Graduates of the University Farm School formed an alumni association in 1912, but the group's activities were sporadic until 1930, when a Davis chapter of the California Alumni Association at UC Berkeley was formally chartered. During the 1930s, Davis alumni held regular gatherings throughout the state and were instrumental in establishing student scholarship and loan programs as well as helping the campus develop in tandem with California's growing agricultural industry.
Alumni activities temporarily ceased during World War II, resuming after students returned in 1946. That fall the student government and the alumni association jointly sponsored the first Homecoming on campus in five years. In 1947 the Davis chapter officially became the Cal Aggie Alumni Association (CAAA), with Registrar Howard Schontz `41, serving as secretary. The chapter threw its energies into fund-raising for the 1955 Memorial Union to commemorate the dozens of Aggie lives lost in military service and to provide a center for student activities.
In 1963 the CAAA ended its 30-year association with the Berkeley alumni organization and emerged as an independent group with its first full-time manager, John L. Hardie `58, who later served the campus in other roles. For several years the association published UCD Dimension, a small quarterly publication, to keep alumni and others abreast of campus happenings. In 1972, Bert L. Smith `26, became the first CAAA representative to serve as a voting member on the Board of Regents, and CAAA became fully incorporated.
As the campus grew, so grew the association. Over the years CAAA steadily increased its activities, providing a variety of services for alumni and encouraging them to support the university. In 1983, CAAA began underwriting UC Davis Magazine, a colorful quarterly for alumni, parents of students and other friends of the campus. By 1992, UC Davis could boast of more than 100,000 living degree-holding alumni, more than half graduated since 1980, with thousands more graduating each year. That year CAAA and campus officials dedicated the $4.8 million Walter A. Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center, the new alumni gathering place, information center, and primary departure point for campus tours.
In fall 1997, the CAAA board of directors announced a change in the organization's name to the UC Davis Alumni Association, with the intent of reflecting a broader and more modern view of the campus. The decision caused a mild uproar, not least because such a proposal had already been turned down by the membership in 1987. The change was rescinded in 1998, and the association retained its historical name, continuing its activities as an influential lobbying group and upholding its mission, "to advance the interest and promote the welfare of the university and its alumni."
By 2003, changes in state and federal laws limited the role of non-profit organizations in direct lobbying activities. This change broadened the scope of CAAA activities to include more focus on alumni and student engagement activities and a stronger alignment with University Development. An emphasis was placed on creating an alumni-student career networking platform which resulted in the reorganization of the Cal Aggie Student Alumni Network into the Student Alumni Association (SAA). SAA grew from 250 members to nearly 3,000 members by 2010, creating a surge in CAAA Life Members upon their graduation.
From 2008 to present, major emphases was placed on increasing the number of alumni participating in campus events. In that period, the number of CAAA events grew from 33 annually to more than 350 and alumni networks were organized into regionally based, academic and special interest units.
In 2008, CAAA was charged with forming the first Parent and Family Association on campus. This highly successful engagement program now has more than 6,800 members with a Parent Advisory Council to oversee an estimated 30 events annually.
Today, there are more than 31,000 members of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association and nearly 2,700 members of the Student Alumni Association. CAAA has 23 alumni networks in the United States, 19 networks in other countries and ten special interest networks serving more than 250,000 living alumni.
Published as part of Abundant Harvest: The History of the University of California, Davis, by Ann F. Scheuring `76 and updated by Richard Engel ’90, CAAA executive director.