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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

The Horace Mann Bearcat Choir performs outside the Thomas Gaunt House Thursday night during Northwest's annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

The Horace Mann Bearcat Choir performs outside the Thomas Gaunt House Thursday night during Northwest's annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony. (Photo by Todd Weddle/Northwest Missouri State University)

Dec. 2, 2016

Community celebrates unity during annual Holiday Tree Lighting

The Northwest Missouri State University community ushered in the holiday season Thursday night with messages of peace and unity during its the eighth annual Holiday Tree Lighting on the lawn of the Thomas J. Gaunt House.

An estimated 200 guests gathered to see Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski and first lady Denise Jasinski illuminate the Black Hills Spruce tree with Student Senate President Hannah Sears.

“Why do we all come here year after year?” President Jasinski asked the crowd during his remarks. “It’s because traditions matter. Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They provide a sense of belonging. They provide us all lasting memories and so, too, does this holiday tree.”

Jasinski and other community leaders instilled the holiday tree as a symbol of encouragement for guests, no matter their upbringing or religious traditions, to connect with others and show gratitude. The Horace Mann Laboratory School’s Bearcat Choir and the Maryville High School Spectrum Choir shared similar messages through song.

“The lighting of this tree is indeed a tradition that has come to represent how we celebrate the holiday season, not just at Northwest Missouri State University and not just in the city of Maryville and throughout our community but really throughout northwest Missouri,” Jasinski said. “It’s a lot more than just one holiday or one religion but rather a way to represent a season of kinship, of fellowship, generosity and especially unity among us all.”

Travis Dimmitt, speaking on behalf of the Campus Ministerial Alliance, encouraged guests to peel away the labels placed on others.

“Increasingly we slap a label on a person, and for us that is how that person continues to exist,” Dimmitt said. “When we do that, when we look at someone purely from a single facet of that person’s life, we diminish that person’s humanity and in a very real sense the gifts that person can offer to all of us.”

He added, “We must give our hearts. We must give of our whole selves.”

In his remarks, Maryville Mayor Jason McDowell thanked guests for their contributions to the Northwest and Maryville communities while reflecting on their strengthened partnership.

“The partnership between Northwest and the city of Maryville has grown over the years to one of prosperity and mutual respect,” McDowell said. “We can look back at the Fourth Street corridor and the future multipurpose complex as examples of this team effort. I look forward to seeing this partnership continue to flourish for years to come. Maryville is a better place because of each one of you and the uniqueness and insight that you bring to the community.”

The event also gives guests opportunities to step inside the historic Gaunt House for refreshments and holiday treats as well as take pictures with Santa Bobby Bearcat on the home’s patio. This year, community members also were invited to create cards and personal messages for area men and women serving in the military overseas.

Additionally, the Jasinski family annually selects a philanthropy in conjunction with the Tree Lighting. This year, the Jasinski family focused giving efforts on the University’s new Pay It Forward Fund and Food Pantry and accepted 540 items for donation to the food pantry.

The Pay it Forward fund helps students and employees with needs such as gas money to help students get home for emergencies, medication and medical assessments, food and personal hygiene items, and supplemental books and materials required for coursework. Since 2014 the Pay it Forward Fund has provided items and services worth about $8,000. Community members may continue to make donations to the Pay It Forward Fund by clicking here.

The Gaunt House, located at the south edge of campus, was built during the 1870s and serves as the presidential residence. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468