Those who work at Washington State University seem to have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, if the 11 people from across the campus interviewed here are any indication. Not only are they thankful for family, friends and good health, but a number mentioned their appreciation for their work and workplace — WSU!
For Yolanda Flores Niemann, Thanksgiving is all about coming together, eating and watching football on TV. “It happens to be my favorite holiday,” she said.
Niemann is especially grateful that her children (son, 24, and daughter, 21) will be coming to Pullman for the holiday. “We have a special tradition for Thanksgiving where we all sit down to dinner and everyone at the table says what they’re thankful for — and then we eat!” Niemann said.
“It’s just such a nice holiday because there are no expectations, no gift exchanging, just playing games with family, and tradition.”
Niemann is the department chair of Comparative Ethnic Studies
Wes Leid is mostly grateful for his wife, kids and grandkids being alive and healthy: “It’s probably the best thing that you could ask for,” he said.
For Leid, the Thanksgiving break is a time of relaxation, a chance to come up for air before finishing the semester.
“I don’t pay too much attention to the holidays in general,” said Leid. “Although I am sure we’ll eat a lot — probably too much!”
Leid is a professor of animal science and a senior faculty fellow in the Honors College
Being thankful for family and the good health and prosperity of the people in his life are the things most important to Dennis A. Warner. “I have three kids and they are all successful and enjoying life right now,” said Warner. “We get to live in a land with opportunities to aspire and set your own goals — that’s pretty amazing.”
Warner is grateful for his job at WSU: “I get to interact with people and I am reaching a point where I can spend time with younger faculty and facilitate their professional careers,” he said. “It’s really fun.”
Warner is the associate dean for the College of Education
“The older I get, the more I thank God for my strength and abilities,” said Jana Vitamanti. “Everything can change so quickly.”
Being a newlywed, Vitamanti is excited about spending her second Thanksgiving with her husband. “It’s been a good thing in my life,” she said.
In all she is thankful for a peaceful, happy life with few struggles. “Strong faith in daily living and looking to God for guidance is what has helped me live a good life,” she said.
Vitamanti is a programming assistant in the School of Architecture
To Pam Guptil, being thankful for a free country and the freedoms that accompany it should be remembered during this time of year. “It does not come easy,” she said.
Guptil is also thankful for her husband, the life they have together and her job at WSU. “I believe I have found my niche in the math department; the faculty are great!
“Thanksgiving launches the holiday season and I love Christmas; it is a time to count our blessings,” she said. “Plus you get wonderful leftovers after Thanksgiving — you don’t have to cook all weekend afterwards!”
Guptil is the graduate programming coordinator in the Department of Mathematics
“I am so thankful for my lovely wife, because she is the very best at everything!” said Mike Poch with a huge smile. “I have a job I enjoy, and I work with pleasant people. And sometimes I even get to see my kids (who are in college),” he said.
Poch loves getting together for Thanksgiving with family and friends to eat and have a good time playing games, talking and enjoying life.
“I have a good life and I am very thankful for all I have,” said Poch. “I am very lucky.”
Poch is a pharmacist and the pharmacy director at Health and Wellness Services
If all else falls apart, your family is still there, said Bob Mitchell. “Thanksgiving is primo time for spending with your family, taking the day off and acknowledging what you are thankful for and appreciating each other,” said Mitchell.
Trying to be thankful every day and not just on Thanksgiving is something Mitchell stresses.
“We all love spending time together,” he said. “We just want to live our lives serving God, country and community and enjoying one another’s company.”
Mitchell is a media coordinator in the School of Veterinary Medicine
“I’m thankful for all the steelhead in the river; I just wish I could catch one!” said David Yonge.
As with many WSU faculty and staff, Yonge is also thankful for the recent coming together of the university community. “This is the first time in the 21 years I have been here that we can clearly see a common vision for the university, and I am really impressed,” he said.
For Thanksgiving, Yonge and his family enjoy his grandmother’s candied yam recipe and creamed onions, not forgetting the turkey.
“You gotta smell the turkey cooking,” he said with a smile.
Yonge is a professor of environmental engineering and director of multi-phase environmental research in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Families as well as friendships kept throughout the years mean a lot to Ana Maria Rodriguez-Vivaldi.
“You can manage to retain a part of your youth through these friendships,” she said.“Even though I am older now, I can bridge my entire life by this context of love, and I am grateful for that.”
“My parents were brought up with American traditions, so our Thanksgiving is fairly normal — eating, sleeping and watching football,” said Rodriguez-Vivaldi. “Since my husband is usually away for Thanksgiving, it is me and the kids and any orphan graduate students I may have.” Thanksgiving at Rodriguez-Vivaldi’s house is nothing formal, but the good china and silverware do come out. “We can all be in sweat pants but we will use the good silverware!” she said.
Rodriguez-Vivaldi is also grateful for the Department of Foreign Languages reaching objectives set two years ago. “We’ve reached a high level of quality in our courses and that is rewarding and pleasing,” she said.
Rodriguez-Vivaldi is an associate professor of Spanish and a graduate student advisor
“I am grateful that I work with the neatest people,” said Kathleen M. Willemsen. “We work together really well and our boss, Bill Hendrix, gives us lots of freedom in teaching and working with students.”
Willemsen is also thankful for her husband and stepsons. “My husband and I moved here a few years ago and he’s so supportive of me,” she said.
Willemsen does not want to forget to give thanks for her good health: “I never take it for granted, doing things I love like gardening and fishing.”
Willemsen is an associate professor and Extension horticulturist in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture
“I am thankful for the time of year when families make the special effort to be together in person and in spirit,” said Beverly Makhani.
Makhani is also thankful to be part of a year of change in the College of Business and Economics. “The university as a whole has gone through tremendous positive changes this year.
“I also look forward to the end-of-the-year environment, and that there is the chance to put closure on the past and plan for a better tomorrow,” she said.
Makhani is the communications director for the College of Business and Economics.