I strongly support the idea of large-scale high school reunions; I would suggest you set up an organizing committee at once

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I played a small role – a small role, because it was a team effort – in staging of the MCHS 2015 Sixties Reunion in Toronto.

Here’s some background about how we went about organizing the above-noted event.

For many years many people, me among them, had been talking about a Sixties reunion.

One day I decided, “We are running out of time. We need to go forward.”

About two years before the reunion was actually held, I called a meeting of some grads in the Toronto area, where I was living at the time. I recall that Scott Munro and Peter Means were at the initial meeting, at a Thai restaurant on Bloor St. West near Royal York Road in Toronto.

The restaurant, as it turned out, was not far from where the reunion was eventually held.

After we met, I mentioned the plans for a Sixties reunion at my Preserved Stories website and circulated the link, featuring the announcement, at some MCHS Facebook groups.

Most of the time I stay off Facebook, but I like to post links from my website to it. On occasion, I also read comments from people at the two MCHS Facebook pages that I visit.

Howard Hight in Boston, and Diana (McLagan) Redden in British Columbia were among the people who joined the organizing team after they had learned, I think perhaps by checking at my website, of the reunion plans. Or else they learned of the reunion via Facebook.

Howard and Diana put out a professional-quality newsletter, sent out to all the members of a MCHS 2015 Reunion database that Howard and Diana also took on the responsibility of creating.

We had, on the organizing team, a core group of people with impressive capabilities in a wide range of areas.

I’ve mentioned Howard and Diana. Lynn and Peter handled finances. Scott helped with details related to venue and program.

I handled the setting up of a website devoted to the reunion. I also kept track of meeting agendas and wrote reports, posted to the MCHS 2015 website, based on decisions made at the Kitchener meetings, as planning got underway.

Gina (Davis) Cayer, who joined us later, helped with networking, publicity, and program details such as music playlist.

A number of additional people, in Toronto and in one case as far away as Florida, also provided crucial assistance in the days prior to the reunion, and during the event itself. So many people pitched in, in so many ways, to make the event a memorable occasion.

Through the website, we also kept track of what potential reunion attendees had to say. (That mattered hugely!)

The face-to-face meetings in Kitchener and Toronto were a primary factor in the success of the reunion. In my experience with organizing other events, email is too limited as a means of communication, when details need to be thrashed out. As well, in organizing work in other contexts (than high school reunions and get togethers) I’ve learned that a platform such as Basecamp for online discussions, coordinated with Dropbox for documents, works really well.

At the reunion event itself in October 2015 in Toronto, Lynn organized a Business Card Game which served as a great ice-breaker and enabled people to get to know each other. Our motto was and remains: “Each person who attends is the star of the show.” We meant it and we made it happen. We are a very welcoming group of people.

At the initial meeting in Toronto, Peter Mearns, who knew a lot of MCHS grads, recommended that we ask Lynn (Hennebury) Legge to join the organizing team, which she was pleased to do. Peter had mentioned Lynn knew a lot of grads and was keen about networking.

Peter Mearns, who played a strong role as a member of the team all the way through, passed away on May 15, 2018.

We have a list at the MCHS 2015 website, set up at the suggestion of Graeme Decarie, of MCHS grads and teachers who have passed away:

Students and Staff Who Have Passed Away

Kitchener meetings

We formed an organizing committee after the initial meeting in Toronto.

Our meetings were usually held in Kitchener west of Toronto as it was a convenient location for the organizers who were settled in homes across Southwestern Ontario. Gina (Davis) Cayer joined the organizing team once she heard about it – I think via Facebook.

Like Lynn, Gina has extensive contacts among grads, including in Ontario and Quebec.

By that stage in my life (I graduated from MCHS in 1963), I had some measure of experience in organizing events, across Canada and elsewhere in the world.

I had some measure of experience in making things happen – in taking an idea and turning it into a reality, even if it required many years of intensive work, involving countless numbers of people.

My own organizing style is low-key. It’s not the only way to go about the business of organizing, but is the style that works for me.

I don’t drive the decision making, and if an organizing project that I’m involved in has situations where I get outvoted, about some key decision, then I know for sure, that we are on the right track!

