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Sharing Their Stories

One of the most fascinating tales we heard was that of Lloyd and Larry Smith.

Twin brothers Lloyd and Larry have done everything together; they were born five minutes apart (or three, depending on who you ask), attended LeTourneau together, and both spent their careers in public education despite graduating with engineering degrees. As they like to put it, they are "womb-mates."

One day in 1956, their father was walking out of the machine shop where he worked for Tucker Sno-Cat Corporation in Medford, Oregon, and noticed a magazine in the trash can. Recognizing the name LeTourneau on it, he pulled it from the trash and brought it home to his family, who was already familiar with R.G. LeTourneau and his machines. Their mother immediately subscribed to the magazine, and for the next few years, the boys would "voraciously" read every page. As their interest in LeTourneau Technical Institute grew, their parents encouraged them to pursue an education in engineering, which they began in 1960.

The Smith's still have the NOW Magazine their father pulled from the trash in 1956; it is framed in remembrance of how special this university is to them. You can even see the oily, mechanic fingerprints still on the cover, a reminder of the day one man's trash became another family's treasure and changed the direction of Lloyd and Larry's lives forever.

Lloyd and Larry Smith, 1964

  • What is it like visiting campus this year?
    • Larry: It's really interesting to see, coming back 60 years later, the influence that the LeTourneau’s had on this campus. And even though they've been gone for 50 years or more, their presence is still here in the sense of Christ, their testimony, and the Christian influences here.
  • How did your time at LeTourneau influence you spiritually?
    • Lloyd: Everywhere you went, you were influenced spiritually—by other students, Bible studies, Spiritual Emphasis Week. It was a flow, a continuum of spiritual education. Then, we come back sixty years later, and the needle has not moved. So many schools change their values to keep up with the world, and LeTourneau has not; they've stayed on their principles
    • Larry: I wish Dr. Bob Selby knew the influence he had on me and on this place...everybody loved the guy, and boy, could he get across the concepts that he was teaching. I remember going and just talking to him in his office, and saying, ‘I don't know what to do with my life.’ And he would just sit and talk to you.
  • What is a fond memory from your time at LeTourneau?
    • Larry: R.G. would have Bible studies and talks at the Big House where he and Mom lived, and he’d come in and sit down and [say] ‘Okay, ask questions.’ And someone said, ‘You don't make any mistakes, do you Mr. RG?’ And he had a big belly laugh and said, ‘That's why I have a steel mill. I melt them all down.’
    • Lloyd: Once, I picked up this kid from the airport to take him back to the school, and in our conversation, I asked him, ‘Are you a Christian? You're going to a Christian school.’ And he just said, ‘Um…’ And then in the next night or two, we led him to the Lord. And he sent me a note two years ago...that the ride in that Volkswagen that night changed his life...60 years later, and he is still on fire for the Lord and involved in ministry.
  • If you could share a piece of advice with current students, what would it be?
    • Lloyd: Make life-long friends. I think they probably will, but it's so important to come out of here with friends you stay connected with. And they come from all over the world to LeTourneau, so then you've got friends around the world.

Susan Till Carvella, 1965

  • What was it like being one of the first female students in LeTourneau history?
    • Well, I want to say it wasn't just me; it was all of us women that came and helped open those doors. Some of us were scared to death. And, I mean, there were six girls and 600 guys. My roommate was the first female student. She went over to the dining hall once and opened the door and there were two hundred guys. She closed the door and went back [to her room]. I don't know if she starved for two days or what, but she didn't go back to the cafeteria ‘til I got [there]. And then the two of us would go over there. It was like there's strength in numbers.
    • But the girls didn't have cars; our only transportation was a local bus...And to get to church, we had to go with one of the guys that was going to the church we were going to.
    • We had to sign off campus. We had to sign back in. The host-mother needed to know where we were going, who we were going with, what time we were leaving, and what time we were coming back. The dorm was locked at nine o'clock at night. If you were gone beyond that, you were basically gone—if you couldn't get back in the dorm, they weren't going to keep you.
  • How did your LeTourneau education impact your career as a special education teacher?
    • Having the Christian background here, going back [after graduation], I demanded very high standards from my students, and they all rose to meet those standards. I did not degrade them. I respected them for who they were, and in return, I gained their respect. I taught them to do the best they could; everybody has a talent, and you have to find out what it is.
  • If you could share a piece of advice for current LeTourneau students, what would you say?
    • They're getting a great education. They're getting a wonderful foundation in God and in caring for people and learning. Take everything you've learned here, and when you get into the workforce, use it. Stick to your faith, stick to your morals and your values, and go out and spread it among your friends, your work, and your people. Just be positive.

