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By Laura Miller ’92 on August 29, 2017 01:00 PM

SOLAR SPECTACLE. Some 175 Reed alumni and their families traveled to the Oregon desert to witness the solar eclipse. Photo by William Aegerter '85

On the day of the “Great American Eclipse,” 175 Reed alumni and their friends and families tilted back their heads and peered towards the cloudless azure sky, counting down the minutes to 10:21 a.m.—the first moment of totality. Beneath layer rocky buttes, they spread out in clusters of camp chairs on a green irrigated pasture not far from the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument in Eastern Oregon.

When the moon revealed the sun’s ethereal and shimmering corona, old and new friends traded gasps of open-mouthed awe. For two thrilling minutes, parents, children, and grandparents witnessed an event that comes only once or twice in a lifetime. As the eclipse waned, stories of seeing diamond rings and rippling shadows wove together with reflections on how good it felt to share a rare human moment of wonder.

This singular experience was the fruit of months of meticulous planning spearheaded by Mike Teskey, fearless director of Reed’s Alumni Initiatives. Forty-eight hours earlier on Saturday, two highway buses, four vans packed with gear, and a caravan of assorted vehicles left campus for a Reedie eclipse extravaganza. With no small amount of effort, Mike and his crew coordinated the movement of alumni spanning more than five decades to hiking and fossil digging side trips before getting everyone settled at three large campsites around Kimberly, Oregon.

On Sunday, participants made outings to a nearby interpretive center, hikes, and a cool swim in the John Day River. Many simply enjoyed staying at their campsite, hanging out in the breezy shade while chatting, reading, and sketching. Dinner featured a locavore’s delights: culinary offerings all sourced from central Oregon: smoked meat, fresh salmon, grilled veggies, ripe tomatoes, fruit pies, and local wine, beer, and cider.

Sunday night, Tyler Nordgren ’91, a professor of astronomy and physics at University of Redlands and author of Sun Moon Earth: The History of Solar Eclipses From Omens of Doom to Einstein and Exoplanets, spoke to the group about what to expect. He encouraged Reedies to get out of their heads and experience the eclipse with all of their senses. Tyler said that while an eclipse touches one in a deep and personal way, he thinks it’s best to have that experience surrounded by loved ones.

For more about upcoming alumni trips—including a voyage to Antartica—check out our page for Alumni Travel Study.