Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Incredible Legacy: George H.W. Bush and R.G. LeTourneau

"Ingenuity" is a trademark of LeTourneau University and our students. That underappreciated word is so deeply woven into the fabric of LETU culture that sometimes it is far too easy to take it for granted just how rare it is. But it is nothing new to LeTourneau. Genius-level innovation was the daily work of our founder--work so brilliant that more than 50 years later, it is still being recognized by a former president of the United States. There was no challenge or problem that R.G. LeTourneau couldn't find practical solutions to in the humble office of his Longview, Texas, plant. 

R.G. LeTourneau, George Bush, and Dick LeTourneau look over contracts.

History-making Collaboration

Recognized as an industry leader in earthmoving equipment, R.G.'s relationship to George H.W. Bush involved a very different project. George H.W. Bush was pushing his oil company, Zapata Oil, into the ocean to drill for oil reserves to meet the demand of an increasingly industrialized world. Construction of platforms to drill from in the ocean was a monumental task, but R.G. and the engineers of R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. had a unique solution to it: float the entire rig out into the ocean and jack down the supports that hold it in place. 

The "Scorpion" Jack-up Rig
Not only did this invention make transporting the rig out to sea easier, it also meant that the entire rig could be moved to a different drilling location without the need to completely demolish and rebuild an entire drilling platform. R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. would utilize some of its already existing technologies, like the electric drives from their heavy-duty earth-moving machines, to raise and lower the platform supports. The result was a mobile drilling platform that could revolutionize the offshore  oil industry in both efficiency of time and money. 

R.G. brought the idea to Bush's company and they made a deal for the sale of this innovative new design, and on November 11, 1954, the delivery contract was signed. About 18 months later, on March 20, 1956, the platform was officially handed over to Zapata Oil Company and christened the "Scorpion." The Scorpion was a major success for Zapata Oil and set a world relocation record for a drilling platform. Soon after, R.G. LeTourneau, Inc. began work on the second platform for Zapata Oil, dubbed the "Vinegaroon." This second platform was delivered from the LeTourneau plant to Zapata in early 1957. 

The Dedication Event

Fast forward many years. George Bush served as our nation's 41st President, and 25 years ago, a library was built and dedicated in his honor at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. On March 31, a new exhibit in his library museum opened to showcase the work and innovation that Bush brought to the oil industry. Both R.G. LeTourneau and LeTourneau University were honored at a reception event this past week that was attended in person by George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. 

As part of this special exhibit, a model of the Vinegaroon was moved from the LeTourneau University campus where it has been showcased in the R.G. LeTourneau Memorial Museum. The model was built by LETU alumnus Frank Olson during his time as a student. Mr. Olson helped to oversee the disassembly and transport of the model to the Bush Library in January of this year. 

The reception event took place this past Thursday, April 10, 2014, at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The Museum website states, "George Bush was a successful and pioneering Texas oilman, first on land and then offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. As a tribute to his role in the development and use of the innovative independent leg offshore jack-up rig Scorpion launched by LeTourneau in 1956, the exhibit tells the story of offshore drilling.…the exhibit covers all aspects of the search for oil offshore, with a special look at the geology of finding oil, focusing on exploration of the Gulf of Mexico." 

This exhibit will be on display at the Bush Library and Museum from now until February 1, 2015. For more information, click here to be taken to the Bush Library and Museum website

In attendance at the dedication this past week were: LETU alumnus and model-builder Frank Olson; LETU history professor Dr. Bobby Johnson; two of R.G. LeTourneau's sons, Ben and Roy LeTourneau; and Dale Hardy, employee of LeTourneau, Inc. (now Joy Global) and one of the most respected historians of R.G. LeTourneau.

We are very proud to be a part of this amazing record of history and honored to see R.G. LeTourneau credited for incredibly ingenuity that he brought to the world.

