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The Northwest community gathered Tuesday for the annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony, which took place this year at the Memorial Bell Tower. (Photos by Brandon Bland/Northwest Missouri State University)

The Northwest community gathered Tuesday for the annual Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony, which took place this year at the Memorial Bell Tower. (Photos by Brandon Bland/Northwest Missouri State University)

Dec. 6, 2019

Northwest celebrates holiday, diversity, inclusion during annual tree lighting


The Northwest Missouri State University community gathered Tuesday night for its 11th annual Holiday Tree Lighting and welcomed the season with a celebration of diversity.

The annual event, begun in 2009 and hosted by the Jasinski family, moved this year from the Thomas Gaunt House, which serves as the University’s president’s residence, to the Memorial Bell Tower – a centerpiece of the Northwest campus.

“The lighting of this tree is a tradition that has come to represent how we celebrate the holiday season as a community,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said. “It is a tradition that has grown to mean more than just one holiday or religion, but rather to represent a season of kinship, a season of fellowship and a season of generosity among us all.”

In addition, Jasinski, along with Northwest students and staff members, emphasized Northwest’s focus on inclusion. Jasinski said he hopes community members gain a new perspective when they attend the tree lighting ceremony each year.  

“It is hope, peace and unity that we should remember as we light this tree – a tree that will shine much further than the Northwest campus or Maryville but way beyond,” Jasinski said. “It’s a tree that represents inclusiveness, a sense of belonging and traditions with memories.”

The Horace Mann Laboratory School’s Bearcat Choir performed renditions of “O Christmas Tree” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town.” “Santa Bobby Bearcat” was on hand to welcome guests and pose for photos inside the J.W. Jones Student Union where patrons enjoyed refreshments after the ceremony.

Additionally, Northwest students shared their connections during the ceremony to a variety of religions. Students representing the Christian, Hindu, Jewish and Muslim faiths placed crosses, the Star of David, Aums, and a crescent moon and star on the tree as symbols with which they identify.

Student Senate President Asma Hassan places an Om, a symbol of her Muslim beliefs, on Northwest's holiday tree during Tuesday's tree lighting ceremony.

Student Senate President Asma Hassan places an Om, a symbol of her Muslim beliefs, on Northwest's holiday tree during Tuesday's tree lighting ceremony.

Student Senate President Asma Hassan discussed her own beliefs as a Sudanese Muslim and her pride for sharing traditions and cultures passed down by family members.

“I’m truly glad to be sharing this space of inclusivity as we share the gift of this holiday season,” she said. “These moments are what makes Northwest great. Our University constantly strives to make sure every member of our family is seen and heard by learning, caring, connecting, practicing civility and showing pride.”

Dr. Justin Mallet, Northwest’s associate provost of diversity and inclusion, noted the star that caps the holiday tree as a symbol of hope on which many cultural and religious traditions focus.

“May the star atop this tree be a symbol of unity across cultures and traditions, a source of light in the darkness of uncertain times and a ray of hope as we strive for excellence,” Mallet said.

Maryville Mayor Rachael Martin reflected on what it means to be a part of the “Bearcat family” and the rich partnership that exists between Northwest and the city of Maryville.

“In this family, we celebrate,” she said. “Whether it’s academic success, diversity, athletic dominance, or in endearing traditions like the annual tree lighting ceremony, Bearcats love few things more than each other’s company and a good reason to celebrate.”

Northwest accepting donations through Dec. 20

The Jasinski family annually selects philanthropies in conjunction with the tree lighting. This year, the Jasinski family invites giving to the University’s Career Closet, the Bearcat Food Pantry and the Pay it Forward Fund, as well as Ben’s Stockings of Hope and We Gotchya.

Donors may bring items to the Administration Building, B.D. Owens Library, Lamkin Activity Center or the Student Union and place them in bins at trees in each location through Dec. 20.

Donors should bring donations for the Pay it Forward Fund to Northwest’s Career Services office, located on the first floor of the Administration Building. Donations may include monetary gifts as well as gas cards and retail store cards.

Community members may find needed items and provide donations to the Food Pantry throughout the year by visiting www.suggest-link.net/studentaffairs/foodpantry/.


Media contact:

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