From Wall Street to eclipse chaser
UB alum Charles Fulco travels across the country educating students on solar eclipses
Charles Fulco, who was once trading bonds on Wall Street, is now traveling the country to educate students on the astronomical phenomena of total solar eclipses.
Fulco, a ‘90 alum, is a national education outreach coordinator for solar eclipses for the American Astronomical Society and a NASA solar system ambassador. Fulco left his teaching job in Port Chester, New York to travel across the United States to speak at schools about the 2017 solar eclipse. He’s now doing the same for the 2024 solar eclipse. He teaches schools how to prepare “educationally and emotionally” to experience solar eclipses.
After the 2024 solar eclipse, Fulco will have traveled to every state in the U.S.
“I love getting to travel and see the country,” Fulco said. “Getting to meet new kids and teachers all the time is an adrenaline rush for me.”
Prior to travelling the country discussing eclipses, Fulco traded bonds on Wall Street and worked at Port Chester Middle School as a science teacher and planetarium director.
Fulco said trading bonds “wasn’t creative enough” for him. Teaching allowed him to experience the “joy” of leaving “lasting impressions” on students, but the “once-in-a-lifetime” experience of total solar eclipses inspired Fulco to leave the jobs he loved.
Leslie Umanzor, Fulco’s former student, said she appreciated how involved Fulco was with his students.
“Even though I’m pursuing a major in history and pre-law, I still chose to take an astronomy class my freshman year because of Mr. Fulco,” Umanzor said.
Umanzor said Fulco’s “dedication” to teaching astronomy inspired her to continue learning.
After teaching at the middle school, Fulco decided to take a sabbatical, and what he thought would be a one-year leave, to travel the country as a NASA ambassador. He said he couldn’t pass up the “opportunity of a lifetime” to educate students on the 2017 solar eclipse.
“I loved traveling and educating kids on the eclipse so much that I resigned from my teaching position in New York,” Fulco said. “I ended up traveling for four years prior to the 2017 eclipse.”
He said he never thought he’d have the opportunity to do something like that again. But now, two years later, he’s doing the same thing for the 2024 solar eclipse.
“I don’t want to ever lose this [job], I’m kind of addicted to it,” Fulco said.
Fulco now speaks as the AAS solar eclipse education coordinator at schools located on the “path of totality;” areas that will see complete darkness for a period of time during an eclipse.
A total solar eclipse begins by looking like an “engagement ring” in the sky. And then the moon’s shadow comes toward the earth. Once the moon’s shadow covers the sun, there’s complete darkness in the middle of the day for a period of time.
Animals think it’s nighttime, so they go into hiding.
It’s a “dynamic” event, one that gives Fulco “chills” to think about.
“To see stars in the sky at noon is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen,” Fulco said.
Fulco said he hopes his lectures create more awareness to the rarity of eclipses and the importance of experiencing one.
“It’s disheartening to see school administrations force their students to stay indoors for an eclipse, contrary to what I preach,” Fulco said.
Fulco is continuing to travel from Maine to Texas for the next five years, educating school districts that fall in the “path of totality” for the 2024 solar eclipse.
“I will have seen the entire country once the 2024 solar eclipse is over and I would have never done that if I just stayed in my classroom,” Fulco said.
Jack Zaccara, Fulco’s predecessor as planetarium director, knew Fulco was the “only person” who could take over the planetarium following his retirement.
“It was not about making a living for Charles [Fulco], it was about his love of the night sky,” Zaccara said. “His passion was not just for astronomy, but for sharing it and getting other people to awe over it.”
Correction: A previous version of this article didn't state an eclipse as an "astronomical" phenomena.
Brittany Gorny is an assistant news editor and can be reached at email@example.com