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The late Mr. McMillen smiles down on Woodgrove High School

The late Mr. McMillen’s students at Woodgrove High School realize their former teacher’s planetarium endeavor. Times-Mirror/Alex Erkiletian
Just a handful of weeks ago the astronomy class at Woodgrove High School faced the sudden loss of their beloved teacher, Bob McMillen. While the students were all in a state of shock it was clear that their resolve to complete the planetarium, a "brain child" project of Mr. McMillen was stronger than ever.

On Tuesday, McMillen's dream was realized by his students.

Resting in the school library – because that's the only place it would fit – is the large-domed planetarium, big enough to hold 30 people.

For several hours the astronomy class hosted as many students as possible, giving them the entrancing show of planets and constellations. One thing was clear: the young adults did not just lose a teacher, they lost a mentor, inspiration and a great friend.

It was hard not to find a student who wanted to tell how Mr. McMillen changed their lives and how much he meant – and continues to mean – to them. Their monument is a testament to that fact.

"Today is a little surreal. It's both very sad and very rewarding," said astronomy student Dennis Potts. There were tears of sadness and tears of joy today and a small sense of closure for the Woodgrove astronomy class.

As students filled the library -- studying for their upcoming SOLs -- it was easy to overhear many of them discussing a newfound interest in astronomy, asking one another, "Will you take astronomy next year?"

The class has yet to settle on what to call the planetarium, but one thing is certain -- it will have the name McMillen on it.

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