" LeTourneau has so much more to offer than a stellar education—it’s also the friendships you make, the experiences you have, the mentorship you give and receive.

J.D.
Claridge

Founder
X-Craft (Coeur d'Alene, Idaho)

Major: Aeronautical Science
Graduated: 2001


How would you describe your LETU experience?

J.D. Claridge of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, graduated in summer 2001 from LeTourneau University with an ASEL major. He is a founder of XCraft, a company that makes a drone aircraft that can take off and hover like a helicopter, as well as fly at high speeds.  He said it was about five years from inception to having a marketable product.  He and his partner Charles Manning were featured on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and hooked the interest of all five investors who offered $1.5 million for 20 % of the company after Claridge talked about the practical applications such as package or medication delivery, pipeline survey, and search and rescue applications.

 “Attending LeTourneau was an incredible experience that not only taught me the skills I needed for my career, but also challenged me to learn in a way I had not experienced before,” Claridge said. “I often say that LeTourneau is where I learned how to learn—not just academically, but spiritually as well.  My short time at LeTourneau is something I’ll never forget.”

Claridge said several faculty members guided him along the way, but one standout was aviation professor Lauren Bitikofer

"While I attended LeTourneau, he and his wife, Kathy, took me under their wing. They fed me, mentored me, and even let me live at their house one summer.  Ever since attending, Lauren and I have stayed in touch. We talk on a regular basis about Radio Control modeling and flying—two of our common passions.  I have appreciated his guidance and friendship so much.  He has truly had a profound impact on my life, both professionally and spiritually.”

Claridge also remembers mentoring he was able to provide to others during his time as a Resident Assistant on the Flooders floor in Tyler Hall.  “So many great relationships were forged,” Claridge said. “Many of them are still strong today.”

“LeTourneau has so much more to offer than a stellar education—it’s also the friendships you make, the experiences you have, the mentorship you give and receive,” Claridge said. “I would tell students to take advantage of it all while you are there. Those few years are formative for the rest of your life.”