The planetarium darkens and footage of Colgate University’s campus — the lush greenery of Willow Path, the stately spires of James B. Colgate Hall, the gleaming gold of Colgate Memorial Chapel — fills the screen. During the next 30 minutes, audience members watch Colgate’s history come alive before them.

On June 1, 2019, Colgate at 200 played in the Ho Tung Visualization Lab in commemoration of the Bicentennial. A full-dome production of Colgate’s history, the film traces the University from its beginnings as a small Baptist seminary to its current position as a leader in liberal arts education.

Joseph Eakin, technical director and designer of the visualization lab, directed, produced, and edited Colgate at 200, based on original concepts from Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics Robert Garland. Eakin described the filmmaking process as intense and inspiring.

Images of Colgate students in military service from Colgate at 200 movie

A view of the dome

“This is the first immersive show about Colgate’s history,” Eakin said. “We had to ask ourselves, ‘How do we want Colgate’s story to be told? How do we translate that into an artform?’”

A number of current students and graduates provided assistance for Eakin with Bicentennial research, videography, photography, 3D modeling, and voice-over narration. Francis Magliore ’17 and Oneida Shushe ’19 compiled research using resources from the Colgate Special Collections and University Archives and assembled a timeline, which Isabella Crowley ’17 utilized to write a script.

“Collaborating with creative students here at Colgate has been a unique experience for me,” Eakin said. “I’ve previously worked at other universities, and the students there don’t have the passion and drive that Colgate students have.”

Francis Criscione ’21 helmed the production’s videography and sound mixing and editing. He also composed and performed the film score, using different parts of an electronic keyboard and a digital sound library. “The orchestral score was done over the course of two days,” Criscione said. “I enjoyed being able to let go of everything else that was going on in my life and just focus on the music for hours.”

Science Outreach Educator Miranda Smith ’21, who presented Colgate at 200 during the Bicentennial All-Class Reunion, acted as a spokesperson for the show. She noted the overwhelming positive response she received from alumni.

“I spoke to quite a few people who loved it,” Smith said. “It was really special for them to not only see Colgate’s history unfold on screen, but also to gain perspective on what Colgate’s future will bring.”

Claire Warshavsky ’02 viewed the show as a celebration of tradition and a reflection of the challenges that still lie ahead.

“It was exciting to see that Colgate is really honoring its history and now concentrating on contributing to more diversification,” Warshavsky said. “I hope to see even more of this moving forward.”

The production underwent many iterations before reaching its current stage of development, according to Eakin. He plans on fine-tuning the production and presenting it as a public show in the fall.

It was really special for them to not only see Colgate’s history unfold on screen, but also to gain perspective on what Colgate’s future will bring.

“There’s still work to be done, but I’m happy with the progress we’ve made,” Eakin said. “The final, polished product will be incredible — something that we can have in our library for years to come.”

Criscione noted the project’s importance to viewers and production team members alike.

“I’ve learned a lot from this experience,” Criscione said. “Being able to tell the story of Colgate and learn about its past has been a true privilege.”

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