Wellesley Alumnae and Students Share Thanksgiving Tradition

November 21, 2018
Alumnae, families and their students sit around a Thanksgiving table.

Charmane Higgins ’91 will celebrate Thanksgiving this year at her home in Brockton, Mass. Among her guests will be her mother, uncle, brother, and sister-in-law—plus Eva Venema ’22, of Palmer, Alaska, and Isabel Ortiz ’22, of Garden Grove, Calif.

“I love Thanksgiving,” said Venema, “but the logistics of traveling across time zones and the expense of flying home makes it difficult, so I’m very happy to have this experience.”

Since 2008, the Wellesley College Alumnae Association and the Slater International Center have collaborated on the Thanksgiving Match Program, which pairs international students and U.S. students who are far from home with local members of the Wellesley community for the holiday. The program survives on the generosity and sense of community expressed by the Wellesley alumnae who welcome students into their homes. This year, 19 hosts will share dinner with 28 students.

Higgins loves the tradition and the sense of family warmth that is so much a part of the season. “It’s a way for me to give back to Wellesley,” she said. “These students aren’t going home, so this gives me a nice feeling to do something for them.  In a way, they are like family because we are Wellesley. It’s something I would want done for my children if I had children who were away at college. They are like family when they walk into my home.”

The hosts offer more than the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and pie. Jocylyn  Bailin ’89, who has hosted students for the past 12 years in her Needham, Mass., home and will do so again this Thanksgiving, prepares a meal that suits many different tastes. 

“We have omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans so there are always a wide variety of options,” said Bailin. “Mostly we stick to traditional-style foods because that seems to be what folks want for this particular gathering. That being said, I’m always up for a culinary adventure.”

Elyse Cherry ’75, who has hosted students for Thanksgiving for 15 years, said she makes the dinner an affair for her “extended family of choice.”

“Everyone loves the meal, and it’s a bonus to have a Wellesley student,” she said.  “We all lead busy lives, but for an evening we come together, pause, and enjoy each other’s company.”

Photo: Wellesley friends celebrated Thanksgiving in 2017 at the Brookline, Mass., home of Elyse Cherry ’75 (who is not visible in the photo).  Jane Abernathy ’18 is at left, in the red sweater.