This year, Waynesburg University is hosting Charter Day on Tuesday, March 23. However, it will be an online affair that will begin at 11 a.m. There are similarities and differences between this year’s event and the event in the past years.
Most of the day’s structure will remain intact. President Douglas G. Lee will speak. Guest speaker, Mark Harner, will also speak. There will be religious related content, and Charter Day chicken will be served for dinner.
Harner, a Waynesburg University graduate, was the valedictorian of his class at Waynesburg and has recently written a book about his faith called “Living Uncommonly”. Harner is currently retired from a career as a CFO of Waste Management in Texas.
“He’s a great guy and really well respected,” Lee said in a zoom interview. “I think it’s important to have a speaker that can link the idea of our university and the mission to the larger goal of educating our students. You want someone that really does have a good handle on the mission and on the history of the university.”
Charter Day is a day to reflect on all the University has endured since its creation in 1850. This year will celebrate the 171 anniversary.
“The United States has the Fourth of July, we celebrate the country’s birthday and we’re reminded of the sacrifices of so many people,” Lee said. “Charter Day is sort of the same way as the celebration of the date that the University was created. It reminds us of the mission that was created in that moment, to serve God through this institution.”
Last year, Lee cancelled the Charted Day festivities because of COVID-19. He recorded a short speech and put it on YouTube to encourage everyone that the pandemic won’t ruin the school’s success and determination to live out its mission.
“I felt like we could not let the pandemic discourage or change us from our mission and path we’re on,” Lee explained. “I attempted to convey that we can’t lose sight of the bigger issue of educating everyone and getting you out into the real world.”
While Charter Day is more of a celebration and reflection, the food is also a focus. Every year, the cafeteria serves food buffet style. A long table is placed in the middle of the dining area and covered with a myriad of food items. Students line up, get their food, then dig in. There are many options, but the favorite of many is the Charter Day chicken.
“Oh, it’s the best chicken in the world,” Lee claims.” We served it one year and we liked it so much we said let’s have it again. Then, a couple students started saying ‘Charter Day Chicken’ it sort of stuck and it’s really a recent tradition on Charter Day.”
Aladdin Dining Services’ Food Service Director, Lesley Davis, plays a huge role in the delivery of the well anticipated Charter Day dinner. She is in her 11 year working at Waynesburg. Davis originally started as the executive chef and has worked her way up since.
“I love the smallness of the school,” Davis explained. “I worked at FSU that had like 40,000 students, so I didn’t get to meet and know everybody. Here we get to meet a lot of students and the faculty, the staff, and just this whole community and their mission is all tied in with what I believe my missions in life are.”
The Charter Day chicken wasn’t as much of a hot commodity in the past compared to recent years. One reason for this is because it was missing something, according to Davis: the secret sauce.
“The Charter Day chicken was already in place when I was here as the executive chef,” Davis said over a zoom interview. “I knew what the chicken was, but I didn’t have the secret sauce that went on it. So, between myself and the previous staff, we worked together to come up with the sauce that has now been used for the last 11 years and they all love it.”
Davis said it’s a basic cream cheese parmesan sauce. The chicken is breaded in a panko and parmesan crust. It is then deep fried and baked off. The moisture of the chicken comes from the deep-frying process. Look at the end of the table this year for the extra sauce the workers have become accustomed to leaving out.
“I like to feel the cafeteria is back to normal,” Davis said. “We’re actually going to do Charter Day as a buffet, with linen tablecloths, rolled silverware. We’ll still have COVID restrictions in line with sneeze guards, but we want to bring that feeling back to we’re having a normal Charter Day, so it won’t be as busy as normal, but we’re trying to bring normalcy back to the cafeteria.”