm of Maumelle, Ark.; Zach Jones of Midland, Texas; and team leader Cameron Jensen of Chicago, Ill. STUDENTS RANK THIRD NATIONALLY AT IEEE In an inaugural year for LeTourneau University to compete, LETU students took third place nationally and 26th place worldwide among 970 teams competing from 52 countries in an 14 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

AT&T YELLOWPAGES FEATURES LETU YELLOWJACKETS ON 2011 COVER LETU men’s basketball team is featured on the cover of the new 2011 AT&T Real Yellow Pages directory serving the greater Longview area. The cover photo depicts Coach Bob Davis planning the YellowJackets’ next play following a time out. More than 127,000 copies of the directory have been distributed in the area this year. Athletic Director Terri Deike and AT&T Representative Edwin Graves unveiled the new cover at an event in the Solheim Recreation and Activity Center on the LETU campus.

international computer programming competition organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. IEEE is the world’s largest professional association for the advancement of technology. The team won first place regionally to qualify to compete. The computer programming competition is designed to test skills in program design and analysis. ENGINEERING MAJOR WINS FIRST FOR IEEE VIDEO Sophomore electrical engineering major Zachary Phillips won first place and a $2,500 scholarship in the fourth annual IEEE "How Engineers Make a World of Difference" online video competition. Phillips' entry was deemed the most effective in reinforcing for an 11-to-13-year-old audience how engineers and technology professionals improve the quality of life. He received both the first-place award ($2,000) and a special award ($500)

for presentation of his video to a "tweeter" audience in his home town. Phillips won second place last year. LETU NAMES PROVOST AND EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT Following a national search, Dr. Philip A. Coyle has been named LETU’s new provost and executive vice president, effective July 1. As the university’s new chief academic officer, Coyle will have executive level responsibilities for planning, development and administration of the academic mission of the university. He will provide leadership to achieve initiatives of the university’s strategic plan and will oversee the recruitment, development and performance of deans, academic administrators, and

faculty in the university’s six schools. He will report directly to the university president and will serve as the chief executive officer in the president’s absence. Coyle has most recently been serving as chief academic officer at Richmont Graduate University in Chattanooga, Tenn. LETU NAMES EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NEW CENTER Dallas-based author and ministry leader Bill Peel is LETU’s new executive director of a new university initiative designed to equip, connect and mobilize Christians to live out their faith in the workplace. The initiative is designed to build confidence in serving Christ in “every workplace in every nation.” Peel has more than 20 years experience helping people discover their calling and sharpening their work skills

to become spiritually influential in the workplace. For the past seven years he has served as director of

LETU AND HGU REAFFIRM GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP LETU president Dr. Dale A. Lunsford and Handong Global University President Dr. Young-Gil Kim signed a letter of affirmation Nov. 23, for the next decade of institutional partnership between LETU and HGU. The universities currently enjoy a reciprocal relationship that includes student exchange and faculty exchange programs. The

affirmation includes these and opportunities for joint research, cultural programs, ministry opportunities and degree programs. JOHN FISCHER TO SPEAK ON CAMPUS LETU will host author and songwriter John Fischer in the Belcher Center March 25. Fischer is a senior writer with www.PurposeDrivenLife. com and writes a daily devotional that reaches more than 400,000 weekly. Fischer was a pioneering singer/songwriter and recording artist in the Jesus Music movement in the early 1970s, writing favorite church camp songs like “Have You Seen Jesus My Lord” and “Love Him in the Morning.” He is also a best-selling author of Real Christians Don’t Dance and Saint Ben.

BUD AND BETTY OTIS DONATE TO ABBOTT CENTER Standing in front of the door of the new Air Traffic Control Tower Simulation Laboratory that bears their name, Betty and Bud Otis present a check to LETU Dean of the School of Aeronautical Science Fred Ritchey at the Paul and Betty Abbott Aviation Center. The couple not only provided a generous naming gift for the ATC lab where LETU students hone their skills as future air traffic controllers , but they also provided another check for the Bud and Betty Otis Endowed Scholarship Fund for students in the School of Education. Betty enjoyed a long career as a public elementary school teacher. Bud, who donated his collection of large prints of Air Force aircraft that now hang in the lab, owned Ace Lock and Safe Service, in Longview for many years. The couple reside in San Angelo, Texas. LeTourneau University | 15


LeTourneau University has lo women to achieve success and professions. Here we catch up graduates who are following G


Kim Chatman

hrilling whistles, bouncing basketballs, squeaking gym shoes — these are the familiar sounds that bring high school principal Kim Woolridge Chatman back to Solheim Arena on occasion to watch her former team, the YellowJackets. But other signs that Chatman is back in her house are those times when her daughters, 10-year-old Dana and 5-year-old Carmen, run down the hallway looking for her picture among the two-time National Championship Teams and find her along with teammates listed in the Athletic Hall of Fame. Those are the days when Chatman is grateful she didn’t wander too far away after college. In 1994, Chatman was a senior in high school helping the Longview Lady Lobos plow through the competition (they were undefeated until the Regional Quarterfinal game). She gained the attention of LETU Coach Mary Ann Otwell, who was looking for an elite group to start her new basketball program. Chatman wasn’t sure if she wanted to stay in Longview. “I really wanted to go off for a while because I literally lived a street over from LeTourneau,” Chatman said. However, two years of playing for Texas Woman’s Uni-

