Star students hold special class reunion under solar eclipse

Eclipse class reunion

JACKSON, Wyo. -- No one in Colin Steele's physics class would have imagined they'd be together again this way, watching the 2017 solar eclipse in Jackson, Wyoming.

But something extraordinary took root in Steele's classroom more than 50 years ago in Bethesda, Maryland, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor.

Colin Steele and his former students watch the eclipse. CBS News

Of the 32 students in the class, 16 are now PhDs.

"Seven of them in physics!" Steele said.

There are also five lawyers, three doctors, a judge and a five-time "Jeopardy!" champion.

Colin Steele CBS News

What was the special sauce?

"They were all above me intellectually and so I'm gonna keep them damn well entertained, OK?" Steele said.

"'It's interesting you said they were above you intellectually," Glor said.

"Well I knew what their IQs are and every doggone one of them is above mine," he said.

"He used to tell us that, but I'm not dead sure," said Barbara Harrison. "I think this was one of his secret shticks." 

Steele and his former students at the Mangy Moose in Jackson, Wyoming. CBS News

Harrison is one of Steele's students who made the trip to Wyoming to watch the eclipse, and exchange a few stories at the Mangy Moose bar.

"He still is teaching us. I really think one thing about Mr. Steele was that he was also actually a philosopher," said Michael Hakem.

Maura Smith Sullivan CBS News

"First day of class I was sitting in the front row, and he said, you know, 'Maura, can you come up and see me after class?'" said Maura Smith Sullivan, the judge. "And I said, 'Sure.' And I went up and he said, 'You know Maura, I think you got in this class by mistake. But if you want to be here I want you in this class' … And that made a big difference in my life."

"Are these like your kids?" Glor asked Steele.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he replied.