R. G. LeTourneau is few of the people who are able to live their lives in a material world with the blessed of God. Dropping from school and working young, he faced adversaries through his character, intelligence and guidance from above. His life is a testimony that victories and failures do not matter if there is no God. Thus, he became strong in his endeavors and relentless in achieving unbelievable goals. He is on a mission throughout his life sent by God and one of the living evidence of this connection is the Letourneau University.
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Personal Life and Character
Born on November 30, 1888, Robert Gilmore LeTourneau is brought into life by religious parents and is hearing the word of God as early as infancy. During his childhood, he had challenges and difficulties in accepting the Gospel. Fearing that his inventive mind would be soaked in delusion and his life would loose its purpose, he finally embraced Christ and his teachings particularly when he became a businessman. His commitment is reflected being the spearhead in the publication of NOW and influencing over half-a-million worldwide readers. In addition, he also volunteered to travel and to testify the miracles he experienced as being a Christian believer. One of his favorites verse in the Bible is found in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you”.
LeTourneau is a model of hard-work and self-reliance. He left school at the age of fourteen to do a man’s work such as shoveling and working on irons. This developed his young muscles and be vigilant on how to live in the real world. Although he is working in highly intensive condition, he is continuously thinking on doing things efficiently. Prior to 1904, even with godly parents, he is distant to God. But in a crusade he attended, he suddenly felt thee need to pray and feel the presence of the Him. This enlightenment is followed by numerous challenges challenge which included non-permanence of work, miscarriage of his wife, car crash and bankruptcy of his co-ownership in a business. Instead of disheartenment to the power of God due to consecutive misfortunes, he eagerly went to his church and talked to Him. In one of occasions, he uttered that he will do anything that God wanted if He would forgive and aid him in his stockpiling problems.
The prayers are not left unanswered. By combining Divine guidance and personal will, he succeeded to have a character loan to finance his obligation in his bankrupt business. From that day onwards, he achieved widespread accomplishment in his job that financed the establishment of his personally-founded company. Also, he had made advancements in the industry that no other individual or entity had done so far. With faith in God, he showed his gratitude by showing compassion to others such as using ninety percent of his business incomes to fund Christian missions particularly in African and South American regions. This conviction is defied by recurring business difficulties but LeTourneau stood his sacrifice and persisted to ignore business issues in favor of God’s faith. He said, “It is not how much we give to the Lord but how much of God’s money I maintain for my sake”.
Throughout his life, LeTourneau volunteered as Christian layman and later became leader in at least three Christian organizations and churches. As he is visionary in his relationship with God, this characteristic is also eminent on how he climbed to fame. Having experienced harsh work condition from manually transferring earth to level land in farms, his hatred against the job dreamed of him working in better ways. A decade after, he designed and manufactured the earliest scraper to replace manual labor as well as improvement to existing machines because it is cheaper, less heavy and stronger than any contemporaries. Visionary character is also observed in his 40-year chairmanship, presidency and chief engineer to his company. He is not easily blinded by success nor became arrogant as he is known to prefer working with machines in contrast to working in the office. His diligence in achieve something is also observed when he received with pride the Diploma in Engineering which basically took him fifty years to complete.
Career and Business
At a young age, LeTourneau is convinced that actual practice outweighed common classroom condition not only in terms of knowledge gained but more importantly the level of conviction to learn. From his native home, he transferred from one state to another in search of appropriate environment where he can undertake this belief. He is employed in a number of different jobs and companies that required skills and labor including wood cutting, welding, electricity works, farm handing, machining and carpentry. He tried to complement education particularly in mechanics while learning these trades but had partial success. However, this mishap did not serve as bottleneck to develop his familiarity in vehicle mechanics in a Californian enterprise named Superior Garage. Sometime after he entered the firm in 1911, he is elevated to be a half-partner.