16 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

versity in Denton left her missing a home court, so she picked up the phone and called Coach Otwell to see if a spot on the bench was still available. “She said, ‘Come on, come on,’ and welcomed me with open arms,” Chatman said. “And we’ve had a blast ever since.” Chatman’s addition as the sixth player on a team of standouts helped bring home the National Christian College Athletic Association Championships in both 1997 and 1998. In addition to Chatman and Coach Otwell, four of her other teammates were also inducted into the LETU Hall of Fame in 2004. “Even with 6 players, nobody ever wanted to come out of the game,” Chatman said. “They were an awesome group of young ladies to play with, and even just to have as friends.” They are still a close-knit group, thanks to phone calls and Facebook. Today, Chatman relates her experiences at LETU to her at-risk high-schoolers at Pine Tree’s academic alternative EXCEL program. “I try to help them realize that you don’t just arrive at where you are now,” she said. “It is a process. I wasn’t born a principal.” “We have conversations in class about anything and everything because of my students’ life experiences,“ Chatman said. “Some may have dropped out before and are back in school. Sometimes they’re teenage parents. Sometimes life just happens, and they’ve moved around from school to school and gotten behind on credits. “Each one of them has a different story,” she said. “There’s a broad spectrum of reasons for being at-risk.

ng Purpose

ong been a place that allows leadership roles in a variety of with a few of the many women God’s call into every workplace.

But they’re all my babies and I tell them that and treat them as such.” While she might not have been born a principal, she knew very young she was destined to be a teacher. Upon graduating from LETU with a degree in English/Secondary Education in 1999, she taught at Longview High, then local middle schools for eight years. Part of that time, she coached basketball and taught in the gifted/talented programs. She knew she wanted to move up in administration but didn’t really have a set desire to be a principal until a divorce and the need to provide for her two small children helped set her course of action to return to school. “I just said to myself, ‘You have to do this,’” she said. “It was a very trying time, but a very rewarding time.” Chatman credits the foundation set at LETU for keeping her on the right path. “Coach Otwell instilled in us from beginning to end, that no matter what you do, you play to glorify Christ. Everything you do should exemplify Him,” she said. “I try to maintain integrity in everything I do,” Chatman said. “That’s what it’s all about, leading others to Christ — whether it’s through your witness, your lifestyle, how you’re playing, or just how you carry yourself.” While Chatman hopes living out loud is something her students can understand, there’s one more life lesson from the hardwood she tries to implement every day. “Sometimes, I have high expectations and very little patience, but I remember Coach Otwell saying, ‘Most of all, when you get out there and play, you need to have fun.’” n


Amy Davis

my Davis came to LeTourneau University in 2002 as a home schooled student with the intention of becoming an engineer. When she left four years later, it was to head to law school — a path that had become obvious to most of her professors, and even her mom, but not immediately to Davis. “I realized that first semester that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was just kind of drifting,” Davis recalled. “God certainly intervened in my decision. I know He had used my interest in science to get me here.” Dr. Paul Kubricht’s Western Civilization class helped the Boerne freshman find some direction. “Before I knew it, I’d found my passion,” Davis said. She ended up graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and political science. However, it was Longview attorney Christina Hollwarth’s Constitutional Law class that sealed Davis’ fate, she said. “I told everyone who thought I should be a lawyer that I’m going to take this class once and for all and if I tried it and didn’t like it, then I’d know,” Davis said. “Turns out the opposite happened.” While LETU is not historically well-known as a pre-law

LeTourneau University | 17

college, Davis said she learned all the elements of being an effective lawyer in her college classrooms. “LeTourneau was very good at helping me develop leadership skills,” she said. “Law is a field where you can’t be afraid to speak up, and I already had that experience from classes that encouraged open discussion. We were already learning how to think on our feet and construct arguments, and I think that can only happen in smaller classes like we had.” She was also grateful for the chance to develop her faith before she got into the “real world.” “This was such a huge growing up time for me. I was so grateful to be at LeTourneau where I could learn how to rely on God when times were tough,” Davis said. “It was a safe training ground, before the stakes got higher.” Davis also credits mentors she met as she served as student body president and as a member of Stage Right (a drama group), as well as through team-building activities with her friends on the second floor of Gilbert Hall, for helping her become more sociable. “There really were so many people who took the trouble to get to know me,” Davis said. “In my experience, I was not just a number. It was really hard to fall through the cracks here.” Davis graduated from University of Texas at Austin School of Law with honors in 2010 and passed her bar exam that same year. She was the editor-in-chief of Texas Review of Law and Politics before becoming a lawyer with Cox Smith Matthews, Inc. of San Antonio. Currently, her focus is on business and commercial litigation. “Going to UT taught me to think like a lawyer, but coming to LeTourneau prepared me academically,” Davis said. “Law school was really not as difficult as I was expecting.” Most fondly, even as an LETU honors grad, Davis looks back on “all the goofy, silly things we did.” “My memories of the students and the friendships we had are the most important thing. The friendships I made at LeTourneau, those were just like family. The support groups at LeTourneau were deep, and I haven’t found anything like that anywhere else.” n

