College unites under solar eclipse


Monday, April 8, the College’s students and faculty gathered on the Sunken Garden to witness the total eclipse that passed over the contiguous United States, with a partial eclipse in Williamsburg. The art and sciences department-sponsored event provided a rare moment of community and reunion to many amidst the recent conflicts on campus.

According to NPR, the eclipse traveled across parts of 15 states, beginning along Mexico’s Pacific Coast around 11 a.m. PDT, then reaching totality in Texas around 1:30 p.m. CT and concluding in Maine around 3:30 p.m. EST.

Although Williamsburg wasn’t in the eclipse’s direct path, a partial eclipse lasting just short of 2.5 hours occurred with 80.9% of the sun covered during its peak at 3:19 p.m.

The last total eclipse occurred before the academic year began, in August 2017. Lila Datz ’25 reflected on the significance of this eclipse’s timing, particularly on the campus culture as the community nears the end of the second semester.

“I feel like the community aspect and the people involved is more magical than the actual event, even though it’s really pretty,” Datz said. “But, it just feels like more of a social event that would bring people together in a way that’s natural.”

In anticipation for a large turnout, the arts and sciences department advertised the event only with minimally-worded fliers in the week leading up. Nevertheless, Evan Maly ’24 credited their fliers for the impressive attendance on the day-of.

“Yeah, I’ve seen advertisements all over campus for ‘Come to the Sunken Gardens to see the eclipse!’ and it’s been really effective,” Maly said.

The College bought over 1500 sun-protection glasses in preparation to hand out. Once the event began, their supply ran out quickly, but Clayton Emge ’25 expressed his gratitude for the school’s efforts nonetheless.

“Yeah, I think it’s really cool that the school is supporting it and handing out glasses for people to protect their eyes, and I thought that it would be a fun way to come see the eclipse with my friends,” Emge said.

Associate teaching professor of art Michael Gaynes, along with another faculty member, set up their telescopes for attendees to observe the eclipse up-close. Gaynes expressed his enthusiasm for today’s event, having also set out his telescope for the eclipse in 2017 and the transit of Mercury in 2019.

“I think it’s really just fun,” Gaynes said. “And we’re able to get a big crowd just to say, you know, ‘Hey, let’s all go out’ and the light’s starting to change a little bit.”

Audrey Fisher ’24, like many others, was let out of her afternoon class early to attend. She too emphasized the unifying nature of the eclipse.

“It’s just really cool to see the whole school kind of unite over something, especially with all of the contentious things that have been going on recently,” Fisher said.

As the Sunken Gardens filled during the event’s peak between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., Adriano Moran ’25 set up his hammock on the field to watch the eclipse. Moran explained the ease of companionship among students at the event.

“I think the culture is kind of, like, you just sit and then, because everybody’s here, people just like walked up and we just kind of formed this Frankenstein group of people,” Moran said. “You can’t watch the eclipse by yourself, you know? This only happens once every how many years so you’ve got to share it with the people you love.”

Kavi Shah ’24 highlighted the size of the gathering too, describing it as far larger than any other event he has been to in his four years at the College

“It’s amazing how many people are here. I’ve never seen this much of William and Mary in one place at one time,” Shah said. 

For Maly, the eclipse became an opportunity for personal reunions, as he unexpectedly encountered his old friend, Zachary Lutzky ’24, after two years. Together, they watched the eclipse through Lutzky’s camera. Maly was pleased by the renewed sense of community brought on by this solar event.

“I’m just really impressed with how many people came together at this one moment,” Maly said. “I don’t know if I’ve seen this much camaraderie on campus. It’s a nice change of pace.”


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