Internet broadcasts graduation ceremonies

So Takagiwa, a 2006 alumnus, did the next best thing.

He watched a live Internet broadcast of the May 24 evening ceremony for the 1,177 graduates - Northampton Community College's first commencement Webcast.

He was delighted to see his friends looking right into the camera as they crossed the stage, "with the biggest smile I've ever seen, waving their hands to me."

For a growing number of colleges and universities - and even a few high schools - long distances are no longer an obstacle. Internet broadcasts can alleviate problems that occur when indoor ceremonies limit the number of people graduates can invite.

At O'Fallon Township High School in Illinois, Principal Steve Dirnbeck said the high school's inaugural Webcast this year was viewed by 125 people, and it was popular with one family who relocated from Louisiana in 2005, after their home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

"They had relatives who were still in Louisiana and were not able to make the trip who got a chance to see it," Dirnbeck said.

The University of Pennsylvania has been Webcasting graduation ceremonies since 2003, said university secretary Leslie Kruhly. The university places no restrictions on invitations, but the broadcasts provide a service for those who cannot attend and help alumni stay connected to the school, she said.

Before the Webcasts, "we'd give summaries or post pictures, but it just wasn't as satisfying," Kruhly said.