Long before he ever became a financial adviser, James Wolf was bullish on the University of South Carolina. At the tender age of 7, after watching his first Gamecock football game at Williams-Brice, Wolf was all in — and he continues to invest his time and talents in the institution after earning a degree from the Darla Moore School of Business in 2005.
Wolf has been president of the Charlotte, N.C., chapter of the Gamecock Club and USC Alumni Association for 14 years, during which time he’s gotten married and begun raising two young children. He brings an energy to the role that is equal parts motivational speaker and loyal alumnus.
“Whether you are 22 years old, 52 or 82 — we're going to offer you something,” says Wolf, a Charleston native who earned degrees in finance and marketing from the Moore School and has been a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch for the past decade. “So if you move to Charlotte and want to get plugged in socially, we've got that for you.”
When Wolf moved there after graduating from USC to start his career in the financial services industry, he didn’t know anyone. He soon learned, though, that the city and its suburbs are home to some 17,000 USC graduates, and he wanted to meet them. Wolf called the university, hoping someone would put things into motion.
“They told me, ‘Hey, if you want to have an event, then try and see how it goes,’ ” he says. “So, we started a group on Facebook, which was not as popular back then, and we had over 200 people come out to a football-themed event. The lightbulb went off that we had the opportunity to create something.
“I knew that we had it figured out when there were 500 Gamecocks inside a local bar watching a game and there was a line of people to go in, and people were mad that it wasn’t a bigger bar.”
Taking the reins of Charlotte’s Gamecock Club and Alumni Association chapters, Wolf knew that Gamecock football was a key rallying point but not the only one. These days, the Charlotte groups, which operate as one unit, also offer opportunities for community service and professional networking.
“We tell people, ‘If you want to find a new job, come to an event. You want to meet other Gamecocks, come to an event. You want to marry another Gamecock, come to an event,’ ” he says. “With anything in life, it takes effort, and you get out of it what you put into it. We have become one of the most active — not only chapters within the university — but we're probably one of the most active chapters of any university in the entire country.”
Wolf’s wife, Natalie, is director of investments for Foundation for the Carolinas, a large nonprofit community foundation. Being married to a diehard fan has helped the California native and Boston University graduate develop an affinity for garnet and black. Their children, Adeline and Brooks, are still quite young, but Wolf has the formula for planting the seeds to raise future Gamecocks: Just take them to a game.