Some of my favorite memories of growing up in a family of six are the special dinners that my parents would make the day before school started. It didn’t matter what was being served, though it was usually presented as “a celebratory back-to-school hamburger” or a “last day of summer meatloaf.” My favorite was the “new school year spaghetti feast,” featuring spaghetti … made special because my parents said it was.
Much like a pre-game pep talk given by a coaching staff, the conversation around the dinner table revolved around recapping what it was going to take to make first, second, third — whatever grades my siblings and I were entering that particular year — challenging, fun and rewarding. These dinners meant a lot because they showed my family’s excitement for our education and the experiences that came with being around friends in a learning environment.
That same sentiment flooded back this year when, in late August, I received an email from Dr. Richard Danford, our Vice President for Student Life, that all students — most of whom had just arrived on campus — faculty, staff and their families were invited to a special campus-wide kickoff dinner the Sunday before fall semester began. But in his email, Dr. Danford included the menu, and among the items were pulled pork, pulled chicken and pulled jackfruit, to be served with barbecue sauce on buns.
One might think that the Sunday before classes began would be bad timing for a gathering — this was the exact opposite. Buffet tables set up in Hermann Fine Arts Center featured platters filled with main courses and side dishes such as Caprese salad, broccoli salad and from-scratch macaroni and cheese. Other tables showcased desserts — turtle brownies and summer berry pie bars. Droves of students, faculty, staff and family members encircled the tables and then began the hunt for open seats throughout Hermann’s portico and lawn area. A solid line trailed from a flavored shaved ice truck brought to campus for the event, and members of the Student Government Association struggled to keep up as they made s’mores for fellow Pioneers at the fire pit in the Hermann Bowl.
As if the food wasn’t enough, each person in attendance was given a raffle ticket for a chance to win gift cards, T-shirts, tickets to Cedar Point and a flat-screen television.
I don’t recall a raffle being held during my childhood back-to-school celebration, or pulled jackfruit sandwiches (which happen to be delicious!), but I indeed recognized that exciting feeling of starting a new academic year with new and returning students and colleagues. I am sure this year’s inaugural kickoff dinner will become one of those special Marietta memories that alumni decades from now will talk about and cherish.
Letters From Our Readers
I was thrilled to see that you decided to feature Adrian Roberts on the back page of the latest edition of the Marietta Magazine.
When I was at Marietta, recognition of and support for the LGBTQ community was non-existent — making it even more challenging for those struggling with their sexuality (like me) to come out.
Proudly featuring an openly trans activist alum like Adrian shows how far Marietta has come in recognizing the LGBTQ alumni community.
My hope is that the Administration has also put into place support for current LGBTQ students so that those students are able to thrive and take full advantage of all of the amazing opportunities that exist at Marietta.
All my best,
Eric Stern ’97
Former Director of LGBT Outreach for the Democratic National Committee;
Former Co-Chair, Obama for America LGBT Leadership Council