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4:56 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

Internet technology helps in high school reunion planning

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<p>
Angela Ingrau, Chino Valley Class of 1998, shows Andy Viliborghi, Prescott High School Class of 1958, how she uses the Internet to track down fellow classmates to notify them of upcoming reunions Friday afternoon at the Prescott Public Library.

The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw<p> Angela Ingrau, Chino Valley Class of 1998, shows Andy Viliborghi, Prescott High School Class of 1958, how she uses the Internet to track down fellow classmates to notify them of upcoming reunions Friday afternoon at the Prescott Public Library.

Members of the Class of 1958 at Prescott High School grew up years before people connected with each other by Google searches and e-mail.

"Being a class as old as we are, we never had the advantage," said alumnus Andy Vilborghi, a Prescott native who serves on the reunion committee and is a retired appraiser for the Yavapai County Assessor's Office.

Graduates used to plan reunions through word of mouth, using the phonebook and sending letters to former classmates, Viliborghi recalled. The class had 182 graduates, alumnus Shirley Burmister Ballew said.

Viliborghi's wife, Elaine, said technology advanced about 25 years ago when classmates used floppy discs that stored names and addresses that they had collected from phonebooks and other sources. Former classmates made two or three copies of each floppy disc and mailed the copies to their peers, Andy said.

Nowadays, Viliborghi and other reunion committee members use e-mail largely as a source of contact information (addresses and phone numbers) and to notify their former peers about illnesses and deaths, he said. He said he has compiled 40 to 50 e-mail addresses.

They still relied on word of mouth to locate former classmates while arranging the 50th-year reunion set for Labor Day weekend.

Both the Class of 1958 at Prescott High and the Class of 1998 at Chino Valley High School have published newspaper announcements to try to locate former classmates, and sent formal invitations through the mail.

Chino Valley High scheduled its 10th-year - and first - reunion for June 27 and 28. However, members of the Class of 1998 came of age as the Internet emerged as a primary communication tool.

The class had 106 graduates, said former student body president Angie (Herring) Ingrao. One of three women serving on the reunion committee, Ingrao said she has seen few of her former classmates since graduation 10 years ago.

"When we graduated, there were a lot of people who said they would never come back - like about 20," Ingrao said.

No more than 20 percent of the class still lives in Chino Valley, said Ingrao, who married her high school sweetheart, Jory.

Unlike their older counterparts at Prescott High School, Ingrao and committee members Melissa "Mel" (Robinson) Palguta and Marnee (Mitchell) Zazueta are not relying on old-fashioned word of mouth to connect with their former classmates.

"It would be very difficult" without access to the Internet "because we did not have addresses," Ingrao said. She said the committee has tried to locate several classmates through MySpace.com, a social networking site that has a large following among the younger generation.

She said Zazueta, a faculty member at the Chino Valley campus of Yavapai College, also created a website, www.freewebs.com/cvhs98.

The website contains a list of classmates whom the committee has tried to locate, postings on a guestbook, a questionnaire for alumni to fill out, news headlines from 1998 and an e-mail address for contacting the committee.

"Oops! Just wanted to say one more thing!" classmate Nicole Mcfarlin posted. "I know most of the lost people can be found on myspace!"

MySpace.com, Classmates.com, other social networking sites and the Internet as a whole have changed, if not revolutionized, the way high school graduation classes have planned reunions.

"There are about 100,000 reunions planned every year, and that means about 8 million people attending high school reunions," said John Uppendahl, vice president of public relations for Classmates.com in Renton, Wash. "That is by our own research and assessments," Uppendahl said.

"Also, high schools are having reunions (as often as) every five years, which means that many people are at most two and a half years from a reunion."

Uppendahl said more than 90 percent of reunion planners are volunteers, adding high schools "aren't really set up to keep track of where people go" after they graduate.

Classmates.com offers lists of alumni, profiles with photos, announcements and a means to send messages to its members. Uppendahl e-mailed a press release that states Classmates.com members used its reunion center to organize 300 percent more in-person events from January through May than during the same period in 2007.

Neither Viliborghi, 68, nor Ingrao, 28, said their reunion committees used Classmates.com to plan their respective get-togethers. However, both acknowledged that some of their former classmates have registered at the site. A recent check on Classmates.com showed 40 members of the Class of 1958 at Prescott High School registered on the site.

Viliborghi said the Class of 1958 committee began planning the festivities two months ago, and meets once a month at the Prescott law office of Jim Musgrove, a member of the class. Whenever the committee meets, its members bring a list of one or two more names. He said he expects 60 people to attend the reunion, including spouses.

The class plans the first evening's activities at Musgrove's home and a picnic the next day at Watson Lake.

The class "is very close," said Elaine Viliborghi, who has been married to Andy for 42 years. "When they get together, they act like it has been a day or two (since they saw each other)."

By contrast, the reunion committee at Chino Valley High School has faced bigger challenges contacting former classmates despite being more familiar with e-mail and other Internet tools, Ingrao acknowledged. She, Palguta and Zazueta began planning a year ago.

"We still have a lot of people we have not been able to reach," said Ingrao, branch manager at National Bank in Chino Valley.

She added she expects only 50 people, including guests, to attend the reunion. It will consist of a gathering on the first night at Granite Creek Vineyards in Chino Valley and dinner the following evening at the Hassayampa Inn in Prescott.

The reunion committee may hire a professional event organizer to plan the 20th-year reunion, Ingrao said.

"They can put more time into it," Ingrao said.

Contact the reporter at khedler@prescottaz.com