Like most colleges and universities, Susquehanna has a rich set of traditions. What sets ours apart is that they are truly meaningful, not some insiders-only rituals tied to institutional arcana, but meaningful to anyone who witnesses or experiences them. These include Move In, Opening Convocation, SU Serve, SU Give, Candlelight, Senior Hike, Baccalaureate, and Commencement.
What they have in common is that they are focused on welcoming, expressing gratitude, and giving. Of all our traditions, Thanksgiving is my favorite, because it is such a wonderful combination of all three (Commencement will always be my favorite event).
We host three seatings over two days. The last of these is for the seniors. At each, I welcome the students and offer a toast, a student or staff member provides a blessing, and then volunteers from the faculty and staff, along with some of their family members, serve dinner, which is eaten family style.
It is a full, traditional Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkeys being carved at the table, and of course, vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. Leftovers are sent home with any students who want them, and the rest of what remains is donated to local food banks.
What I most enjoy about this tradition is how much my colleagues enjoy serving the meal and how grateful the students are. This year, a number of housekeepers and facilities crew members who had come in at 4:00 a.m. stayed into the evening to serve. Anyone who questions the values of the next generation of adults just needs to witness the outpouring of gratitude from our students and feel their sense of community to have that faith restored.
The tradition began in 1981, and even during the height of the pandemic we kept it going. Although in 2020, it was a take-away affair, but the expressions of thanks being uttered through masks may have been the most profound of all. Tina Landis from SU Dining Services, known as “Miss Tina” and a campus celebrity, has participated in all 42 years of the tradition.
After the tables have been cleared, the servers and our Dining Services colleagues sit down for their own meal together.
During our first year at Susquehanna, there was a snow storm the evening of the senior dinner. Members of the Student Government Association offered to help cover for staff who couldn’t get back to campus. Meanwhile, dozens of facilities workers were clearing sidewalks, roads, and parking lots. When the servers’ meal was about to begin, we called the snow-removal team to the dining hall to join us for a hot meal. We were thankful for the meal, but mostly, we were gateful to be with each other.
We truly have so much for which we should be thankful. Being members of a living-learning community dedicated to each other is highest among them. Happy Thanksgiving!