The campaign is the largest in university history and the first comprehensive fundraising campaign to address needs in scholarships, facilities, academics and service, among other areas.
“I'd say today's the first day of our future at LeTourneau University,” President Dr. Dale A. Lunsford said on campus Monday. “This fundraising campaign that we announced today is going to help us deliver new facilities, new programs, provide scholarships to grow enrollment. And all of those things are part of our future, part of a bright and even larger Letourneau University than what we have today.”
The goal is to raise the total amount by 2014 and the school already has received pledges totaling more than $18 million, Lunsford said during a chapel service at the interdenominational Christian university.
The fundraising priorities come from the university's five-year strategic plan.
They include creating more scholarships for high ability students; supporting capital projects such as a student center and athletic village; supporting the university's academic schools; and supporting its Center for Global Service Learning and its Center for Faith and Work.
Shortly after the message, university officials and guests ceremonially broke ground on the new Anna Lee and Sidney Allen Family Student Center, scheduled for completion in spring 2014.
The center is one of two building projects that are part of the campaign. The other is the Joyce Family Athletic Village dedicated in the spring.
The $14 million student center named after local Longview supporters Anna Lee and Sidney Allen will be at the center of campus along the university's mall.
With 60,000 square feet of space, it will serve as a place to eat, meet, hangout, study or office.
The Hive Coffee shop will feature food and drinks as a supplement to the university's main dining hall.
A multipurpose meeting space with movable walls will accommodate one large group or multiple small groups.
On the second floor, a prayer room, study spaces and offices for student life and administrators will be housed.
The piece that received the greatest applause from students was the specially wired video gaming room that will allow multiple students to play games at the same time.
“Now I have no idea what that means,” Lunsford said to laughs. “But you're going to like it I can tell.”
About half of LeTourneau's 3,000 students attend the Longview campus. All 50 states are represented in the student body, so, for many, going home on the weekends is not a possibility.
“So this student center is really going to make an instant impact in their lives because it's going to give them a place outside the classroom to be together, to enjoy each other in community,” Lunsford said. “So that's why it's really not an exaggeration to say this building is going to change everything on our campus.”
One part of the center that will speak to LeTourneau's history is its clock.
Students said the campaign is good news for the university and for the future.
Serge Narcisse, a professional flight training student, said with technology developing so quickly, LeTourneau must keep up and grow so students have sufficient training.
“LeTourneau has to grow with that pace for more research, more aircraft, more flight instructors and more facilities for flight simulators,” said Narcisse, a junior from Haiti who wants to be a missionary, corporate or charter pilot.
Summit Eaton, 21, a senior computer science student from Dallas, said helping students by funding more scholarships is a good thing.
“I've been working all summer long to be able to come back here,” he said.
At the groundbreaking for the new student center, student body president James Hilbish, an electrical engineering major, thanked those involved on behalf of the student body.
He said the building alone will not change anything on campus, but it's the relationships built inside it and the transforming power of Christ that will.
“My hope and prayer is simply this that the Allen Student Center will be a daily gathering place of many members who learn to live as one body,” he said.