"I was so grateful to be at LeTourneau where I could learn how to rely on God when times were tough." —Amy Davis 18 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011


Priscilla Pinder

s the engine sputtered, Priscilla Pinder looked up nervously from her instruments in the cockpit of the Cessna. Although the plane was losing power, it hadn’t dipped yet. Pinder quickly assessed the situation and found a way to safely guide the aircraft back to the runway. “You might want to take a look at the carburetor,” she advised a nearby mechanic after she descended. When the mechanics broke into the engine, they were surprised to find this young college graduate had accurately diagnosed the problem, but Pinder never hesitated. She hadn’t persevered through maintenance classes at LeTourneau University to let some strangers watch her fail now. Priscilla was a natural pilot when it came to being in the air. Her dad, a pilot with Bahamas Air in Nassau, knew it. Her brother, an LETU aviation graduate, knew it. Even Pinder’s future husband and airmanship instructor, Jon Gillett, knew it. And even though her dad tried to talk both Priscilla and her brother out of being pilots, noting it was a hard lifestyle and tough on a family, her mind was set. And then she faced maintenance classes. “When I came in there, I basically knew the difference between a Phillips and a flat-head screwdriver,” she said. It became evident very quickly that studying would take up the majority of her four years at LETU. Not only did she not go out on weekends, she and her roommate, Megan Ettinger, jumped at the opportunity to have an on-campus apartment as soon as one became available so they could both study and sleep with less interruptions from well-meaning friends in the residence halls. “I had to study a lot and sleep when I could,” she said,

noting that with the FAA’s regimented classwork, her time was not always flexible. But Megan, who is still her best friend, was a rock to her. “She really helped keep me going when I was at my wit’s end,” Gillett said, recalling the days when she felt the pressures of school seemed overwhelming. “She’d tell me, ‘You’ve come too far to quit now.’ There were definitely some challenges there, but God sent me the right people.” Gillett credits professor Lauren Bitikofer for being one of those patient forces who helped her out, particularly when it came to DC Electricity. “This class was really challenging because I am not mathematically inclined,” she said. “A friend and I would go to his office every Friday afternoon to have him explain the homework to us, and he kept saying, ‘It will click.’ And then one day, sitting in his office, he saw on my face that I finally understood it, and after that it was very simple. Those were the kind of instructors we had.” She was also impressed with student Jon Gillett. Although he was a year ahead of her in class, he had a lab with some of her friends that put him in a classroom without his toolbox. So he asked to borrow hers. “I said, ‘Sure, as long as you put them back.’ I would find out later that he had borrowed a tool, but I couldn’t tell you which one it was,” she said. “He always put it right back where he had found it, and I thought then, ‘There’s something different about this guy.’” Even though he was her flight instructor her final semester in the air during the summer of 1997, it wasn’t until class was over and they were about to part ways that Pinder thought about asking him out. With a friend’s encouragement, Pinder took the first step, “and after that, we just clicked,” she said. The Gilletts now reside in Flower Mound with their 3-year-old daughter, Zoe. Each commute to their respective airports from the hub at DFW — Priscilla works four days and is off three as a first officer with AirTran Airways out of Atlanta, Ga.; Jon is a pilot with Continental in Houston. “It’s a strenuous career, but God has His hand on us,” she said. “When your heart is in the right place, God will help you make it.” Keeping God first also keeps her in control in the cockpit. “One thing I take from LeTourneau is a set of high standards,” she said. “They helped me realize how much of a witness you can be just by living as a Christian and doing the right thing, all the time. When you’re in the air, things can change in an instant. Everything might be going fine, and then something happens and you need to figure out what you have to do. If you do your best every time, and keep your standards up all the time, it helps.” n

Shannon Toews Potter


hen Shannon Toews came to LeTourneau University as a Heritage Scholar, she was an athlete from Meade, Kan., looking for an education. By the time she graduated in 2006, she had also found her future husband, Ryan, on the soccer field, and her life’s work in the farmlands of Ethiopia. While at LETU, Toews (now Potter) was a peer adviser for three years, holding down jobs at The Hive, Student Services and the Office of Student Affairs. She also played basketball for ASC - East Coach of the Year Jamy Bechler her freshman year and joined the LETU soccer squad her junior and senior years. “That multi-tasking in college is certainly something I have to do now,” said Potter, a first-year OB-GYN resident with the St. Louis University School of Medicine at St. Mary’s Health Center. Upon graduation from the University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio in 2010, she said “they threw us right in” of her first go as a doctor. Between July 2010 and January 2011, she delivered 150 babies and performed 40 C-sections. She hopes to take this experience back with her soon to the place where she first realized she “wanted to work with people and not do research.” At LeTourneau, Potter was originally undecided as to which major to choose: biology or biomedical engineering. She joined Dr. Roger Gonzalez’s LEGS program late, but in time to go on the trip to Kenya, “just to see if I could be of any help,” she said. After she had spent a month teaching children to walk on their new legs and getting to know the people in the area, Dr. Gonzalez sent her on another assignment with a nurse he knew from Ethiopia.

