“Eclipse! What eclipse?” is how I interrupted a speaker at the Rotary Club of Carbondale-Breakfast meeting about two years ago. The speaker was gracious and answered my question before moving on but I could tell I wasn’t the only one who was wondering what she meant when she started her talk. Since then, the eclipse of 2017 (and another in 2024) have been the talk of the town. The site of the longest duration of the eclipse was a few miles south of Carbondale, in the small little town of Makanda, Illinois.
For more than a year, Carbondale has been preparing for the influx of visitors and NASA scientists. We locals were inundated with pre-eclipse hype about the expected traffic delays. None materialized except for the exodus out of town, but I am getting ahead of myself.
As Carbondale welcomed visitors, we visited the Bucky Dome, something we’ve never had the opportunity to do. Buckminster Fuller taught in the Art and Design program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale from 1959-72. He was one of the distinguished individuals SIUC President Delyte Morris hired as he transformed the institution from a sleepy teachers college to a comprehensive university. The geodesic dome Fuller designed and had built is at 407 South Forest Avenue (see https://www.fullerdomehome.com/).
Yesterday was a special day in southern Illinois. As I walked the dogs in the neighborhood, I saw lots of out-of-state cars and many neighbors had visitors. As we headed outside in preparation of the event, I noted that it felt like the time after the derecho but with electricity. (In 2009, a derecho came through the area and we were without power for nearly a week, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_2009_Southern_Midwest_derecho.)
My friends at the Pi Phi Headquarters in Town and Country, Missouri, slightly west of St. Louis, were outside celebrating the eclipse, too. This photo appears to be one taken at night. Not so. It was taken as the sun was hidden by the moon, and the spotlights came on.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention that Richard “Dick” Claxton Gregory passed away this weekend. He was a member of the Beta Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha. In 2009, he was named as one of SIUC’s Distinguished Alumni. He and his wife Lillian were Grand Marshalls of the Homecoming parade. That weekend, he was the first person inducted into the Varsity Center for the Arts Hall of Fame.
Gregory, a distance runner, chose to attend SIUC after being courted by more than 100 institutions. He was captain of the cross-country and track teams. In 1953, he was the first black student athlete to win the outstanding athlete of the year award. My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and Alpha Phi Alpha brothers.