Presidential Scholars Etiquette Dinner teaches table manners

It’s that time of the year again: visits to grandma’s house, giving thanks and — wait — does the fork go on the left or right?

The rapidly-approaching holiday season means one thing for the hungry college student: family dinners. To save ourselves the embarrassment of another stuffing and gravy-soaked Christmas sweater, it’s time to put down the finger foods, pick up a napkin and brush up on our dining manners with the help of Matt Durack, host of the annual Presidential Scholars Etiquette Dinner that took place Nov. 7 in Meadow Brook Hall. 

On the night of the event, 30 Presidential Scholars — some of the top students at OU — gathered in the elegant Christopher Wren dining room, dressed business casual and confused as ever on which silverware to use when and if the bread rolls on the tables were meant for eating or mere decoration.

However, with the help of Durack’s handy “Proper Table Manners” pamphlet at each table setting and instruction from the man himself, the dining scenario was soon demystified for many of the students.

“This dinner answered a lot of the questions I had about how to act in a formal situation,” said psychology sophomore Sami Nagy.

“It’s so important to make a good impression at mealtime,” stressed Durack. “One faux pas and you can kiss that promotion goodbye.”

As the first course, soup, was served, Durack began with basic etiquette tips.

 “The napkin remains on your lap (except for use) until the end of the meal,” he said. “And don’t forget to take small, manageable bites. Gobbling is never attractive.”

Dean of the Honors College, Graeme Harper,, found the dinner to be a good chance for students and faculty alike to become more at ease with fancy dining.

 “(The Presidential Scholar Etiquette Dinners) don’t teach you to be someone you’re not,” he said. “They give you the tools to be who you are, even when in formal company.”

Sami Nagy also found the dinner helpful. “Etiquette is about respect for yourself and others, and I think most of (the Presidential Scholars) have that,” she said. “Now we know how to show it.”

As the dinner came to a close, Durack reminded guests about the importance of writing a thank you note to the host. “Gratitude is one of the most powerful forms of etiquette,” he said. “Always take the time to show it.” 


Contact Staff Reporter Oona Goodin-Smith at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @oona_matata