Left photo: Model-builder Frank Olson shakes the hand of former U.S. President, George H.W. Bush at the dedication event. Right photo: pictured from left Ben LeTourneau (seated), Dale Hardy, Dr. Bobby Johnson,
and Roy LeTourneau (seated)

For more information on this amazing story:

In 2005, Triad Business Marketing created a 2 part video documentary for the LeTourneau Marine Group (Now LTI Offshore Products). These two award-winning videos give an excellent overview of the creation of the Scorpion and LeTourneau's unique relationship with Bush and Zapata Oil. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Incredible Engineers: Guinness World Record

Update 4/17/14: After submission of detailed evidence last week, the official word came from Guinness World Records on Thursday, April 17, that our engineering students indeed set the world record for 'Most 3D printers operating simultaneously.' Congratulations LETU students on your incredible work!

As of this past Friday, April 4, LeTourneau University is in the running to set a Guinness World Record for most 3D printers operating in one room. For anyone not in-the-know about this amazing technology, a 3D printer is a state-of-the-art machine that prints three-dimensional objects. At most universities, freshman students would never get to use such awesome equipment their very first semester in college.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg on this story. Forget world records and incredible technology, and let’s focus for a minute on our students. These LETU freshmen didn’t simply get to use 3D printers. They made their own. Every printer (with the exception of one commercial printer) used in attempting to set the Guinness record was the product of the hands of LETU freshman engineering students as a requirement of their class. They will continue to use their printers over the course of their LETU education.

Let’s hit that point one more time: A group of 18-19-year-olds built their own 3D printers. These students were in high school this time last year.

Even if we don’t get the Guinness, we had 102 3D printers, a relatively new technology, printing simultaneously—and all the printers were self-built by our freshman students. We couldn’t be more proud. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

10 Reasons Why the Allen Student Center Rocks

1. The media lounge

It has multiple screens and comfy couches so you can hang out with your friends while watching Captain Kirk and Khan battle it out.

2. The conservation water fountains

It may seem like a minor detail, but these things will have a major(ly good) impact on the environment.  

3. The Hive

It's new. It's improved. And apparently, has very comfortable booths.

4. The video game room

The whole building has screens everywhere - but this room takes the cake. You've got plenty of options to get your game on.

5. The commuter lounge

Hear ye, hear ye, commuters: No longer must you suffer dragging your belongings around with you all day or eating a squished, plastic-bagged sandwich for lunch. Stash your stuff in a locker, take advantage of the kitchen and couches for a meal and relaxation in between classes.

6. The fire pit:

We're waiting for you to gather 'round with your guitar. Or just warm your hands. It's up to you.

7. This giant booth

Have room during for every single one of your friends for lunch or a homework session, because we estimate this booth can seat about 47 people. Ok, not really, but it's super big and we think that's cool.

8. The prayer room

Take a moment away from the hustle of college life to spend in prayer in this serene room with a beautiful view. 

9. The campus store

Like The Hive, it's new and improved and your one-stop-shop for awesome LETU merchandise. (Shopping tip: they're currently having a grand opening sale!)

10. It's not even supposed to be open yet! Original plans had the building opening Fall 2014, but LETU fast-tracked it so seniors could enjoy it during their final weeks of college.

But don't take our word for it! Check out what these LETU students had to say about this awesome campus addition:

Never been to the LETU campus before? Check out admissions or schedule a visit.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Incredible Legacy: Mary Jackson

Her friendly smile and kind words have been staples at LeTourneau for years. As we close Women of Aviation week, LETU would be amiss not to honor one of the women who has helped so many of our aviation students succeed over the past several decades.

Mary with the Student Wives Club, 1968
Mary Jackson came to LeTourneau from West Virginia in 1966 with her husband, Mike, who enrolled as a student to study chemistry. She then started working as a secretary in the maintenance department.

They lived in married student housing, and she recounted their first days:

“We lived on campus in a small trailer. We bought it sight unseen. It was very, very small, and we came here with a baby. We made it work – it was 100 degrees out in the middle of July with no air conditioning. At that time there was a swimming pool outside where Solheim is now and so we just lived at that pool.”

Jackson recalls “Mom and Pop LeTourneau” with fondness.