LeTourneau University | 19

“That really opened my eyes to a whole new problem,” Potter said. She discovered that because of poor medical conditions, the women there had a 1 in 7 chance of developing an obstetric fistula during childbirth, causing them to be incontinent for the rest of their lives. That is, if the women survived childbirth at all, because there was a 1 in 19 possibility of death, as opposed to a maternal mortality rate of 1 in 2,500 in the United States. “I really felt myself drawn to the women of the area and their plight,” she said. “I found that that’s what I wanted to do was help these women. It was just unacceptable, that women would have such a high rate of dying in childbirth.” During her senior year of medical school, she and Ryan, who had just received his master’s degree in biomedical engineering, went on a six-week trip to Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, to work at a government hospital and fistula clinic. The Potters hope to encourage others to take similar trips in the future. Currently they are praying to see what type of activity might take them back to Ethiopia. “It’s more likely than not that we’ll be back there someday,” she said. “Right now, I just want to get the message out about this condition.” One way Potter does that is through the connections she made while at LETU. “We still keep in contact using all the resources we have,” she said, citing a recent lunch she had with a friend passing through St. Louis for a few hours. In addition to discovering part of what her future was to hold while living in Longview, Potter said she also found a true support group. “That was my family for four years.” n Stories written by Rachel Stallard

“I really felt myself drawn to the women of the area and their plight.... It was just unacceptable, that women would have such a high rate of dying in childbirth.” —Shannon (Toews) Potter

20 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

Patricia Fincher Harless


onning their swimsuits and winter coats as they picked up their beach towels and suntan oil, Patricia (Fincher) Harless and three of her friends stepped out of the Women’s Residence Hall at LeTourneau College on a brisk March afternoon. The girls headed toward the huge air conditioning heaters at the end of the renovated army barracks where they could lay out four at a time in the sunshine and work on their suntans in warm comfort, despite the brisk 40-degree weather. “There was only one dorm for girls back then,” Harless said. “We had over 100 girls all living in the same barracks buildings, and we were all really close. Mom LeTourneau was just like a mom to us, and we could go and talk to her just like it was home.” Harless was the seventh of nine children and the first to attend college, later becoming the only one to complete a bachelor’s degree. Her parents, Fred and Pearl Fincher, owned Fred Fincher Motors, a used car dealership in Houston. During lean times, her mother would run the family business while her dad would take a job selling new cars at another dealership to keep a paycheck coming in. One of her favorite childhood memories was when she was 9 and her dad let her start working in the salvage yard where they stripped parts from old cars to sell in their salvage business. “My job was to keep the path clear to the back of the lot so pieces of metal or debris couldn’t puncture the expensive pneumatic tires on the equipment they used to get back there,” Harless said. “We kids would get out there and pretend to drive the cars.”

Harless said that when she chose LeTourneau, she wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to do, but she knew she didn’t want to work in the family business. Her college education at LeTourneau in Longview was interrupted when the economy bottomed out in the mid1980s and she dutifully went home to work in that family business where she spent the next two years finding a way to pay down company debt. “My dad told me you can’t get this kind of education in school—it was the school of hard knocks,” she said. “I learned valuable experience in saying what you’re going to do and doing what you say. It’s called walking the talk.” She credits her education for helping her succeed. “People say they choose colleges for their academics, and quality is important, but I tell them you need to look for a school that values you as an individual and helps build your character first,” she said. “LeTourneau does that. The individual attention you get in college helps you make good decisions later on. Some schools are focused only on academics and not the life lessons that students will face.” In 1992, LeTourneau advertised that its new LEAP (LeTourneau Education for Adult Professionals) program for working adults was opening an office in the Houston area. “The advertisement said, ‘Finish What You Started,’” Harless said. “It resonated with me. My parents never taught me to be a quitter, and I felt like I had walked away from my education.” She respected her professors for their experience as well as how they taught her. “The Christian instructors had been in the real world like us,” Harless said. “They made us work in groups, and I hated that, but it became one of the biggest benefits to

me in the work environment because it taught me how to listen. It helped me learn how to watch people and put personalities aside to accomplish some good work.” Harless was in LETU’s first graduating class from Houston, graduating with her B.S. in Business Management in May 1995. “Finishing my degree was a big hurdle,” Harless said. “While I was a student, I was working 40 hours a week, taking care of a husband and five-year-old son. I learned to manage my time, and I couldn’t have done it without my husband and family.” Completing her degree also built her self-confidence. “Women like me tend to second guess ourselves, and we work harder and longer to be better,” she said. “I found that education empowers you with confidence to move mountains that you didn’t think you could move.” Today, Harless not only owns the family business but also serves as the Texas State Representative for District 126, in Spring, Texas, just north of Houston. She credits her mom for encouraging her to pursue politics. “As an activist, I was a grass roots worker and never expected to be in the position to run for election, but if there is anything I can say about my life, it is that God continues to open doors. I’ve never considered myself a leader, but a servant, but I’ve learned that serving and leading end up being the same.” “I don’t always like the politics of my job and some of the things that go on in this environment,” she said, “but I love my constituents and making their lives better. “What I’ve learned from LETU and am bringing to the Texas House is the importance of living your faith and how to take your faith into the workplace and not be offensive, but to live so others can see there’s something different about you.” n Story written by Janet Ragland

“People say they choose colleges for their academics, and quality is important, but I tell them you need to look for a school that values you as an individual and helps build your character first. LeTourneau does that. The individual attention you get in college helps you make good decisions later on. Some schools are focused only on academics and not the life lessons that students will face.” —Patricia Fincher Harless LeTourneau University | 21


