OSU-thanksgiving
Ohio Life

Giving Thanks

The Ohio State University’s Thanksgiving Dinner for students, faculty and staff who stay in town over the holiday marks 25 years.

We all know how Ebenezer Scrooge felt when he couldn’t go home from boarding school for the holidays as a youth. It was no fun, and you saw how that turned out. 

But Ohio State University students, faculty and staff (as well as their family and guests) who are staying on campus or in town for Thanksgiving don’t have to run the risk of turning into a grumpy miser, thanks to the school’s 25th annual Thanksgiving Dinner. Last year, an all-time high of 1,850 people attended the feast, which was served by 200 volunteers from the community.  

“We are the largest sit-down meal on a campus that is free,” says Lawrence Williamson Jr., director of the Frank W. Hale Black Cultural Center in the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “In all these years, we have never turned anyone away.”

Two graduate students approached Williamson in 1991 and asked to use the cultural center on Thanksgiving Day to host a potluck meal for a group of around 10 people. 

Twenty-five people attended that first year, and 50 the next. The third year, the meal grew to 150 attendees, and the university needed to find a larger space to host the dinner. 

This year, there will be Thanksgiving seatings at 11:45 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Ohio Union, where volunteers will serve an estimated 650 pounds of turkey; 115 pounds of bread; 432 pounds of greens, green beans and corn; 1,026 pounds of sweet potatoes; 306 pounds of cranberry relish; 320 pounds of cornbread; 30 gallons of gravy and 2,000 slices of pie. 

The dinner has a costumed mascot, Mr. Turkey, who greets diners. For the past several years, the character has been played by Williamson’s son, Lawrence Williamson III, now an OSU student. 

Jing Li, who is from China, is a student co-chair of the dinner and one of the international students who make up 60 to 70 percent of the meal’s attendees. “I enjoy seeing all the people sitting down together, sharing information and friendship,” she says. “It feels great to see everyone.”

Advance registration and a ticket is required for Ohio State University’s Thanksgiving Dinner. For more information about the event, visit oia.osu.edu/thanksgiving-dinner.