‘Twas the last week of November and all through the campus Bearcats were cheering as a campus tradition came to fruition.
The 10th annual holiday tree lighting was hosted at the Thomas Gaunt House Nov. 29 as students, faculty and f Maryville residents gathered to honor a holiday tradition started by President John Jasinski.
Each year, the Jasinski family selects a philanthropy in conjunction with the Tree Lighting. This year, the Jasinski family focused on giving towards the University’s Pay It Forward Fund and the Bearcat Food Pantry.
The event which was held outside featured a number of speakers as well as performances from the Horace Mann Bearcat Choir and the Maryville High School Illumination Show Choir.
Provost Jamie Hooyman believes this event has a place in the traditions of Northwest and shows how unique Northwest culture is compared to other universities.
“I think it stems from building tradition, and it helps to influence culture, especially something that is truly unique,” Hooyman said. “That is clearly evident in the unique culture that we have here at Northwest. Events like this help us to form lifelong memories, and it bonds us not only with our fellow students but also with the Maryville community.”
Senior middle school education major Makenna O’Neal felt this was a great way to usher in the holiday season.
“I think the Northwest community does an amazing job at bringing us together and certainly during this holiday season,” O’Neal said. “With so many different celebrations coming up, it is a great time to bring all of us together before finals start and make us feel as Bearcats connected to one another.”
Hooyman had a similar response and felt it was also a great way for students to experience the holidays if they are unable to go home for the holidays.
“The bonding, fellowship and feeling of love and belonging are really important for Northwest students,” Hooyman said. “These events draw everyone in, and it is especially important for those who do not get to spend the holidays with their family due to distance or other circumstances.”
Mayor Rachel Martin was one of the featured speakers at the event and was glad to see a large turnout from students as well as members of the Maryville community.
“I think any event in the community or on the University property, especially in the case of the holiday tree lighting when the boundaries between students and community members are blurry. There are several community events that students and faculty can attend, Martin said. ”It helps to build the connection between the University and the community as well as giving an expanded experience to college students in the city of Maryville.”
O’Neal wants students to remember that it is a season of giving and that this event helps people get into that mindset during the holidays.
“As you look around, there are so many people gathered that want to come together and celebrate a new season of giving back to each other in the community,” O’Neal said. “So I definitely feel like this reinforced the idea of a season of giving and encourages students and community members to get out there and make a difference this holiday season.”