Written by Marila Palmer Photographed by Stacy Sullivan


t the end of a demanding day, the assistant city manager leaves the office and drives past hundreds of people. Families with their children are roller-skating, bicycling and walking along the Greenway Trail in Whittier, Calif., a city of about 87,000 near Los Angeles. Nancy Mendez remembers almost 30 years ago when she initially had difficulty persuading Whittier to develop more recreational offerings, while the full-service city focused on taking care of its streets, trash, landfill, police department, water and more. Even in an entry-level position, Mendez kept proposing ideas. When her boss at the city called fitness a “fad,” she volunteered to teach the first aerobics class for no extra pay. Within a year, they were making money on the classes and hiring staff to run their fitness programs. It wasn’t long until Mendez organized Whittier’s first Central Park concert featuring Banjos Aplenty. The performers earned $30—a far cry from the twice-weekly concerts today with more recognizable artists, attracting crowds of 2,500. Describing her position as one which sees that the city council’s goals are accomplished, Mendez oversees major projects. She takes the council’s policy and directives; navigates through 22 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

by Example

Nancy Mendez

the various political environments; seeks state, federal, or private foundation funds; works with department heads; disseminates project components; and gets the job done. “I love translating dreams into reality,” says Mendez, who with her husband Al have two teenage sons, Mark and Tim. “At the dedication of the new $35 million police department complex or the $15 million conversion of an abandoned railroad to a bike trail, our sons can see my contributions. But it’s not just about my name on a plaque; we’ve changed a community for the better.” During her days at LeTourneau College, Mendez never aspired to such a high-profile position in leadership, but she did seek God’s will for her life and was prepared for the challenges of living out her faith in the workplace. With policy limitations and the diversity of religions represented in the city offices, Mendez is keenly aware that she must give her personal best every day for her character, kindness, actions, and work ethic to convey Christ. She has been encouraged over the years that when people face problems, they ask her for prayer. She hopes when managers are hiring, they view Christian candidates as more honest and ethical. “You’re living out your faith in front of nonbelievers and they watch what you do—how you talk on the phone, treat your customers, or apologize if you’re wrong,” Mendez says. “People know where you stand. Believers with mediocre performance and poor work ethic tar everyone with the same brush, and I never want to be the person who demeans the cause of Christ.” When Mendez (then Nancy Longenecker) came to college in the 1970s, she wasn’t deterred because of the few women at LeTourneau. She wanted a school that was Christ-centered, evangelical and the perfect distance from her home in Waco, Texas. She had never visited the school before arriving as a freshman but had learned about life on campus from the LeTourneau Sing-

ers and friends who attended. Mendez describes those years in college as one of solidarity among the women, a real sisterhood. “LeTourneau women were strong and capable, not high maintenance divas—or else they got over it quickly,” Mendez says. When Mendez and her friends wanted backpacks, they ordered Frostline kits by mail, welded the backpack frames together themselves, and sewed the backpack covers, anxious to take them on a camping adventure. At LeTourneau, Mendez lived in the Northwest Wing in the Women’s Residence Hall (old WRH). “We were the awesomest in intramurals,” she says. She fondly remembers other residents of WRH for their spontaneous, quirky fun and ingenious activities like the Midnight Marching Band. Mendez made lifelong friends like Wendy Gray who once stayed up all night, typing the 20-page paper Mendez had due the next day . . . one page at a time . . . as it was being written. She still finds traits like these in the women at LETU today. Mendez describes LeTourneau as a practical environment that taught her to work alongside men, earn their respect, and be their friends, an approach she has found useful in her vocation, volunteer work, and church. Occasionally, Mendez is still surprised when she looks around the conference table today and realizes that she is the only woman and the highest ranking person in the room as big dollar decisions are made. Mendez’ father, the late Dr. Justin Longenecker, who was the Chavanne Chair of Christian Ethics in Business at Baylor University and an award-winning textbook author, modeled selfless leadership when he served as chairman of the LeTourneau Board in the mid-1970s. In 1990, years after her father’s retirement, Mendez began serving as a LeTourneau Trustee herself, but she never imagined that one day she would be elected to serve as the first woman chair. Mendez says she finds joy in following in her father’s footsteps, living up to the confidence he conveyed in her. She is happy if her example

LeTourneau University | 23

prompts other LeTourneau women to reach their potential as servant leaders. Sometimes, seeing someone who looks like you in a responsible leadership role makes it seem possible, without “grasping, scraping or elbowing your way,” Mendez notes. She is honored to have the support and confidence of the other trustees. Why has this busy alumna been so willing to serve her alma mater? “Because I loved my LeTourneau experience,” Mendez replies. “I made close Christian friends who cared about spiritual growth. We started our own Bible studies and prayer circles. We encouraged each other in our Christian walk.” Today, she finds the most important things haven’t changed. Students still seek spiritual growth at LETU, which Mendez describes as a great place to expand your faith and prepare for the workplace, in whatever unexpected role God might place you. n

Above: Ruthanne Calkins File, Wendy Gray, Nancy Longenecker Mendez, Julie Niewald MacKay. Right: Nancy L. Mendez and Wendy Gray

Online Yearbook Archive

To forever preserve all of the embarrassing college moments of our students (and the academic accomplishments as well), we have begun a multi-year project to digitize every one of the LeTourneau Tech, College, and University yearbooks from 1946 to the present.

