Dr. Jan Sanders was the first Black pediatrician to have her own practice here. Her husband, Leo McWilliams, is an assistant dean in the University of Notre Dame engineering department and a “quadruple Domer,” a title bestowed on the rare graduate with four degrees from the school.
But what’s truly impressive is the amount of food they cook for Thanksgiving.
One turkey comes off Leo’s grill, and another out of a smoker. He’s from Memphis, so there are ribs, chicken and brisket, too. Jan makes at least four styles of dressing, and simmers 35 bunches of turnip and mustard greens. She builds pans of macaroni and cheese, and bakes her mother’s brown sugar poundcake. Their sons, Cheyney, 28, and Quinlan, 25, boil pounds of sweet potatoes to make the pies.
Ever since the sons were in elementary school, the couple have hosted Thanksgiving in their cozy two-story house on a cul-de-sac in this suburb of South Bend. The guest list has included almost every lonely Black freshman enrolled at Notre Dame, a school where only about 3 percent of the 8,600 or so undergraduates are African-American.