Eclipse begins new academic year in a unique way

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—Photos by Kristi Jones

View an Eclipse Party Photo Gallery.

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It isn’t often that an academic year begins with one of the most interesting science lessons in which everyone can participate … and experience it together outside.

eclipse_3In fact, it’s been 99 years since the last total solar eclipse went from coast-to-coast and 38 years since such an event was seen in the continental U.S., according to NASA.

But on the first official day of classes, Aug. 21, to start the fall semester at Lipscomb University, more than 5,000 students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and members of the community came together on campus to celebrate and to witness this unique occurrence dubbed the “Great American Eclipse.” In Nashville, the eclipse began at 11:58 a.m. and ended at 2:54 p.m. Totality hit from 1:27-1:29 p.m. CST.

To celebrate the occasion, Lipscomb’s LIGHT program, a quality enhancement plan to create awareness of and encouraging the global mindset of the Lipscomb community, hosted an eclipse viewing party on the lawn at Burton Science Center. Various colleges also set up booths across campus with giveaways for eclipse watchers to enjoy during the party.

Engineering Professor Fort Gwinn had a web cam viewing device set up in the walk way in front of Burton Health Sciences Center and Physics Professor Alan Bradshaw set up refractive and reflective telescopes to provide safe viewing of the eclipse progress.

Students said the eclipse party was a great way to begin the school year.

eclipse_1“I think it’s a great thing for a first day of college,” said Haille Wallace, a freshman from Spring Hill, Tennessee. “It’s a great introduction to the campus and all of the events that take place throughout the year. It’s a great way to meet new people especially as a freshman. There are a lot of unfamiliar faces, so it’s a great way to bond. I think it’s awesome.”

Maya Reeves, a freshman from Knoxville, Tennessee, said, “I think it’s so cool what God can do with the world. It also marks the beginning of our college experience as freshmen, and I just think that’s really unique and special.”

“It’s really fun to see everyone here,” said Ben Roberson, a junior from Nashville. “This was one of the things I was most excited about when I started back was getting to see everyone and now having a reason to all hang out together and experience this together is really cool.”

“This is so cool and I’m super excited to be experiencing this,” said Kevin Witt of Franklin, Tennessee.

eclipse_2“I’m so happy I can start off my freshman year with something like this and coming to Nashville,” said Will Huff, a freshman from Clinton, North Carolina. “I think it’s a sign of a good four years ahead of me.”

“I think it’ll be really cool to tell our kids one day that our first day of college was looking at the total solar eclipse with all of our friends,” said Anna Kate Hensley, a freshman from Brentwood, Tennessee.

Lipscomb Academy also celebrated the eclipse, using the day as both an educational and student bonding experience. Teachers in all grades PreK-12 developed eclipsed-theme lesson plans. During the eclipse, students traveled to the football field to watch both the partial eclipse and totality. This was followed by an all-school devotional.

Those in the United States will have the chance to view another total solar eclipse that falls within its borders on April 8, 2024. According to NASA, the event's path of totality -- a narrow band of land that has a prime view of the moon completely eclipsing the sun -- will span from Texas to Maine.

After the 2024 total solar eclipse, there won't be another in the U.S. for two decades. The next total solar eclipse will be viewable only in Montana on Aug. 23, 2044, and the following year, a solar eclipse with a similar totality path to the one this year will occur on Aug. 12, 2045, according to