Before Reunions, Social Media Makes Connections

Social media reconnects classmates, builds enthusiasm.

Shortly after Kareem Cook ’94 signed on to help organize his class’ 20th reunion, he uploaded to Facebook a series of digitally scanned pages from his old “pic book,” the class directory he received as a freshman at Duke.

He tagged classmates, inviting them to take a virtual trip down memory lane, and then watched their comments appear.

“Haven’t seen you since graduation,” one friend wrote to a classmate. “Would love to catch up.”

With more than half of the classes up for reunion using Facebook or another social media platform, many classmates reunite months
before they return for Reunions Weekend, which takes place April 11-13 this year. And that’s a good thing, say reunion volunteers such as Cook. They are discovering that online reunions can help build excite-
ment, entice reluctant classmates to attend, and reconnect lapsed friendships.

“One of the things that’s been happening is a lot of people have been becoming Facebook friends,” Cook says. “I decided to look for the guys on my hallway from my freshman year. And now we’re all connected.”

Jill Bayer Ciporin and Paul Dewey, both ’84, have organized Google Hangouts for a series of online interviews with some of the class’ more notable alums — Olympic gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar and NBA commissioner Adam Silver. They are also using the platform Tint, which pulls posts from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram onto one page to create an online scrapbook of class memories.

But all that online bonding doesn’t take the place of the real thing, says Cook. It’s when classmates return to campus that those relationships are solidified and they are inspired to re-engage with Duke.

At his 5th reunion in 1999, Cook connected with an old classmate who became an investor in his Beverly Hills-based private equity firm, Towerview Capital Management, named after the Duke street.

Some of the classmates from that same reunion, fraternity brothers this time, connected for Duke’s 50th anniversary of black student integration last year and collectively raised more than $200,000 for Duke.


“Once you are reconnected and not only nostalgic about your experience, but you’re also impressed by how much the school has grown,” says Cook, “that typically triggers in you: ‘Hey, I want to be part of this.’ ”

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