By Sergio Legorreta
International students, visiting scholars and their families gathered Monday evening in Mayborn Museum Complex to celebrate Baylor Round Table’s annual Thanksgiving Dinner honoring international students representing 73 different countries.
The event featured every country’s flag with the United States flag as a centerpiece.
President and Chancellor Ken Starr and First Lady Alice Starr provided the meal as a gift. Alice Starr, president of Baylor Round Table, spoke about tradition of Thanksgiving, which dates back more than three centuries.
President Starr spoke about unity and Baylor and used the Latin phrase “E pluribus unum,” meaning “out of many, one” to describe the Baylor community.
“One people, out of so many countries,” President Starr said. “Your flag makes you feel at home, and the U.S. flag welcomes you.”
The dinner was an opportunity to introduce international students to thanksgiving and to thank them for coming to Baylor, said Melanie Smith, international student relations coordinator.
The dinner is a long-standing tradition, but it is unclear when exactly it began. Corrie Logan, Baylor Round Table member and chair of the event, said it began around the time of former Baylor President Abner McCall, who was inaugurated in 1961.
“There seems to be a lot of discussion about when it started,” Logan said.
One attendee, Kathryn Mueller, senior lecturer, said her first time attending the dinner was about 40 years ago, after becoming involved with Baylor Round Table. Mueller attends the event ever year, and she helped organize the dinner for five years, in the past while serving the organization.
For others, this year was their first time attending. Former Texas Congressman Thomas Edwards attended for the first time and said that the Baylor nation transcends borders.
“You remind me that we are Baylor world,” Edwards said. “You have rich stories, traditions and cultures.”
While the concept of the dinner has remained the same throughout the years, its size and location have changed. This is the third year the dinner has been held in the Mayborn Museum Special Exhibit Room.
“It used to be held at the president’s home,” Logan said. “It has outgrown that. It’s been at various places on campus over the years. We used to do it in Cashion, but with construction, we moved it over here.”
Mueller said there are many more people attending today than when she first attended.
“We were happy if there were 125 or so,” Mueller said.
Shenyang, China, sophomore Yiming Yang said he attended for the first time as a way to meet new people.
McKinney senior Janai Onguti said it’s his third year attending, and he’s made many friends over the years.
The dinner included a Roll Call of Nations where attendees stood to represent their country, as countries were called in alphabetical order. China was called at the end as a surprise, to show how many students are from China. Chinese students make up 50 percent of all international students, Smith said.
In addition to the ceremony, traditional Thanksgiving foods were served, including turkey, potatoes and pumpkin pie.
The dinner marks the start of the United States’15th International Education Week, a week dedicated to promoting international understanding, according to the U.S. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affair’s website. This year marks the 110th anniversary of Baylor Round Table, made up of professional women at Baylor, including active and retired faculty and their spouses.