On Monday, April 8, on the turf of the WRA Stadium, the Western Reserve Academy community took in the extraordinary celestial spectacle of a Total Solar Eclipse. Pockets of Pioneers dotted the field, eclipse glasses pressed to wide eyes. Excitement grew as the moon’s shadow began its journey across the sun, triggering noticeable change in the air. There was a drop in temperature, and the chirping of crickets and croaking of frogs could be heard among the excited chatter, an echo of joyful anticipation — “it’s happening, it’s happening!”

At the peak of the eclipse, the sky darkened to a deep twilight, revealing stars and planets normally obscured by daylight. We turned bold eyes to the sun, ringed in light, and a surreal four minutes passed in the blink of an eye, eerie, enchanting and shared. Before we know it, the moment turned into a memory, one we will never forget. It is truly something to be tied together by such a spectacular, strange and singular event happening above our heads. Even more so knowing it will be decades before our great school is in the path of an eclipse again, and 420 years will pass before the path of totality passes through our campus. 

An understated, yet sweetly sincere, conversation captured the moment quite well:

“That was so cool.” 

A friend’s reply — hushed, honest and true: “I know. I feel like I’m never going to forget this.”

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Let’s rewind. 

A few hours earlier, classes concluded in the early afternoon, giving our students and faculty the afternoon off to enjoy Eclipse Day. It was a day devoted to both the celebratory and the cerebral, a fitting thematic duo for our equally academic and merry institution. As students and faculty made the trek to the WRA Stadium lot, a party and scholarly expo was waiting for them. 

Under the large white tent, Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck P ’24 welcomed all.

“Our celebration has only just begun,” she said. “Today we are gathered in the spirit of community to celebrate two special occasions, a rare solar eclipse seen in its totality, and the nearing 200th birthday of Western Reserve Academy. The convergence of these two impactful events may be coincidental but their synergy and meaning are undeniably entwined.”

Tropical tunes of The Island Guys (our e-calypso band) made for a cheerful backdrop for the festive side. Buffet lunch was served with a menu following the celestial theme, with offers such as “rocket” dogs; a spinach, strawberry and “sunflower” seed salad; fresh veggies with “sun dried” tomato ranch; Sunny-D, Capri-Sun — you get it! Potion Pals, a friendly student club of beverage enthusiasts, served tasty juice drinks with tropical umbrellas and a cotton candy surprise.

Across from the white tent were a hub of smaller tents offering an academic tour through our multiple departments. An oral history podcasting booth invited community members to tell their stories and record their voice in Reserve’s history. Potted sunflowers, planted and grown by Binita Shaw ’26, were free to take. At another table, laptops and headphones were available to watch a video, compiled and edited by Paige Dix ’24, showcasing the Creative Writing class. In the video, student-writers recited their short stories written in response to prompts such as: Create a story about a character who experiences something almost unbelievable, something that would have been impossible had everything not aligned perfectly. At the same table, copies of a special eclipse-edition of The Reserve Record were available to grab.

Everywhere you looked, there was something to do. The Lux Truck handed out tasty sweets, such as Moon Pies, rocket pops and more (keeping to the space theme). Near the stage was a time capsule box, fashioned from a fallen tree on campus. Over the next few weeks, students will be able to drop off objects to preserve inside. On Eclipse Day, the collection began, with offerings such as a signed lacrosse glove, a chocolate-chip cookie recipe card, an issue of The Reserve Record and more.

Our Eclipse Prose and Poster Contest winners were announced and applauded. Congratulations to our award winners, Cavin Xue ’24 for his written submission, and Charlie German ’26, for her poster art. Raffle prize winners drew eager attention, with prizes ranging from gift cards to local favorites and custom designed Converse high tops. Even a rope-snapping mishap in our class vs. class tug-of-war couldn’t dampen spirits, especially when the grand prize of a Dress Down Day was granted to all of the classes, in recompense. 

As the hour of the eclipse drew closer, we welcomed our student-performers to the main stage under the white tent. The Jazz Band performed Louis Armstrong’s “Sunny Side of the Street,” the Academy Choir sang The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun,” student-dancers dazzled to the tune of “Orange-Colored Sky” by Nat King Cole and musical theater enthusiasts finished the lineup with “Da Doo,” from Little Shop of Horrors (featuring a potted sunflower as a guest cast member). Bravo to all who performed and to the faculty who designed such a great program — and what an incredible way to lead us to the main event.

We exited to the field in fashion, eclipse glasses in hand and commemorative gold 200 spectacles clutched in the other. On the turf, we all found our viewing spots, informal and free as we settled in our “seats.” If you stood in the center of the field and spun in a perfect circle, you would find yourself utterly surrounded by clusters of friends and family, and it would keep you warm even as the temperature cooled.

When the eclipse passed, we switched our eclipse glasses for the 200 spectacles and posed for a group photo — or as much of a group photo as you can manage with 435+ students! All together, we cheered for the eclipse, for soon reaching 200 years as a school, and for the centuries ahead.

In the words of our Head of School, spoken at the start of the event: “We come together in community to reflect, sing, share, play, dance, dine, and observe as the moon passes between Earth and the Sun. As day turns to darkness, and back again to day, it is in the spirit of collective effervescence we celebrate 200 years of light and truth and blaze trails for an inspired future.”

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Eclipse Day drew the eyes of many! More than 400 people tuned into the livestream, representing 15 countries and 40 states. We express our gratitude to all who made this event possible — the Academic Chairs who designed the expo and the faculty who helped run the booths. We thank our Technology Office and Facilities team, who assembled, disassembled, and kept everything running smoothly. They are the foundation of every successful event. We thank the FLIK dining staff for crafting a delicious and playfully pun-ny menu. And we thank the many, many helping hands who contributed to the success of this event. 

We give special thanks to Associate Head of School Brenda Petersen, Dean of Academic Affairs Wanda Boesch-Cordon and Director of Alumni Relations & Special Events Abbey Baker ’94 for expertly organizing this grand affair and giving our community such a gift. Finally, we thank our Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck, who brought this idea to life. In true Suzanne Walker Buck-fashion, it was an idea born of inspiration, purpose and joy. Under such leadership, it is only natural that our heads are turned to the sun. We look forward to all that awaits.