Memories built to last

Nearly 42 years ago, in 1970, professor of engineering and construction management Leo Setian first set foot on the John Brown University campus. Next month he will be bidding it farewell.

Fresh out of graduate school at Montana State University, where he had studied technologies relating to the prevention of forest fires, Setian entered as an assistant professor and has worked his way through the ranks over the years. This was his first teaching job, and he has chosen to spend the remainder of his working life at the university by investing his time, gifts and compassion.

When Setian arrived at the school, things looked a little bit different. The engineering department was located in old wooden army barracks and there were a lot more trees on campus. A disease hit campus one year and killed all of the Elm trees, Setian remembered.

He has witnessed many changes that have taken place over the years.

The campus has grown significantly during his time here. “I used to know everybody by first name,” Setian recalled. For a while, the JBU population went down to 500-600 students.

During the 80s, there was a large influx of Iranian students, and afterward the Walton International Scholars Program was started. Setian described the program as, “very forward-looking,” and has had many opportunities to connect with the Scholars who were involved in the engineering program.

In the early 90s, Setian used to take engineering and business majors to Israel for the summer, where they were employed by local companies Tiberias and Galtronics. The students also had opportunities to minister to the Jewish people.

When Setian first taught at JBU all church services were held on campus, including Sunday school and Wednesday night services, by the chaplain. Each academic division was also in charge of a week of chapel, and the engineering department even had their own choir that would perform. “But it was a lot of work,” Setian said, and the tradition was discontinued.

Two things that have not changed, however, are the importance of his family and his students in his life.

Setian met his wife Sona on a blind date back in his native Rhode Island in 1956. It was his second date ever, and the two enjoyed watching a game of hockey.

They’ve since raised five children together in Siloam Springs, Ark., and watched three of the five graduate from JBU. “It’s a great place to bring up a family,” Setian added. After he retires from full time teaching, he is most excited to spend time with his wife and travelling to visit his children, none of whom live in Siloam Springs.

But he will miss his co-workers and his students. “I love young people,; [they] are our future leaders, and I thank God that I can be a part of [their] lives,” Setian explained.

When asked if he would consider teaching part time, he smiled and simply stated, “God knows—we’ll be available.”