By Bradley Davis
President Wim Wiewel and his family opened their home at the Cooley House for the first ever Lewis & Clark community Thanksgiving celebration. With a spread of 15 turkeys, space for 150 students and several administrators, Wiewel offered dinner to students who stayed in the Portland area for the holiday.
The dinner was originally planned for international students who may not have experienced an American Thanksgiving before or were looking for a place to celebrate. However, near the end of October, the decision was made to open the dinner to the wider community.
While International Students and Scholars (ISS) offers the Community Friends program, where students can spend time and celebrate holidays with local families, there has not been a formal opportunity for so many international students to celebrate Thanksgiving together in the past.
Coming from an international background, Noam Margalit ’18 had her first traditional Thanksgiving in the college dorms.
“I normally spent Thanksgiving on campus,” Margalit said. “It is my favorite time because everyone is gone. My first year, I had a friendsgiving with traditional Thanksgiving food.”
However, the President’s dinner exceeded her expectations.
“This year, at Wim’s house, was my second traditional Thanksgiving, or as close to traditional as I can get,” Margalit said. “I went because I was excited to see the Cooley House and, in all honestly, I will do anything for Bon Appetit pie—the pumpkin pie was the highlight of the night.”
Students were impressed by the Wiewel family’s hospitality and willingness to open up the Cooley House. The home, gifted to LC as a residence for the college president, has been used by predecessor Barry Glassner to host events in the past. However, few events have been so broadly accessible and many students have never been to the house.
“It was very generous that he offered up his home to many students on this holiday,” Natalie Cerda ’18 said. “(President Wiewel) made it a point to greet every student and sat at various tables with the students during dinner to engage in conversations.”
Many others agreed with this sentiment.
“President and Mrs. Wiewel were incredibly welcoming, interactive and warm,” Elise Wilde ’18 said. “They welcomed students at the door and moved around the event, making sure that everyone was comfortable and at home. The Cooley House was set up nicely and the food was delicious.”
The food, catered and served by Bon Appétit, seemed to be enjoyed by all. A buffet comprised of salad, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey and much more was made available with vegan and vegetarian options. By the end of the dinner, there were substantial leftovers—perhaps due to the fact that 30 students, judging by unclaimed nametags, registered but did not attend. Every student was offered a to-go box filled with pie and other leftovers.
“It was incredibly nice, as someone who has been on campus over Thanksgiving,” Margalit said. “The Pio is sporadic, food is expensive and hard to prepare without all the tools and some of the nicer places like Holmes or Juniper are closed off. Basically having a place to go and being able to feel like you belong and are welcomed with other members of the community was really nice.”
Students viewed Thanksgiving dinner as an example of Wiewel’s broader shift in engagement and interest with students.
“I really appreciate that President Wiewel has been taking a lot of initiative to get to know the students and be involved in student organizations,” Cerda said.