The little interest showed by LeTourneau in formal study and opportunities that are lost in the process are subsequently swapped by his accumulated experience in pervious jobs. For example, he is able to participate in World War I despite enduring neck damage by applying for electrical machinist and welder positions in Navy Yard. In the conclusion of the war, he is confronted with a bad news as the Superior Garage faced bankruptcy and later closure. Instead of showing regret and disappointment, he used the incident to fuel his motivation to find new business prospects. As a partner in the failed business, he paid his share of liabilities by going back to being a worker now with the tractor company. He did not only accept the job but became proficient at it. A couple of years after, at the age of thirty two, he purchased his own tractor, acres of land and employees to start his land leveling contracting business and engineering shop.
At this time, the former fourteen year-old idealistic, radical and persistent LeTourneau proved that experience is more life-changing than simply studying. Having his own company and minimal restraint from recently-ended war, he used this chance to design and manufacture various kinds of scrapers. This specific period of his career is a monumental one because here he finally entered the earthmoving manufacturing industry where his name is written in history and became known. In 1929, almost a decade after he succeeded in enabling a contracting and engineering operations, he filed incorporation to give rise to R. G. LeTourneau Incorporated established also in California. With a number of big projects completed from 1930s to 1040s such as Hoover Dam, Newhall Cut-Off and Boulder Highway, the firm rose to national distinction and later international operation. By focusing on earthmoving business, the firm is able to win contracts in Georgia and Australia.
Crucial to the growth of R. G. LeTourneau Incorporated is product innovation that is fully delivered by its founder. He even invented and developed machine technology that is exceedingly advanced in comparison to his time. Most of his notable inventions included rubber tires, electric wheel and drilling equipments while hundreds of other patented products served as fundamental design for future improvements by other entities. His company became the major supplier of earthmoving equipments to Allied forces in the Second World War due to internationally-acclaimed processes and specialization. Throughout 1950s and 1970s, his firm confronted active growth internationally, takeover and revival. At this point, being in his later life at sixty, he showed diverse interests that are unrelated to business such as colonization, agriculture and philanthropy.
Business and government connections helped LeTourneau to acquire the unoccupied military hospital in Longview, Texas in 1946 for $1 which served as the building of then LeTourneau Technical Institute. However, the right to use the premises included a contract from the government where reclaiming is enforce during crisis as well as creating vocational courses for war volunteers and veterans. Beyond these concerns, it is established based on the founder’s belief that classroom education will be more effective when practical instruction is applied. The objective of the school is to offer preparation to technical and mechanical learners and common courses for students. It is distinguished to other institutions because it had a separate course for missionary technicians who are thought on how to combine education, practical work and being a Christian to succeed in their chosen fields. These three aspects are similar to success factors that LeTourneau used throughout his life that he instilled to the institution to be emulated by other Christians. In the initial years of the Institute, its main enrollees are male students and veterans and offering completion of high school education, two-year skill in trades program and a technology course of four years.
For twenty years after its opening, the Institute and LeTourneau Incorporated developed an appropriate synergy wherein the neighboring plants to the Institute served as laboratory prerequisite for industrial studies. When the Institute is elevated into college, additional courses are offered in the fields of technology, engineering and some arts and science subjects including construction of new buildings to replace wooden-type barracks. The certification to operate as a college as well as the death of LeTourneau in 1969 provided the motivation for the new administrators to launch breakthrough projects. Erection of resource centers, an aviation facility and dorms helped LeTourneau College for the accreditation of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools as well as Engineer’s Council for Professional Development. By supervising leadership from the eldest son of LeTourneau, Richard LeTourneau together with other administrators, the school is just a year’s away of another accreditation.
And so it happened. In 1989, short-after Richard passed the position to Alvin O. Austin, the school received its University status. With Austin’s leadership, LeTourneau’s growth ideals are continued such as the offering of MBA programs and extension of courses that included the fields of business and education. Aside from academic development, construction of new landmarks highlighted the reign of Austin which included a university mall, recreation and performance centers, a 2000-seater auditorium, newer set of residence halls and the Belcher Bell Tower. In the present day, the LeTourneau University is considered by many as the largest and hallmark of the Christian ministry indulgence of R. G. LeTourneau and his wife. It also became an interdenominational university that offers both two-year and four-year courses in the field of engineering, technology, aeronautics, technology, sciences, business and education. With graduate degree offerings particularly in business, the students of the University is comprised of thirty denominations covering virtually all states and also twenty five nations.
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