100 Years Old and a Robbie First

Gavin Vander Schaaf (far right) and Derrick Hamilton (middle) celebrate 100 years of Duke University

It’s not every day that you turn 100 years old, but this year Duke University is celebrating its Centennial year in style. All over campus you’ll find flags celebrating Duke 100 – a reminder of the incredibly legacy created by James B. Duke in 1924 that transformed Trinity College into the top research institution that Duke is today. At the kick-off celebration, an explosion of all things Duke, an unlikely voice was raised, that of Gavin Vander Schaaf Robertson Class of 2027.

“Being a part of Duke’s Centennial as a UNC Robbie was definitely a unique experience. I realized that I’m probably the only UNC student to ever participate in a Duke Centennial celebration which is pretty cool when you think about it,” Gavin shared.

While UNC may be Gavin’s home campus, he’s heavily involved at Duke – singing in the University Chorus and Speak of the Devil, an a cappella group on campus. He finds joy in singing with fellow Robbie and classmate Derrick Hamilton (Robbie ’27). For Derrick, being a part of the Centennial kick off was an exciting peak behind the scenes at Duke, “Getting an inside look into how much work it took to celebrate 100 years of Duke was exhilarating. I’m excited that I was able to be a part of doing what I love,” he said.

And the cross-campus love cuts both ways – Derrick, who is based at Duke – is excited to continue exploring his musical and artistic pursuits at UNC this spring, “I’ve loved getting involved in artistic communities, from bands to theater across the two campuses. Along with the Centennial, I have performed in three Hoof & Horn shows, and I plan to audition for a UNC theater group this spring. It has felt surreal to be able to meet so many talented and cool people across the two campuses and build my own community between them doing what I love.”

For Gavin, it’s about being as immersed as possible in both Duke & UNC’s campuses as well. At UNC he’s part of the #1 nationally ranked pickleball team, and at Duke he’s exploring his musical pursuits. “I’ve come to realize that there are some things that are fully unique to being a true Duke student. So many traditions, cheers, even the final song “Every time We Touch” all of it was completely new to me,” a fact that earns Gavin some good-natured teasing from his Duke friends. “Some of my friends will say to me ‘Do you even know this?!’ or stuff like that when one of their traditions pops up.”

The reactions he gets on campus about also being a UNC student run the gamut according to Gavin, “I hear everything from ‘traitor!’ to making fun of UNC, to a sort of respect. Just two nights ago at my a cappella practice for Speak of the Devil, one of the juniors who just got back from study abroad asked why I joined a cappella at Duke. I told him that I wanted to get more involved at Duke since I’m already plugged in at UNC. He said he really admired that I was willing to travel to a rival school just to sing with them. To be honest, I thought that my being from UNC would make more of a difference in my relationships at Duke, however, besides the occasional teasing it doesn’t really come into play.”

Being a part of the Centennial Celebration was truly special for Gavin. “Even without knowing all the cheers I was still able to feel the pride at what has built, and the energy and pride of everyone in that stadium. I realized in that moment that I was truly part of the incredible community at Duke, even while still being a part of Carolina’s community.”