Seniors Tell All: Gabriel Whaley

Gabriel Whaley

As the spring semester draws to a close, seniors will once again don their blue commencement gowns and head off to new adventures. We asked five College majors to dish on their most memorable classes, favorite campus spots, dream jobs and what they’ll miss most about Carolina. Read more senior profiles: Lindsey Jefferies, Timothy Palpant, Elizabeth McCain and Amber Koonce.

A former varsity letterman for the U.S. Army men’s soccer team at West Point, Gabriel Whaley has long harbored a greater goal. Growing up, his family couldn’t afford soccer camps — the focus was putting food on the table. So Whaley founded Kicking4Hunger Inc., a nonprofit that runs soccer camps and clinics for kids throughout North Carolina. Instead of charging a registration fee, Whaley’s organization encourages a non-perishable food donation. These days, this 2011 People magazine “Readers’ Choice Hero” is proving a winner off the field, too: His group has reached more than 1,000 children and collected more than 17,000 pounds of food.

Hometown: Midland, N.C.

Major: Philosophy

Most memorable academic experience at UNC: Working with my roommate, Jacob Yaniero, and mentors from Kenan-Flagler Business School, including Professor Patrick Vernon, to formally start and run my 501(c)3 public charity, which I had begun in 2006. It was all done completely outside of any class, which was interesting because there were no expectations or rigid requirements from the academic side of things. It was all about us coming together to seek out certain university resources to help us with our project. We e-mailed Professor Vernon based on his background and met with him a couple of times so he could critique our planning process. We’ve stayed in touch, and he has been very helpful.

Favorite campus spot: Hooker Fields and the main soccer fields in the center of campus. Almost any time of the day, even when it’s well past sunset, you can always find a pickup game.  If I’ve had a long day in class or a particularly rough week, I know I can always count on picking up a game over at Hooker Fields.

Dream job: Running my charity. At some point, I’d like to get my MBA and use that either to expand what I’m doing into more of a national or global corporation. Eventually, when I near retirement age, I’d like to go back and teach high school so that I can share my experiences with everyone else.

What I will miss most about Carolina:The calmness, serenity and beauty of the campus. And also the diversity and hearing everyone’s different stories. When you walk through the Pit, it’s so cool to be able to see that there’s more to life than what I’m seeing through my particular lens.

[ By Pamela Babcock, spring ’12 Carolina Arts & Sciences magazine. Photo by Mary Lide Parker ’10 ]