It’s a tradition that extends back long before Cole Ober was born. But the Saint John’s University junior said the school’s annual Thanksgiving meal still has a lot of meaning to him and his fellow students.
“When I came here, the school talked about how everyone is in a community, and how we’re working together for the community,” said Ober, who was among the many students at the College of Saint Benedict and SJU who took part in this year’s meal, served Wednesday night (Nov. 16) in Guild Hall on the SJU campus.
“I think this is one of the big events during the school year that really encompasses that community feel. It’s a night when everyone can have a great dinner put on by some great staff here at CSB and SJU.”
This marked the 41st year the Thanksgiving meal has been served at SJU. It is traditionally held the week before Thanksgiving break. A holiday meal at the College of Saint Benedict is traditionally served to students in December. This year’s event is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8, in the Gorecki Center.
The Thanksgiving meal was served in the Great Hall and the Refectory dining room through 2019. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it was served in the Refectory dining room while observing COVID protocols that were in place at the time. It was moved to Guild Hall for the first time last year to use open seating.
Jeff Wubbels, the director of events and conferences at SJU, said he and his staff were preparing food for around 1,500 students Wednesday - including around 60 students at the Saint John’s Preparatory School residing in St. Michael Hall. Around 80 students at the Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary were expected to take part in the same meal in the dining room of Emmaus Hall.
In all, Wubbels said his staff prepared:
- 880 pounds of turkey
- 690 pounds of mashed potatoes
- 500 pounds of bread stuffing
- 30 gallons of gravy
- 220 pounds of corn
- 350 eight-inch pumpkin pies
Oh, and a whole lot of cloverleaf rolls as well.
“Most of the dining service staff will be working tonight,” Wubbels said before the event got underway. “Volunteers who come to assist with serving are also important to the success of this meal. We’ll have a variety of individuals and groups assisting us. There will be 44 people total -- 24 are people who have a direct connection (to CSB and SJU): staff, two retirees, one alumni. Twenty are coming from groups who routinely work in the dining room and at-large university events.
“Volunteers really make this event possible.”
Mia Umerski, a junior at CSB, said students are deeply appreciative of those efforts.
“This really embodies our community and brings together people across both campuses,” she said. “Thanksgiving is such a big deal for our students here. It’s a time of being able to be thankful for what we have and being able to spend time with friends and family.
“This is a really great way to get all the students together in one setting.”
Adrion Sangster, a sophomore at SJU, said events like Wednesday’s dinner provide great opportunities to bond with fellow students.
“Everyone comes out,” he said. “Everyone has a good meal. Everyone has a good time. I think that shows the Saint John’s and Saint Ben’s community is a really good one.”