Facebook Instagram Youtube LinkedIn Twitter/X

LETU Recognizes Distinguished Seniors for Class of 2019



LeTourneau University recognized five students to receive the Distinguished Senior Award for the Class of 2019. Recognizing excellence, the award is based on academic achievement; servant leadership; generosity with time and resources; spiritual growth evidenced by a maturing faith in Jesus Christ and the potential to be an effective ambassador for Christ in every workplace and every nation.

“LeTourneau University is a community of builders, and these bright students represent a continuation of our builder legacy,” said LETU President Dr. Dale A. Lunsford.  “For more than 70 years now, our graduates have changed lives through what they have built.  I know that each of these fine men and women will integrate their Christian faith and professional work to build a better tomorrow for our world.”

The five 2019 LETU Distinguished Seniors are

Thomas Janne Alley of Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, who earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Professional Flight
Carissa Pitman of Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  
Charissa Nicole Puttbach of Charlotte, North Carolina, who earned her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering  
Joshua Lian Raies of Midland, Texas who earned his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology and Exercise Science
Ian David Thompson of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Materials Joining Engineering.

LETU’s Distinguished Senior Award Program selection involves faculty, staff, deans, cabinet and the LETU board of trustee members.  Candidates must have a minimum 3.0 cumulative grade point average at the end of the Spring 2018 semester, with no academic, social or chapel probation on their records; and must be scheduled to graduate with an undergraduate degree either in December 2018, May 2019 or Summer 2019.  The top 20 students recommended for the award are invited to apply with a résumé and answers to five essay questions.  Student Life staff reviewed them and chose the top 10.  The Board of Trustees and staff deliberated to choose the top five.  Each of the distinguished seniors are presented with a trophy award. Their photos will be displayed on campus throughout the next year. 

Thomas Alley has completed several of his pilot certificates including instrument rating, complex endorsement, tail wheel endorsement, high performance endorsement and commercial pilot airplane single and multi-engine landing and as a flight instructor airplane single and multi-engine landing and instrument rating.

Since September 2017, Alley worked as a flight instructor at LETU effectively working with students to finish flight course syllabi within a semester’s time frame. He serves as the university’s STING Precision Flight Team Safety Officer and has won several awards in national flight competition.  In national competition in 2018, he was awarded 3rd place Top Pilot Award, 3rd Place IFR Simulated Flight event, 3rd Place SCAN event.  In regional competition in 2017, he won 1st place in SCAN event and 1st place in Ground Trainer Event, 2nd Place in Power Off Landing Event and 3rd Place in Navigation Event. He has earned his aircraft dispatcher Letter of Aeronautical Competency.  He has been awarded the LeTourneau University Dean’s Scholarship and was a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club from 2015 to 2016.

“My time at LeTourneau University has been challenging and intense,” Alley said. “But I have grown a lot as a person because of it.  The biggest thing I’ll take away is the connection between my Christian faith and my work.”  He is the son of Julie and Daniel Alley.

Carissa Pitman grew up a missionary kid and is grateful for the generosity of others who have supported her family.

As a college student she was generous with her time leading a Vacation Bible Study group, serving as a Peer Advisor, and serving this past two years as a chaplain in her residence hall, sacrificing her time to help other students through hardships they encountered. 

She has spent spring breaks on mission trips and has served formally and informally as an academic tutor to help students understand difficult subjects. In her role as a nursing student, served others with joy as she performed her work in clinical setting. 

“Nursing is a great way to show the love of Christ in a physical and tangible way to people who are experiencing pain, suffering, and fear,” she said. “Going to Haiti in high school and walking into a mother-baby clinic, I discovered I can use my passion for people, whether I end up working with premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or going overseas one day working in a pregnancy clinic.  I know I will be using my passion for the Lord and reaching people in a vulnerable place.

“I knew nursing school would be challenging, and I wanted to go through it with a community of believers,” she said. “I wanted my first years away from home to be surrounded by people whose goal was also to grow closer to Christ and build each other up. I’m so thankful to have been able to find that community here at LeTourneau.” She is the daughter of James and Daniela Pitman.

Charissa Puttbach has served in a variety of leadership roles as a student, including as team lead of the SAFEHOME senior design project that won 1st place in national competition for the design and construction of shelters for use after natural disasters.  She served on campus as a resident assistant and assistant resident director to provide mentorship, guidance and supervision for 32 students. She also served as a supplemental instructor and tutor for struggling students.  In her sophomore and junior years, she led a spring break mission trip to New Orleans and Corpus Christi working with ReachGlobal Crisis Response.  The summer after her freshman year, she served in South Carolina after disastrous October flooding to rebuild damaged homes, working as a team lead and host to volunteer groups from around the country.  Last summer she worked as a land development summer intern for Summit Design and Engineering in Raleigh, North Carolina. After graduating, she plans to attend graduate school to pursue her master’s degree in engineering.

“My education has prepared me to be a light and leader within my future community, caused me to grow grounded in my faith, and gave me the framework needed for following the career path God is calling me to,” Puttbach said. “These past four years have been a time of spiritual and intellectual growth as I have experienced the power and abundant grace of God in many aspects of life. My instructors have pushed me to pursue excellence in all aspects of life.” Charissa is the daughter of Ellen and David Puttbach.

Josh Raies has served as Student Body President since 2017 and has provided oversight and coordination as a liaison between the university’s administration and the Student Body Executive Cabinet, the Yellowjacket Activities Council and the Student Senate.  An LETU varsity baseball player, Raies served as the team captain since 2015.  He was a freshman Peer Advisor counselor in 2016 and was named on the dean’s list and the president’s list while a student. He worked last summer doing strength and conditioning and observation in an internship with University of Texas Permian Basin football team, gaining experience as a coach and working one-on-one with athletes.  He has served for three years as a high school basketball referee and has worked summers alongside professional baseball players with the Midland Rockhounds as an assistant groundskeeper.

“We honor God through working diligently in our studies, striving in athletic pursuits, and enjoying our leisure, but these moments are never simply for ourselves—they are meant to be platforms of service and care to those God surrounds us with,” Raies said. He is the son of Bill and Jan Rais.

Ian Thompson grew up in Japan and is a certified Fuji mountain guide.  He tutored Longview-area elementary students in English and mathematics his freshman year and served as a supplemental instructor and tutor in physics for a semester.  He served for three years as a university student ambassador, representing the university mission and vision as he gave tours, called prospective students and assisted with student preview events.  He also served as a resident assistant for two years, planning and organizing floor events, mediating conflicts and enforcing residential policies and standards.

“I have had the opportunity to experience academics, residence life, and extracurricular opportunities down to the newest engineering innovations,” Thompson said.  “All of this has been incredibly formational in who I am as an individual and what kind of an engineer, friend, and leader I will be. LETU’s Materials Joining Engineering department offers excellent opportunities for students to explore the ever-expanding world of joining methods and has a unique combination of the hands-on work of welding and the scientific and engineering breakthroughs being discovered.” He is the son of Bryan and Janet Thompson.

LeTourneau University is the Christian polytechnic university in the nation where educators engage students to nurture Christian virtue, develop competency and ingenuity in their professional fields, integrate faith and work, and serve the local and global community. LETU offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs across a range of disciplines and delivery models at LETU’s residential campus in Longview, Texas, hybrid options at centers in the Dallas and Houston areas and fully online programs. For additional information, visit

Categories: Aviation, Engineering, Kinesiology, Nursing