A home away from home for the holidays.
Dean Tilghman started living on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus 38 years ago. Three years later, Tilghman was able to open his doors on campus to UMES students staying over the holidays.
“It was started accidentally,” Tilghman, an area director and counselor for UMES, recalls. “I live here on campus in one of the residence halls and I invite my family over for Thanksgiving dinner every year, then I realized there are students that don’t go home for Thanksgiving.”
The first year Tilghman hosted Thanksgiving for students, he invited the entire basketball team into his home. Tilghman says the coach bought the food and he prepared it.
After the first year with the basketball team, the tradition changed slightly — the Tilghman family started footing the bill for the cause.
‘There were students from California, Texas… They don’t go home for Thanksgiving because they go home a few weeks later for Christmas.”
Over the years, Tilghman says he has welcomed as many as 35 people at a time into his home for the feast. After the food is purchased, he works with his sister to prepare it.
“I felt it wasn’t fair for me to have my family here and then have students around me sitting in their rooms or going to McDonald’s for a hamburger… that’s not Thanksgiving.”
The menu includes turkey, chicken, candid yam, macaroni and cheese, greens, cabbage and more. Tilghman says his sister is a tremendous baker, therefore she contributes cakes and pies for the soiree.
According to Tilghman, before students go home, a list of people who will be staying on campus for the holidays is created for security purposes. Tilghman gets a hold of the list, picks up the phone and personally calls students to invite them.
For the most part, first year students are invited, however, Joshua Jikame, a sophomore studying aerospace engineering, will be attending for the second year. Jikame is from Dallas.
Jikame was supposed to go home for Thanksgiving last year but changed his mind last minute because he would be flying home just a few weeks later. Jikame typically celebrates Thanksgiving with his family and was thrilled to receive Tilghman’s offer.
“It’s a very amazing gesture for him to invite students who aren’t going back home for Thanksgiving,” Jikame says. “It’s a family thing and for us to be invited means he regards us as family, as well”
Jikame says the gesture goes beyond Thanksgiving. Whenever the two bump into each other on campus, they are able to catch up as close friends. Although he loves the family environment and meeting new people during the dinner, Jikame says he can’t wait for the turkey and greens.
Tilghman is known around the community for his service and was awarded the Board of Regents Staff Award for outstanding service to students.