After Anne Kesselman Gauthier ’77 was stranded in San Francisco during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, she received three emails from Princetonians offering her a bed. The alumni were not former classmates — they were people she knew from Parent-Net, an online parenting-discussion group hosted by the Alumni Association.
At Reunions, Parent-Net received the 2013 Award for Excellence in Alumni Education from the Alumni Council for promoting “everyday interactions between and among Princetonians that impact the life of the mind and one’s life as a whole.” (Another Award for Excellence went to professor emeritus Robert B. Hollander ’55, for presiding for the last 37 years over the Dante Reunion, a gathering to discuss and recite from The Divine Comedy.)
With more than 900 members and sometimes more than 100 posts per week, Parent-Net is by far the most popular of the Alumni Association’s nearly 200 online discussion groups. Donnica Moore ’81, who founded the site in 1997 with Dwight McKay ’84 and Jolanne Luchak Stanton ’77, calls it an “ongoing daily precept on parenting.” Participants post questions or comments on subjects from potty training to learning disabilities to physics homework, and on matters such as caring for their own aging parents. Parenting disputes between spouses have been adjudicated on the forum, and group members have rallied around alumni enduring divorce, illness, and the death of a spouse. “We cheer, we mourn, we pray together,” Gauthier says.
The online bonds have forged offline friendships celebrated at gatherings held in cities across the country several times a year, as well as a reception at Reunions.
“I stumbled upon [Parent-Net] sometime in March of 1997 when I was home, dazed and confused, with my first child, reading about someone wondering whether or not to read a teen’s diary, and thought, ‘This is intriguing!’” Judy Snyder Kastenberg ’88 wrote on Parent-Net.
The group has “made me more broad-minded” about the struggles of other parents, says Beth Parks ’88.
Though Richard Lachmann ’77’s children are grown, he still is active on Parent-Net — in part, he says, because he is “superstitious. If I’m on, bad things won’t happen to my kids. And if they do, I’ll ask Parent-Net what to do.”