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Yotes reflect on solar eclipse experiences

Just before noon on August 21, 2017, the sky began to darken. A drop in temperature accompanied the suddenly dimmed natural light. As the shadows turned closer to darkness, the lamps on The College of Idaho’s campus began to turn on automatically, shining as bright as they would on any summer evening, despite it being the middle of the day.

It was the first total solar eclipse to pass through America since 1979, and Idaho was right in its path of totality. And for the C of I’s students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends in the community, the 99.5 percent totality rating for Caldwell made the steps of Boone Hall the perfect place to experience the rare astrological phenomenon.

“It’s not every day you’re so clearly reminded of how much you depend on the arrangement of the solar system for your very survival,” said C of I senior theatre student Casey Alcoser, one of the many who came to view the eclipse on campus.

Armed with free eclipse viewing glasses and materials to build special eclipse viewers using cereal boxes, the College held a viewing party of its own, inviting all members of the C of I community to come watch the event together. Teams of student athletes took breaks from their busy practice schedule. Local members of the College faculty arrived along with many of their students. Many recent alumni came back to campus, laughing and joking with friends while Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” played on a sound system.

“This was a collaboration of a lot of our staff,” said Jen Nelson, C of I’s director of residence life and associate dean of students who helped to organize the impromptu event. “We knew we were so close to having full totality that we should have something to make it into an educational opportunity.”

The College’s Whittenberger Planetarium held several shows about the eclipse leading up to event itself, teaching the public about the science behind the event, but Nelson and other members of the College staff also wanted to have a viewing event on the day of eclipse. Nelson served as the emcee of the viewing event, pointing out some of the science behind the eclipse as it happened, including the crescent shaped shadows that could be seen on the ground.

“I think any event that brings people from all corners of the College is something worth celebrating,” Nelson said.

While much of the crowd on campus had connections to the campus itself, others arrived from out of the state to watch on campus with friends. Portland, Oregon natives Angela and Aaron Fish came to visit the campus with their young daughter, Magnolia, while on a trip to visit friends in the Caldwell area.

“We figured we might get a better view here than we would have in the city,” Aaron said. “We’re definitely not disappointed.”

Angela had praise not only for the eclipse, but for the on-campus event itself, which she complimented for having a positive, relaxed and educational atmosphere.

“The College made it especially pleasant for us, even though we’re not from here,” Angela said. “This is a really nice community, and I think that really shined.”

The campus wasn’t the only place Yotes were watching the skies. A group of alumni made the trip to Stanley, Idaho to see the eclipse at its full 100 percent coverage, leaving from Caldwell early on Monday morning to beat the traffic and watch the eclipse’s corona as it happened.

“Every one of us were so excited,” said Edith Dull ’15, one of the alumni who made the trip to Stanley. “The very last minute we all watched as the last sliver of light was snuffed out, and everyone started cheering and exclaiming as we took off our glasses to see it. The cows even all laid down and started mooing as loud as they could.”

With the next total solar eclipse passing through the United States until 2024, Dull is happy to have had the chance to see this one up close and personal.

“I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world,” she said.

The College of Idaho has a 125-year-old legacy of excellence. The C of I is known for its outstanding academic programs, winning athletics tradition and history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars, three governors, four NFL players and countless business leaders and innovators. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell, where its proximity both to Boise and to the world-class outdoor activities of southwest Idaho’s mountains and rivers offers unique opportunities for learning beyond the classroom.  For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.