Tom Ackerman, 1971

  • What did you enjoy the most about your time at LeTourneau?
    • I enjoyed the combination of good, solid technical training, plus a solid, biblically-based education and knowledge...This is the only school I know of where you can get a good technical education that's also based in Christ. Can't do one without the other. You got to have both, otherwise you're half of an engineer, technician, or anything else. We had the advantage of technical training and learning, which is great. But the inquisitive side of just going out and putting your hands on something and thinking about it—and working with it—is something LeTourneau gifts to its students that no other school does.
  • How did your LeTourneau education impact your career in management?
    • I worked with people from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, you name it, but LeTourneau never took a backseat to any other school. If you worked hard, you could compete. What was missing with other graduates was the personal side. They didn't have a concern about people. Everything they were involved in was about them, [while] LeTourneau taught us pretty much the opposite; we’re individuals that are here to serve, not to be served.

Peter & Sharon McMillan, 1980 & 1981

  • How did the two of you meet?
    • Peter: We met in class. By the end of the semester, we were sitting next to each other, and on the last day of school, I asked her to marry me in Speer Chapel. I gave her our first kiss down by the pond, too, so we have a lot of good memories here.
    • Sharon: He sort of proposed to me in front of the grave, LeTourneau’s grave. Very romantic.
    • Peter: Well, I didn't really propose to you then. I was testing the waters.
  • How did your time at LeTourneau impact you?
    • Sharon: I was a Christian when I came, but I was just starting to get serious about following the Lord. That was the first time I'd been in a place where I had examples and peers who were more mature than I was—who I could look up to and be discipled by. I never dreamed that I would be a missionary one day, and I think God put them in my life to nudge me on to missions.
  • How did LeTourneau prepare you for your career?
    • Sharon: It just helped me fall in love with God and realize that you're not by yourself. You need to be in community to be able to grow and be healthy. So, we've always emphasized that in our church planting and camping.
  • If you could share a word of advice to current students, what would it be?
    • Peter: At LeTourneau, you meet a lot of friends, and it's easy to spend a lot of time in intramurals, classes, and studying. But, I think it's also important to develop good friends at a local church and be connected to one, where godly men and women can mentor and care for you. That's been one of the best things for me over the years.
    • Sharon: Don't be afraid to try something new. Fear holds you back from a lot of things...We [instilled in] our kids—we have three children with families of their own—the importance of getting plugged into a local church and being around families, not just your peers. Don't lose that.

Lisa Skielnik, 1988

  • How did your education at LeTourneau prepare you for your future?
    • I think people at LeTourneau have the opportunity to learn how to work with other people and value them...The professors were very caring, and it was a Christian environment. So, we got used to treating people kindly, and that was noticed [in my job]. The people-oriented aspect of working, that meant a lot to them.
  • How did your time at LeTourneau impact you on a spiritual level?
    • When I came [to the school], I knew Jesus as my savior and had a Bible background, but I was still thinking about life and trying to get my hands around it. At that point, it's good to be around people who are mature Christians. Several of my professors, especially Dr. Lifer and Dr. Graf, were engineers not pastors, but they were very godly men who lived out their faith. I also took advantage of the variety of spiritual things offered on campus: chapel, Spiritual Emphasis Week, Missions Emphasis Week, dorm devotions, etc. Looking back, I wish I took even more advantage of them.