DECATUR — It takes a very special occasion these days to make Patrick White, Millikin University’s new president, wear a tie that isn’t blue.
That occasion Wednesday afternoon was the university’s 80th annual Cookie Party, where White wore a red tie adorned with studious Santa Clauses and welcomed students in jolly fashion by wishing them happy holidays and good luck on their finals next week.
“Save me one cookie, that’s all I ask,” he pleaded with some.
Molly Berry, director of inclusion and student engagement, and her crew had more than 5,500 homemade cookies at the ready in the lower level of Richards Treat University Center when White beckoned a line of people that stretched all the way up to the Wornick Dining Room on the main floor.
Malcolm Branch of Chicago, a transfer student from Ohio University and a fifth-year “super” senior, made sure he was first.
“I was at the end of the line for my first Cookie Party last year and wanted to go out on top this year,” he said.
Branch was among several students wearing elf hats and encouraging students to support an effort to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation by writing letters to Santa as part of an “A million reasons to believe” campaign by Macy’s department stores. For each letter received, Macy’s is donating $1 up to $1 million to Make-A-Wish.
Rachel Ives, a freshman communications major from Decatur, is helping head the effort by placing five letter-writing stations around campus and staffing a station just outside the Cookie Party on Wednesday.
“Make-A-Wish is just an amazing organization,” Ives said.
Freshmen Emma Hoyer of Champaign and Brandi DeLeonardo of Elgin were among the students who wrote a letter to Santa Wednesday even though each said they had already contributed one.
“It doesn’t hurt to write as many as you can,” DeLeonardo said. “It takes like five minutes, and it takes longer than that to get your food here.”
Christmas carols by a dozen BluBop singers added a festive touch on the way into the party, while music by Millikin’s String Arts Ensemble kept the mood going inside as students gathered to enjoy their cookies.
Sophomore Charlie Decker of Pana also came through for Berry after another group canceled, assembling a half-dozen people from his residence hall to perform with him as “Molly’s Holly Jollies.”
“If that’s not the Christmas spirit,” Berry said with a grin, “then I don’t know what is.”