24 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011


y e n r u o J e t a r Celeb the

Class of 19 61

50 year s! s of women o n ca m p u

April 14-16, 2011

We will celebrate 50 years of women students being a part of the LeTourneau legacy at this year's homecoming. But the event isn't just for the women. It’s also the 50th reunion of the last class of LeTourneau Technical Institute before it became LeTourneau College. Come celebrate our progress! Mark your calendars to be a part of this memorable event!

Featured Events: Friday, April 15, 2011 8-4 p.m. 11:45 a.m. 1-4 p.m. 1:30-3:30 p.m. 3-4 p.m. 7 p.m.

Registration & Student Foundation Silent Auction “Golden Jackets” Luncheon Dad/Alumni Golf “Golden Jackets” Reunion — Class of 1961 and any previous classes Mother/Daughter Tea HOOTENANNY

Saturday, April 16, 2011 9 a.m. 10 a.m. 10:45 a.m. 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. Noon, 2 p.m. 1-2 p.m. 2 p.m. 3 p.m. 7 p.m. 7 p.m.

Pancake Breakfast at Abbott Aviation Center hosted by NIFA Team Inter-Society Rope Pull Dedication of New Batting Cages Picnic on the LeTourneau Grounds LETU Baseball Games vs. Louisiana College Cardboard & Duct Tape Boat Races Cata-Melon Event Following Boat Races Women’s Resident Hall Reunion Women’s Resident Hall Banquet Dinner at Johnny Cace’s for Class of 1961 and previous classes

RSVP to register for any of these Homecoming events by sending an e-mail to or calling toll free at 800-259-2586. To register online and get more information and a full schedule of events, go to LeTourneau University | 25

Dr. Andrée Elliott Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Biology Written by Kate Gronewald Photographed by Randy Mallory Dr. Andrée Elliott rushed to class to prepare to teach her biology students, only to discover quickly that this was no ordinary day. Today, as a royal gesture of gratitude, Elliott’s students presented her with a pipe cleaner wand to officially crown her "Queen of Genetics." The extended pipe cleaner now hangs in her office, dangling above her head with an orb of short fuzzy appendages bursting into a bloom at its end, piquing curiosity about this room and the woman sitting across the desk. Given the sense of serenity in the office, the wand’s odd shape ironically resembles a piece of lab paraphernalia: a fly napping wand, the device typically soaked in an anesthetic mixture to sedate fruit flies before microscopic observation. The pipe cleaner creation is more than a bit strange. However, after spending two minutes talking to Elliott, there is not only an explanation, but also an unusually calming presence that fills the room amidst the earthy plants and nature photos. It’s as if suddenly this associate professor of biology exudes the same sort of blissful vibes put off by a childhood best friend – comfort, fun, calm. Elliott is often found buzzing around the Glaske Center for Science, Engineering and Technology, zeroing in on any student who passes her in the hallways, seeking her help or just stopping by to chat. A longer chat with Elliott reveals two key motivators that fuel her: faith and students. She explains her journey to LETU as God-directed and her work here God-inspired. In 2003, after years teaching science at a Christian high school and part-time labs at a community college in Dallas, she felt God was planting a seed for her to teach at a Christian university. “One Sunday out of the blue I felt the need to look at LeTourneau’s website, and there was a position available for a biology instructor,” Elliott said. “Looking back, I see God’s direction clearly. I recently reread a journal of mine and witnessed how God directed me here in every step.” Elliott moved to Longview and began finding her niche in the LETU biology department. In 2005, she earned her Ph.D. in molecular biology from Texas Woman’s University and now applies her knowledge to groundbreaking research in alternative fuels. 26 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

She conducts research on the microbial production of biodiesel, which means she is working to create diesel fuel by genetically engineering bacteria. While scientists have extracted oil from algae, Elliott was inspired to work with what she knows – cells (specifically, E. coli cells). Outside of hours spent in the lab, her research includes working with industry professionals, reading up about diesel engines and attending the National Biodiesel Conference. Elliott received a 2010-2011 Welch Foundation Grant to fund student involvement in her research project. Grants like this allow students to take a hands-on approach to what they are learning, providing opportunities to use what they have learned in research to develop new technologies. This kind of education is what matters most to Elliott. “I’m constantly reminded that student interaction… this is why I’m here,” Elliott said. “This research is a win-win for students. They gain experience and go on to earn internships and advanced degrees in molecular biology all over the country, around the world.” Elliott genuinely gets to know her students. She routinely invites them over to her house to hang out around a bonfire and eat jambalaya. She especially relates to students who are undecided about their majors. Elliott, too, had to try out more than a few fields to find the right fit. (To name three tries, she majored in horticulture for one day, earned an undergraduate degree in geology and worked as a technical writer at Texas Instruments.) And then, one day in graduate school, she made a life changing, albeit non-scientific, discovery. “I found biology courses,” Elliott said. “Then I taught one lab and fell in love with teaching.” Looking back, it’s clear. “I grew up in New Orleans and remember sitting in the back of my parents’ car waiting for a parade to start one day, and I was reading my biology textbook for fun,” Elliott said. And now, who knows, she may turn her lab into a diesel fueling station one day. “It’s fun to have a dream,” the Queen of Genetics said. n

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classnotes MEMORIALS

Mahinuddin F. Shaikh (’66 IE; ES) died January 5, 2011 at the age of 74. He is survived by his wife, Sharifa.