“Mom LeTourneau had a lot of us gals over. She would always have, several times a semester, the students in for visiting.”

“It was really neat for me, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve hopefully had that same sort of influence on the younger gals here.”

Jackson was asked to start working at the School of Aeronautical Science in 1982 as Academic Secretary. She officially retired this past January, but still works part-time. She’s seen quite the growth in the department; when she first started, there were four instructors and 18 students.

She says of working with LETU students over the years; “I’ve just loved the students. I love them a lot and that’s probably why I’ve stayed so long. I’m not in the middle of them right now, but it’s been a joy of mine to work with them.”

She describes the students as “top-notch.” There’s pride in her voice when she talks about their academic and career success.

“It’s not an easy program, especially with all the other classes they have to take, but they’ve done so well.”

She also said she enjoyed giving baby and wedding showers for students and student wives, or simply inviting them into her home.

“It’s just been fun to have them to over to the house and get to know them on a different level than just seeing them when they’re here for classes. It’s just been a joy.”

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Incredible Women In Aviation

For Victoria and Ainsley, it was no ordinary Thursday. Instead of attending school, they ventured into the sky in a Cessna C-172R.

The sixth-grade girls had never considered aviation as a career option, so in honor of Women of Aviation Week, LETU flight instructor Lee Foster introduced them to the thrill of being a pilot.

Both girls each got their own ride in the pilot’s seat, with Foster as their co-pilot.

“The neat thing about taking kids flying is that they’re not limited,” Foster said. “I took each of these young ladies on a flight, and I let them fly the aircraft.  I showed them that learning to fly an airplane is possible for them. “

Before flying, Victoria expressed that she wanted to grow up to be an architect. After landing, she bounded out of the Cessna exclaiming; “I think I want to be a pilot now!”

Foster even let the girls land the aircraft themselves.

“It’s the most difficult part,” Foster said, “but they asked if they could, so I let them.”

In what is usually considered a male-dominated field, both LETU female aviation students and instructors alike feel it’s imperative to make sure young girls are aware of their options in the field.

"There's so much you can do in aviation that's not just maintenance or not just flying," senior aviation student Grace Peterson said. "So it offers a lot of different things that can fit you and what you're good at."

“I still remember the first time I saw a female airline captain," Foster said. "I didn’t know women were allowed to be commercial airline pilots until I saw her. I realized that there were commercial pilots who were female, just not very many of them.  From then on, I knew that it wasn’t just a job for men.  Hopefully that’s what we showed these young ladies.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Incredible Students: Student Body President Avery Cheeley

The votes have been cast, and LETU has announced the 2014-2015 student body president as Avery Cheeley.

Avery Cheeley, LETU's '14-'15 Student Body President
Cheeley, a junior mechanical engineering major, feels his sociable nature will help him be an effective president.

“The biggest thing that student body president does is have a gauge of student opinions and I think I can do an effective job at that because I know students and administration. I can be a good advocate for students,” Cheeley said. “My skills are geared toward people. It’s who I am.”

Cheeley has built his reputation for being an effective leader this school year as YAC president – an experience he described as “awesome.”

“It’s been a great year,” he said.

While Cheeley fully plans to support academics and student life, his aim is to encourage the spiritual lives of LETU students as well.

“One thing I’m really passionate about, and I would pursue regardless, is discipleship and creating small groups on campus for people who are seeking growth – that they would have a way of going about that. Student led, student run.”

He said wants to enlist interested students in starting small groups that branch out beyond being limited to specific floors.

“Mentorship, discipleship, seeking God – that’s something I think is necessary,” he said.

Dean of Students Corey Ross is confident in Cheeley’s new position and as an efficient voice between students and administration.

“Avery has done a great job this past year as the leader of student activities. I know him to be a strong leader who is not afraid to ask difficult questions and who genuinely seeks to learn from his conversations with students and administrators.  He will not hesitate to share, respectfully, what is on the students’ minds and hearts, but he will also do a great job communicating back the perspective he is gaining along the way.”