The plan, as Greg Leman drew it up, called for a short stay in Champaign-Urbana, just long enough to earn his Ph.D. in chemical engineering.
“Then,” he remembers thinking, “I’d head back to the applied world, where I loved solving important, complicated problems that need chemical engineering.”
But a couple years became a couple decades and C-U became Leman's home away from his now-home (Waco, Texas).
“That plan turned into me staying in the community for nearly 20 years, raising three daughters there, and forming deep friendships that continue to benefit me today," he says.
“After grad school, I stayed to serve as a part-time pastor at the Vineyard Church and teaching classes in the chemical engineering program for three years before getting back to the things I had always envisioned.
“But that did not mean moving away – I was able to land at Cabot in Tuscola, and continue to live in C-U. So over 20 years’ time, this community became the true home base for me and my family in every way — professionally, spiritually and relationally.
“The U of I and Champaign-Urbana as a whole experience are what was profound for me.
“A few years later, I nearly returned to take a position at the (UI), and although I came in second in that ‘contest’ and thus did not return, the opportunity got me in touch with how much I loved teaching, and had a lot to do with my decision to transition from industry back to teaching – at Baylor University, where I have been for past 13-plus years.
“For that, I have to give an affectionate shoutout to the now-departed Paul Magelli, who invited me to apply for that job.
“University towns are special places where many lifelong friends are made, even though people scatter after graduation. I had the rare privilege to make C-U my home and am forever grateful.”