BIRTHS Jeffrey Barnett (’95 ATFL) and wife, Nicole (Cavaletto) Barnett (’95 BI) welcomed their son, Justin Micah, on Jan. 10, 2011. He weighed 8 lbs and was 20.5 inches long.

Rob Lund (’96 EE) and wife, Sarah, celebrated their daughter’s first birthday this year. Iris Amelia was born on Jan. 11, 2010.

Bekah (Cadman) Fisher (’00 BYBS) and husband, Steve, welcomed Sarah Katherine on July 25, 2010. Sarah joins older brother Timmy (2 years old). Steve serves as a chaplain in the U.S. Navy. They currently reside in Spain.

Kenneth A. Bean Jr. (’10 MJT) and Laura Francis (’10 ISBA) were engaged June 24, 2010, and married on July 28, 2010, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. They now reside in Lynchburg, Va.

Matt Buffington (’01 ASAE) and his wife, Kelly, welcomed their new daughter, Rebekah Noelle, on November 30. She was 8 lbs, 12 oz, and 21 inches long.

Class Notes 60s

Andrew McGuckin (’02 CSBS) and wife, Gwen (Bender) McGuckin (’03 ISEL) welcomed their son, Trevor Joe, on February 8, 2011. He weighed in at 9 lbs, 10 oz and was 20.5 inches long. George Bender (’79 ATBS) and his wife, Deb, are thrilled about the arrival of their third grandchild. Lisa (Jones) Atchison (’05 ASDT) and husband, Kyle Atchison (’08 AFPP), announce the arrival of their baby girl, Noelle, on May 10, 2010, in Kerrville, Texas.

Nathan White (’96 MT/AU) and wife, Valerie, announce the birth of their little girl, Evelyn Marie. She was born on July 7, 2010, in Alaska. Evelyn joins siblings Johnathan (4 years old) and Abigail (2 years old).

28 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

Jonathan Woods (’07 ME) and wife, Monika, welcomed home their daughter, Rebekah Marie, on Dec. 20, 2010.

WEDDINGS Eric Swanson (’95 MT) married Natasha Reynolds on September 24, 2010.

Jacob H. Pratt (’10 ME) and Annalee Bergquist married June 5, 2010, at Church Landing in Meredith, N.H. They live in Newburyport, Mass.

Weston Poyner (’61 IS) operates Delta Design in Mena, Ark. Delta supplies consulting engineering services to heavy construction machinery customers. After working as a design engineer in the heavy equipment industry for 43 years, Wes officially retired and now enjoys his consulting business. Tom Chandler (’62 IE) returns to the United States after 40 years as a missionary in Asia. Tal Taylor (’63 ET) and wife, Joan, celebrated 51 years of marriage. They live in Shoreline, Wash., and serve the Lord in church youth groups and summer youth camp. They have three children and 10 grandchildren and all love the Lord. Grandson Josiah Wakefield is a student at LETU. Ivan Secord (’67 IE) received the coveted 3 Star Director Award on Oct. 16, 2010, from TriVita Corporation. Dennis Currington (’68 ME) is now active with Tulsa area business owners as a talent development solutions consultant. His wife, Rebecca (Brink)

Currington (’68 ED), has a home-based business providing writing and editorial services to Christian publishers around the country.

70s Paul D. McMillan (’73 MI) and wife, Linda, have been serving the Lord for 32 years in the Dominican Republic as missionaries. Presently, they are administering a Christian school, K-12, and Paul is pastoring a church. They also operate a dairy goat farm.

80s Jim N. Hooker (’80 BUBS, ATBS) recently got a job with Stanley Security Solutions. He and his wife Glenda (Kielhorn) Hooker (’80 BUBS) look forward to moving to Chicago, Ill.



Rory Briscoe (’91 ME) recently accepted a new position within Medtronic at the Physio-Control division where he is the director of engineering.

Stephen D. Casey (’03 HIPL, BI) became co-founder of the Texas Center for Defense of Life (TCDL) on January 22, 2011. It is a nonprofit pro-life legal organization formed to provide legal representation and support to pro-life organizations and individuals and aggressively defend the sanctity of human life in state and federal courts.

Dave Harvey (’91 ATBS) is still flying the Boeing 757 and 767 but currently holds a position for the new Boeing 787 and hopes to be training for that this spring. Charlene Dattoli (’93 BBM) has attained her Masters in Business Administration. She is currently a broker associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage and an associate professor of real estate at Collin College. She has won numerous awards in training, sales management, public speaking and charity works in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. She won the Mary Frances Hanson Award in the Ms. TX Senior America Pageant in 2010, and is on the executive committee as the secretary for the 2011 service year. Seth Buttner (’94 ATBU-AT) signed papers to begin working for American Eurocopter in Dallas, Texas, as a senior investigator.

