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Cronkite Students Spend Thanksgiving Dinner with Dean Callahan – One Last Time

December 2, 2019
Thanksgiving at the Callahans

Cronkite students joined Dean Christopher Callahan and his wife, Jean, for Thanksgiving dinner.

On a cool and cloudy Thanksgiving day, 25 people gathered for “Thanksgiving with the Callahans,” one of the great unofficial traditions of ASU and the Cronkite School.

Over more than a decade, about 150 students who otherwise had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving have been invited for turkey and all the trimmings at the home of founding Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan and his wife, Jean.

This year took on the added significance that it would be the last in the Valley: Christopher Callahan in July becomes the next president of the University of the Pacific in California.

“Jean and I just hated the idea that our out-of-state freshmen who couldn’t get home for the holiday would spend Thanksgiving in a mostly empty Taylor Place,” Callahan said of the residence hall. “So we thought they would appreciate spending Thanksgiving with our family.”

Jean Callahan prepared a 27-pound turkey in the oven, traditional style. Dean Callahan went to work on a couple of smaller ones, one smoked with sugar maple wood chips for most of the day, and the other deep-fried in peanut oil. There were plenty of sides, including Jean’s famous sweet potatoes with marshmallows.

Also on the menu: lively conversation, football games playing in the family room, bocce and cornhole games on the lawn and hanging out with a star of the show, the Callahans' 14-year-old golden mix, Chase.

“We love everything about it,” Callahan said. “The students get to enjoy each other’s company, watch some football, play lawn games outside, and then of course devour Thanksgiving dinner!”

Cronkite student Ashley Engle thanked the Callahans for the Thanksgiving experience on behalf of all the students there.

“It would have cost me $700 to go home for two days,” she said, adding, “I am super thankful that I got to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal with a loving family and friends.”

Taylor Moon still remembers Thanksgiving with the Callahans nearly a decade ago. Besides the food, she recalls the conversation around the table with others, including Dean Callahan, who wanted to know more about the students, where they were from, their goals and what they usually did on Thanksgiving.

“I think the best part was simply having somewhere to go,’’ she said. “I was from out of state and couldn't afford to travel back home. As a freshman, this was my first Thanksgiving away from home. The fact that this was even offered was amazing. I initially in my mind had it figured out that I would be eating a turkey sandwich alone in my dorm, but thanks to this kindness, I had somewhere to go.”

Jazzy Quick attended Thanksgiving at the Callahans back in 2010.

“It was quite wonderful,” she said. “It was my first year that I was not going to be able to go home for Thanksgiving. It was really lovely to feel a part of a family and share some laughs … I hope someone else hosts this once Dean Callahan leaves. It was a really wonderful tradition that was super unique to Cronkite.”

Like in years past, the students this year left after dinner and dessert with smiles and plenty of leftovers, loading onto a bus for the trip back to the Cronkite School. Though this was the last “Thanksgiving with the Callahans” at ASU, you can bet a slice of smoked turkey that students will be gathering next Thanksgiving in the President’s Residence at the University of the Pacific.

“Most definitely, Jean and I are taking this tradition with us,” Callahan said.