For the harried organizers of high-school reunions, the Internet is fast becoming the Big Man on Campus.
As reunion season approaches with the start of summer, planners are turning to the Web to spread the word to former classmates, be they next door or half a world away. Organizing committees are creating Web pages for individual reunions, hoping cyberspace's global reach will broaden contact with classmates they haven't seen or heard from in decades.
"It was a medium we couldn't ignore", said Don Willows, an organizer of Calgary's Western Canada High School Class of '77 reunion next month.
"This will be one of our key sources of people", noted Gordon Prasinak, who is helping to spearhead the Selkirk, Man., week-long reunion bash in 1999 for all former students of the region's high schools this century.
Several reunion home pages offer more, though, than just an announcement. Computer users can confirm their attendance on the Web, get available E-mail addresses of long-lost classmates and, if alphabetical listings of attendees are posted, satisfy their curiosity about who's going to show up.
"If people see other people's names on the Web, they may want to come and visit old friends", said Sylvia Jenkins, an organizer of Red Lake District High School's three-day, 45th reunion next month.
Its Web site has had more than 1,5000 hits, including some from South America, and former students of the school near Kenora, Ont., can click on for an updated schedule of events, which include a sock hop, golf tournament, and class pictures.
David Jones, a professor of computer science at McMaster University in Hamilton, said reunion postings on the Internet are creative and inventive. "Who would have thunk it 10 years ago?" he said.
In some cases, posting news of reunions is proving to bridge time and distance. In the Northwest Territories' Rankin Inlet, for instance, Harvey Cantin has to wait for his favourite corn beef to be flown in from Winnipeg. But the 67-year-old pharmacist learned the details of Selkirk's reunion in a matter of minutes, after an E-mail from an old classmate living in Fargo, N.D., alerted him to the Web page.
"I immediately went on the Internet and found the site right away", Mr. Cantin said in a telephone interview. "It gave me a nice feeling to be able to just click and leave [reunion organizers] a message."
Although the event is still more than two years away, Mr. Cantin, a Class of '47 graduate, said he probably will go.
The Selkirk undertaking is massive. Attendance forecasts range from a low of 30,000 to a high of more than 200,000, according to Mr. Prazinak.
The 37-year-old investment adviser said the Web site has averaged 140 hits a month since it began last December, after Superior Online Resources, Mr. Prazinak's next-door neighbour at work, gave organizers a site for free.
"We didn't expect this many hits", Mr. Prazinak (Class of '76) said in an interview.
To stimulate interest, the Selkirk committee is planning a cyberspace bulletin board for attenders to post where they can be reached during the reunion; and organizers are considering running yearbook pictures on the Net to enlist help in tracking down students of the pasty 99 years.
But not all Net postings have succeeded. Stephen Shein of Cambridge, Ont., has not had a single response on the Net to his effort to co-ordinate a reunion for the Class of '72 of the former Malcolm Campbell High School in suburban Montreal.
"This is the time of your life when you want to find out what happened to everybody", Mr. Shein said. There are milestones you want to share with other people."