Nikias family hosts a USC Thanksgiving
For the first time at USC, some students who stayed on campus this Thanksgiving Â shared dinner at the presidentâs house with the leader of the university.
Seven trams left the University Park Campus on Thursday night to take 350 students to the presidentâs house in San Marino, Calif., which President C. L. Max Nikias and his family had moved into three days earlier.
For many students, this was the only Thanksgiving dinner they had available, said Sharon Kim, a sophomore from Portland, Ore., majoring in psychology and occupational therapy.
âI was really glad to have this, because I didnât have anywhere to go for Thanksgiving dinner,â she said. âItâs a great way for people to meet each other and to spend time with people from school you donât know.â
Opening the presidentâs home to students was the idea of First Lady Niki Nikias, who said she was accustomed to hosting USC students for Thanksgiving dinner.
âIf my daughters wanted to bring a few friends who had nowhere else to go, I would tell them, âHave them come over; thereâs always plenty of food.â So thatâs how the idea came about because I knew we were going to be in the presidentâs house, and I wanted to follow this tradition that we had,â she said.
The Nikias family felt strongly that it was important to give students on campus a home and family for Thanksgiving, said Georgiana Nikias, a USC law student and one of the presidentâs two daughters.
âThereâs nothing like a home-cooked meal. So I think thatâs what my mom was thinking â that Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy a really good meal, sit down and be lazy. You donât do any homework; you just relax,â she said.
The decision to open the presidentâs home was unanimous.
âWe love the company,â said Maria Nikias, a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. âWe know how important food is â good food â on Thanksgiving.â
Formally dressed students entered the mansion in a single line, where each shook hands with the president and his family. Tables were set up in the backyard under a canopy, where servers poured hibiscus lemonade for sitting students.
âI feel like Iâm at a wedding,â said Chris Wang, a freshman majoring in biochemical engineering.
In his brief welcoming remarks, Nikias introduced his family and invited the attendees to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving dinner buffet, which included roast wild turkey with gravy, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stuffing, squash ravioli, corn bread and onion flatbread.
In his second speech after dinner, President Nikias talked about the importance of Thanksgiving. He spoke of the origins of Thanksgiving, its history and various traditions, from sending a pardoned turkey to Disneyland to planning the next dayâs shopping spree.
But he also sought to highlight the meaning of Thanksgiving.
âIt reminds us of what is best in us, what is most humble, what is most human,â he said. âIt reminds us of what we most value, and it reminds us to be grateful for how interconnected we all are.â
Most of all, he emphasized the importance of family at Thanksgiving.
âMore than any other holiday, Thanksgiving is about family, and today you are our family. We are all one family here: the Trojan Family. It is a warm and loving community that runs across the continent and across generations,â President Nikias said. âSo today the Nikias family expresses its true appreciation for what you bring to the larger Trojan Family, which binds us together.â
After dinner, a dessert spread of pumpkin pie, ginger cookie cream sandwiches and fudge brownies was served with warm apple cider.
âDinner was amazing,â said Sunit Rohant, a senior majoring in narrative studies and biological sciences. âIâm not quite done yet with my first plate. They announced you could go up for seconds and thirds, but I donât think Iâll be able to finish this.â
The Trojan Family, a well-known theme of USC rhetoric, was a common conversation topic that night.
âIâm really glad that he invited all these students here because it just reinforces the idea of the Trojan Family, where weâre actually having a family dinner together on Thanksgiving,â Rohant said. âWe went around in a circle and said what we were thankful for and it just reinforces it.â
President Nikias advised students to be thankful for the Trojan Family.
âStudentsâ years at USC are the years they have to take advantage of what there is to offer, much more than what they are learning in the classroom or the courses they take. Also they have to form these relationships and friendships with students from other parts of the country and other parts of the world because these relationships could stay with them for the rest of their lives,â he said in his speech. âAnd thatâs what the Trojan Family is all about.â
And what is the president thankful for this Thanksgiving?
âI feel blessed because the very best job in higher education today is to be president of this university, and Iâm very thankful for that.â