Willamette’s eclipse event wins national award

by Russell Yost MBA'05,

  • 2017 Eclipse Event

The Silver Anvil awards recognize the best strategies and tactics in communications and marketing.

It was a head-to-head battle that pitted sun vs. moon.

On August 21, 2017, darkness fell over the Willamette University campus in Salem and the crowd of over 2,500 erupted in cheers and applause. As one of the few college campuses along the “path of totality,” Willamette University had the unprecedented opportunity to host an out-of-this-world viewing and learning experience. In the end, the campus community came together to put on an exciting and memorable event.

Now Willamette’s eclipse event has received a Silver Anvil award by the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Each year the Silver Anvils recognize excellence in communications and marketing planning, strategies and tactics. Of nearly 120 entries in the events category, Willamette’s eclipse event was a top five finalist along with programs by the Smithsonian National Zoo, Duke Energy, Universal Pictures and the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition. At the awards program on June 7 in New York City, Willamette's event was named the recipient of the Silver Anvil.

Billed as the “Phenomenon on the Lawn” (Willamette’s North Lawn served as the main viewing location), Willamette’s eclipse event included community events and one of the largest gatherings of solar scientists in the world. The weekend activities included a pub talk with a Willamette physics professor, keynote lecture by astronomer and author Ray Jayawardhana and campus-wide eclipse viewing event open to the public. The American Astronomical Society partnered with Willamette Academy, the university’s college access program for underrepresented high school students, to present twelve tables of science demonstrations throughout the viewing.

Media outlets including CNN, CNN Español, The Weather Channel, National Public Radio, the Los Angeles Times, Oregon Public Broadcasting and the New York Times 360 covered the event. Many of them interviewed Willamette President Steve Thorsett, who is also an astrophysicist.