Deonte Tanner: still making a difference after graduation


Photo by Deonte Tanner (@deonte_chosen1 on Twitter)

Deonte Tanner has hosted holiday giveaways for years.

“Be the difference” is a phrase familiar to a number of Marquette students. Even prospective students will have been introduced to this phrase the minute they receive their acceptance letter to Marquette.

While a number of students have heard this phrase at different Marquette events and functions, some students have truly grasped their own meaning of the motto.

Deonte Tanner, a 2017 graduate of Marquette’s College of Communication, is proving that “being the difference” can come in many different ways and can even be showcased years after the end of someone’s Marquette journey.

Deonte recently served over 850 Chicago area families Thanksgiving meals through the Servants for Hope organization which traditionally does Christmas and Thanksgiving giveaways to families.

“This was our fifth annual giveaway and it came about my senior year at Marquette,” Tanner said. “Basically it stemmed from the previous year when I did my first Christmas giveaway and I would always look forward to the Christmas giveaway, so I wanted to start something that I could do before Christmas.”

Each year of the Thanksgiving giveaway, Tanner tries to double the number of meals he gave away the previous year.

“People would always be asking me if I was going to do 100 turkeys more than last year and if I was going to double the numbers from the year before so eventually it came to the point where I was able to do several hundred meals,” Tanner said. “It even came to the point where someone challenged me to do 1,000 turkeys and believe it or not through fundraising, we were able to do 1,000 turkeys.”

Tanner mentioned Thanksgiving is an interesting time for him. From balancing fundraising along with being a full-time student pursuing a Ph.D, he keeps himself busy throughout Thanksgiving week. Even with balancing the fundraising and wrapping up the quarter in his ideology and stakeholder relationships classes, he still shows his passion.

“Fundraising can be interesting, but it can also be a challenge because on top of fundraising during the Thanksgiving holiday. I am also having to close in and focus heavily on my classes,” Tanner said. “Most people don’t know that and I don’t expect them to because it is a passion of mine that I do not expect other people to have the same passion for as I do, but it still isn’t easy raising these big numbers along with a pandemic.”

Tanner mentioned that he appreciates the challenge and that it only makes him strive for more. From always pushing to give away more turkeys to also building connections – he mentioned that the challenge makes it fun.

“It is always interesting to see what types of funds we can acquire and even though it is a challenge, it is a fun and interesting challenge. From COVID-19 to also some people not really believing in the spirit of giving during Thanksgiving, it always makes for an interesting fundraising period,” Tanner said. “It has always been a good challenge for me because it allows me to see what different networks I can tap into and who can I reach that I haven’t reached in the past.”

For current Marquette students, Tanner mentioned that he wants his story to motivate people on campus to strive for their own passions.

“I always want to set the world on fire,”  Tanner said. “I think I would want to remind students that life is full of ups and downs and successes and failures, but if you are passionate and authentic about something it will hold you over well throughout this rollercoaster of life you are about to embark on.”

This story was written by TJ Dysart. He can be reached at

Check out the audio package for this story by A&E Audio Producer Julianna Okosun.