David Nixon (’80 ETAT) and Shirley Boese Nixon celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary in Dec. 2010. They met while David was attending LeTourneau and were married in Longview the day after his fall graduation. They now reside in Pearland, Texas. They have two children and two grandchildren. David is the senior aircraft technician for Landry’s Restaurants. Bryan Colombo (’86 ATBS) completed the MA in Leadership from Fuller Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies in March 2010. Dave Lopez (’87 EE) accepted the position as the M2M global project manager at Vodafone Global Enterprise in October 2010.

Dr. Mark Zecca (’95 MBA) was selected by the San Diego Business Journal as IT Executive of the Year 2010. Dr. Zecca received his Ph.D. in Business Information Technology from Capella University and is currently the senior director of IT and CIO for Mitchell 1 & Snap-on Diagnostics. Becky (Bergman) Vance (’99 MBA) has been honored to serve as the regional director of field operations for The Partnership at, a national non-profit that helps the parents of teens.

Laura Laster (’04 ASFM), married to Jesse Laster (’04 ASAE), is now manager of system operations at Dynamic Airways, a new 121 air carrier conducting supplemental charter operations. Dynamic Airways was started by Dynamic Aviation and received its final certification in October 2010. Caleb Roepke (’05 MJE) earned his doctorate in metallurgical engineering at the Colorado School of the Mines in 2010 and now works for ExxonMobil in Houston. Caleb and his wife, Kristin (Ness) (’05 ME), are expecting their first child. Tiffany Davis (’06 BBA) graduated with a Master of Education degree from Southern Methodist University on Dec. 18, 2010. She is now working with Dallas ISD as a kindergarten teacher. Rebekah Schanck (’08 ISE1-EC-4) is now teaching first grade at Tatum ISD and is beginning her master’s degree in education: curriculum and instruction at LeTourneau University. Steve Graham (’09 MBA) just earned a Master of Education in Higher Education from Dallas Baptist University. He was accepted into the Doctor of Education in Higher Education Leadership program at Union University. Anna Coley (’09 BBA) is the new front office coordinator at Horizon Physical therapy in Athens, Ga. n

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Daughters of the King Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention: Forget your people and your father’s house. Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.” Psalm 45: 10-11 (NIV)

Written by Rachel Stallard Photographed by Randy Mallory It was a night to remember. Kayla Blucher and her girlfriends, dressed to the nines, were walking the red carpet as a sea of flashes welcomed them and their escorts into the party. They were greeted at the door by their gallant hosts. Kayla could see an open area for socializing and a chocolate fountain. That’s when she realized — it’s good to be a princess. And as Daughters of the King, that’s just what they are. Delta Omega Kappa, which are the Greek letters that stand for Daughters Of the King, has been LETU’s only female society since it began five years ago. One of DOK’s main tenets is “Growing closer together while growing closer to God.” Through weekly Bible studies and monthly social events with LETU’s three male societies (KZX, AO and LAS - who hosted the Red Carpet Event), the women continue to attract attention and garner respect. “The desire was to begin a women’s society, with service as a goal, that could grow spiritually and socially,” said faculty adviser Melanie Roudkovski, recalling the day women students first approached her about starting the group. Roudkovski has watched as the women have matured, but she says it’s time for more. “I would like to see them have more visibility — to get off campus more and into the community,” she said. Recently, DOK hosted a 5K fundraiser for a mother they knew who was undergoing cancer treatments. Blucher, who is a senior and the DOK president, said the women wanted to help in a personal way. “We want people to say, ‘That’s a group of women I want to be a part of. That’s a group that’s really making a difference.’” DOK hosts an annual Women’s Retreat held at Pine Cove in Tyler for other coeds at LETU. The group brings in speakers and food for a time of fellowship and enrichment. DOK does not have its own house like the male societies on campus, but the 11 women in the society have been blessed with a block of four apartments on campus. 30 | NOW Magazine | Spring 2011

“We could still grow and have room,” Blucher said. “We don’t have a ‘certain type’ of pledge. We want you to be your ‘true you‘— genuine, with a good relationship with God. Our pledges want to commit their time to being part of us and usually seek us out.” That was the case for junior Jen Leraan. “I joined DOK to honor the commitments that some of the girls in DOK had made to me,” Leraan said. “I was going through a really rough semester the fall before I pledged, and I felt like the ones who cared most for me were DOK girls.” Sophomore Emy Charlot, from Haiti, said watching the actions of the women in DOK influenced her decision to join. “[They] possess many things I always wanted to find in a group of young women: lifetime friendship, confidentiality, love, support and, most importantly, a devotion to God,” Charlot said. “Upon seeing those outstanding qualities, I was drawn to them and joined so that not only would they be able to invest in me, I would also be able to invest in them as well.” Blucher’s desire for the group to make a positive impact is also shared by her society sisters. Junior Monica Lengacher says she joined DOK looking for “a group of close girl friends who I could have fun with and get to know on a personal level.” Today, she says she has found a group of women who are earnestly seeking after God. As a senior, Blucher recalls many of DOK’s charter members. She hopes to retain that connection as she graduates. She says current members and alumni are having “serious talk” of marking their 10-year anniversary with a cruise. Junior Ashley Grames plans to be on that ship. “DOK has been such an encouragement to me,” she said. “I have made some amazing friendships that I know will last a lifetime, and I know they will help me stay accountable in my walk with Christ.” n

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NOW Magazine - Spring 2011  

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