The GUAA has a rich history of support and services to Gallaudet University and to the general deaf community. Much of this is credited to the interest and generosity of the alumni and the leadership of outstanding Gallaudet graduates and former students. Individuals such as Melville Ballard, the first alumnus, Class of 1866; John B. Hotchkiss, Class of 1869; and Robert P. MacGregor, Class of 1872, were instrumental in establishing the GUAA and its role as liaison between Gallaudet and the growing body of alumni. Other leaders include Dr. David Peikoff, '29, and Dr. Jack R. Gannon, '59. Dr. Peikoff created the University's alumni office and also served as director of the development office. He is credited for raising nearly a half million dollars for the 1964 Centennial Fund; the money was presented to the University at its centennial in 1964. Dr. Gannon served as the GUAA's first executive secretary for more than 20 years. Through his foresight and leadership, the GUAA evolved and grew to its present size and influence. As an alumni governed organization, the GUAA has realized many notable achievements, a few of which are described below:
In the 1950s, the GUAA coordinated the contribution of more than $125,000 from the alumni toward the construction of the Edward Miner Gallaudet Memorial Library. This building now houses the Office of Development, the Office of Public Relations, the Visitors Center, and the Computer Center.
The GUAA has published four books: The Silent Muse, an anthology of prose and poetry by deaf writers; Our Heritage, a centennial publication chronicling the University's first century; The Gallaudet Almanac, a collection of data and statistics on the University, its alumni, and the deaf community; and Notable Deaf Persons, a collection of biographies written by the Rev. Guilbert C. Braddock, '18. In addition, the GUAA has published 6 reprintings of the Basics of Parliamentary Procedures by Gerald "Bummy" Burstein,'50.
The GUAA became the first national organization to publicly support the March 1988 Deaf President Now movement through a $1,000 donation to the DPN Fund.
In 1990, by contract with Bernard C. Harris Publishing Co., the GUAA produced the University's first Gallaudet Alumni Directory, a comprehensive three section book consisting of information about Gallaudet alumni. A second edition was published in 1995. A third edition was published in 2001.
The GUAA holds triennial reunions on Kendall Green at which time alumni return to campus, meet old friends, become acquainted with Gallaudet faculty and staff, learn about new programs, react to changes, and conduct Association business.. Two reunions in particular drew record numbers of alumni and friends to Kendall Green: the 1964 Gallaudet Centennial and the 1989 GUAA Centennial.
The GUAA also sponsors, in cooperation with the University, an annual Charter Day celebration. Major features of Charter Day have included an art, photography, and crafts exhibit of works done by deaf people and members of the campus community, tours of campus facilities, and a banquet and awards program. Other activities of interest to the community are often sponsored as well.
In cooperation with the University, the GUAA established the Gallaudet Hall of Fame with its three collections: the University Collection, the National Collection, and the International Collection. These collections honor people who are themselves deaf or who have made outstanding contributions to the benefit of deaf people.
The GUAA has taken an active interest in the progress and development of Gallaudet University. Alumni have been generous in both their spiritual and financial support. It was the alumni, for example, who provided the majority of funds for the two memorial statues on campus--to Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet and to his son, Edward Miner Gallaudet. Other memorials funded by alumni support include a bust of Laurent Clerc, the deaf Frenchman who became America's first teacher of the deaf, and several paintings of past university presidents.