I can say the same thing in another way. Years ago as an organizer, I learned things about the power dynamics of groups, and have been learning ever since. As a result, I’m aware of how to contribute in such a way, that things stay on an even keel.

A couple of years devoted to organizing an event such as a reunion, or a major conference

My own experience in organizing calls for a couple of years of intensive work for major events such as high school reunions, or national conferences. That’s what has worked for me. I’ve observed anecdotally that for some organizing, done by other people, the timeliness can be shorter.

I can only speak for what has worked for me, over the past 40 years of organizing things, and in the co-founding of organizations. On occasion, as I volunteer I have worked each day (in addition to a paying day job) on projects where, at the outset, I had a destination in mind that was five years in advance of the starting point.

I have much enjoyed such projects and am pleased with the outcomes, which as a rule have included embedded procedures for leadership succession (that is, procedures laid out in an organization’s constitution and bylaws), so that things would continue to grow long after I had moved on to other things.

I’ve recently helped out in a small way in the organizing of the MCHS 1969 reunion that took place in Montreal in Summer 2019. I served as a sounding board, occasionally shared advice (when asked), and shared some leads with regard to how to get in touch with people. I was really pleased to hear from several attendees that the event turned out well.

MCHS luncheons

My own organizing work these days involves working with fellow grads to organize MCHS luncheons at Mandarin restaurants in Kitchener and Toronto.

We meet in alternating months in each city, except we don’t meet in summer when people are on vacation. And we don’t meet in winter in Kitchener, because the roads are icy.

If any MCHS grad (any year) wants to join us for our luncheons, please send me an email at jpill@preservedstories.com and I will add your name to our email list.

As with the 2015 Sixties Reunion, every person who joins us for lunch is the star of the show. We are a welcoming group of people. People new to the group are always a reason for celebration. We like to learn new things, to hear new stories. We like to have a good time.

We welcome grads who are on vacation, from faraway places such as Ottawa or Arizona. All MCHS grads (and teachers) are welcome.

And with Mandarin restaurants, we don’t just sit around. We’re always getting up and walking around back and forth to fill our plates. We like to call it a walking lunch.

I much enjoy such organizing. I’m always learning new things, about how to do such organizing work really well. Mostly, I’m low-key and I listen.

This is as much organizing as I would like to take on, at this stage of my life. I have many other projects that I work on.

I wish every success to the organizers, if they step up, of the proposed grad reunion in 2020.

I would be pleased to help out with publicity through my website. I would also be pleased to help out by way of offering advice (if it’s asked).

Most of all, organizing works well when people are focused on solutions, to whatever challenges arise. For a team effort to succeed, a capacity to listen closely, and exercise diplomacy is also an asset. However, I can only speak for what has worked for me.

2 replies
  1. Bob Carswell
    Bob Carswell says:

    Having organised numerous conventions in my day and major travel programs during my banking days, I am very familiar with these things. However, due to health problems I tend to sit back and let others do the work. I am totally an idea man with untapped skills in some respects but my health has been a major problem for me due to genetic issues over the past 20 years so other than coming up with the initial idea of the 40th anniversary reunion in 1996 when I was being paralysed by taking Benadryl at the time, I have not contribute much lately. I have physiotherapy next week on my shoulder and imaging of my kidney and bladder the following week since it has dropped to a working level of 24%. I would gladly change places with someone who is healthy. What I do suggest is that the call goes out to a younger generation of the MCHS graduates since our bunch is a bit over the hill. I hit 75 next month and the rest of you who organized the last one are now five years older since then too. I am in touch with a lot of former MCHS and Cartierville School students and I suspect through them I should be able to get a lot of the message out about a reunion in 2020. In the 40th Anniversary event, we set it up so that there were 4 years to pass the word out. A 2020 reunion only allows about 8 months if they start tomorrow. Hardly enough to get something going….and where will it be…Montreal?

    • Jaan Pill
      Jaan Pill says:

      Good to read your comment, Bob.

      Reading your comment has prompted me to re-read the text of the current post. I remain involved in helping out with the organizing of various things, aside from organizing of high school reunions (that form of volunteer work is now in the past, for me). As I work on organizing projects now, I continue to learn new things, and to refine my skills.

      I remain enthusiastic and inspired, when I see other people (young and old) actively involved in collaborative projects of all kinds that bring people together in pursuit of community-based interests.


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