The GAA — True or False

More than 10 years ago, I shared with readers a piece titled “Five Things You Shouldn’t Know About the GAA.” As this year draws to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on these myths again and point out some of the more frequently repeated misunderstandings about this alumni association:

  • Carolina’s class reunions and local Carolina Clubs are run by the GAA or the University.

Doug Dibbert ’70

From the first Carolina reunion in 1843 or the first local club meeting in 1880, Carolina reunions and local clubs have been led by volunteers.There was no full-time GAA staff until 1922, when the staff consisted of an alumni secretary, Dan Grant ’21, and a secretary. We have found that “if you build it, you will come.” Classmates respond to other classmates. Calls, e-mails, letters and personal appeals are vital if alumni are going to be with the classmates they most hope to see at a reunion.The GAA staff provides needed logistical support by coordinating mailings, developing enrichment programming and offering advice and guidance. However, with more than 1,700 GAA-sponsored programs each year involving more than 101,000 Carolina alumni and friends, we depend on volunteers to lead local clubs and reunions. (If you would like to become more active with your class reunion, please contact Linda Rainey ’95 (MA) at (919) 962-3576 or; if you would like to assist your local Carolina Club, please contact Casey Privette ’01 at (919) 962-6705 or Anyone interested in leading efforts to support an affinity reunion can contact Tanea Pettis ’95 at (919) 843-9694 or

  • The GAA cares only about raising money for UNC.

It is true that in 1952, the GAA started Alumni Annual Giving; the late J. Maryon “Spike” Saunders ’25 — alumni secretary from 1927 to 1970 — was Alumni Annual Giving’s first director. However, the GAA quickly turned over AAG to the University. It also is true that the GAA raised more than $12 million for the George Watts Hill Alumni Center. However, it is the University’s central development office and Carolina’s school-based foundations that are responsible for raising the much-needed private support for Carolina. We join our development colleagues from across the campus in celebrating the remarkable $270 million raised in the past academic year. We believe that our GAA records, publications, clubs, reunions, travel, enrichment and many other programs provide the essential foundation for this continuing success. However, the GAA is a dues-based organization. Alumni annual dues began at $1 and were first collected in the 19th century.

  • The GAA serves only “former students” who no longer attend Carolina.

Unfortunately, this was largely true for many years. But in 1980, then-Alumni Secretary Clarence Whitefield ’44 convinced the GAA Board of Directors to form the Order of the Bell Tower as the official student alumni association. Our student membership program began in 1995. The GAA knows that many times it is the experience students have while at Carolina that determines whether they will be active alumni. We offer a wide range of student programs and have been encouraged by the enthusiasm of Carolina students to participate in these activities. For a brochure detailing these programs, please contact Kat Butler ’07 at (919) 962-7053 or C. Hawkins ’00 can provide details on how you can purchase a student membership for your son or daughter, granddaughter or grandson, or nephew or niece. He can be reached at (919) 962-7054 or

  • Only members of The Carolina Club may use the facilities in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

We are delighted that nearly 3,000 alumni, UNC faculty and staff, and friends of Carolina have become members of The Carolina Club, and we regularly receive compliments about what a wonderful addition to the University community the club has been. More than 14,000 alumni, faculty, staff and friends of Carolina made gifts ranging from $5 to $3.5 million to build and furnish what is viewed by many as among the finest alumni centers in the country. We have a number of public rooms that are available to visiting alumni. Among these is the Koury Library, which has all of the Yackety Yacks, bound volumes of the Carolina Alumni Review and books by UNC faculty or Carolina alumni. You can see more of the alumni center on the GAA’s website at

  • Only Carolina alumni can join the GAA.

The GAA welcomes membership from Carolina faculty and staff who are not UNC alumni, as well as friends of Carolina. We have more than 3,700 non-alumni members who receive this magazine and are active participants in one or more of our GAA programs. During this holiday period, you may wish to consider giving a Carolina fan who may not have attended Carolina a membership in the GAA. Call Jordan Myers ’08 or Diana Koonce ’02 at (800) 962-0742 or send an e-mail to Gift memberships also can be purchased online at

Happy holidays!

Yours at Carolina,

Doug signature




Douglas S. Dibbert ’70



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