On June 24th 1874, the first five graduates of the University of Nebraska "duly organized themselves into an alumni association for purposes of mutual social improvement and the advancement of the interests of the University, whose memories and benefits they wish to perpetuate."

James S. Dales and William Snell, class of 1873, and Frank P. Hurd, Uriah H. Malick and Wallace M. Stephenson, class of 1874, christened their new club the "Associate Alumni of the College of Literature, Science and Art."

The first class reunions for the alumni association were organized in 1897, and the following year, alumni from all colleges in the university were invited to join the association.

The first alumni publication, the Alumni Bulletin, appeared in 1900 under the editorship of H.G. Shedd, class of 1897. The first alumni directory was published the same year.

The slate of alumni activities expanded in 1908 when a committee was named to guide the formation of local alumni chapters. In 1911, George W. Kline became the association's first permanent secretary. In 1912, the alumni association celebrated its first annual homecoming at the Kansas/Nebraska football game; and in 1913, permanent alumni headquarters were found in the university's Administration Building.

The Nebraska Alumnus became the official publication of the alumni association in 1913 and has been published continuously since 1924. In 1994, it evolved into Nebraska Magazine when the university and the association joined forces to produce a publication for alumni and friends of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In 1922, the alumni association launched a drive to finance a new football stadium. By the time the association's 50th anniversary arrived in 1924, the offices had been moved from the Administration Building to the Law College to the Temple Building.

The alumni association was incorporated in 1941 under the laws of the State of Nebraska as a non-profit organization. The federal tax status of the association is that of a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.

In the next three decades, several alumni programs and services were added or revived, including an awards program, a travel program, new alumni chapters, more reunions and the Student Alumni Association. After several moves during the 1960s and '70s – from the Nebraska Union to Varner Hall to the old Phi Mu house – the association moved into the newly constructed Milton I. Wick Alumni Center in 1985. In 2001, the association opened an auxiliary facility – the Nebraska Champions Club, directly west of Memorial Stadium. Today, the NAA also manages the Nebraska Innovation Campus Conference Center.

Alumni programming has continued to grow, with the Young Alumni Academy, Nebraska Women's Leadership Network, Career Development Program, Future Huskers Program, Huskers for Higher Education, Postcards of Pride, Volunteer Opportunity Bank, Alumni Masters Week, Alumni Affiliate Groups, Husker Huddles, VIP Football Weekends, Athletic Travel and Alumni Adventure Travel. Campus traditions initiated or reintroduced by the alumni association include the official Nebraska Ring, Football Fridays, the Homecoming Pep Rally and Jester Contest, Gradfest, conGRADuation party, and the Student Alumni Association's Cornhusker Compass, Backpacks and Briefcases, and All Stressed Out. Numerous scholarships, including Nebraska Legends Scholarships, are available to students thanks to the generosity of alumni chapters, affiliate groups and individuals. Online activities include our website, a Facebook page, an official LinkedIn group, Vimeo and Twitter posts. The association publishes the quarterly Nebraska Magazine; a monthly electronic newsletter, the eNUz; and other smaller group e-newsletters. In addition to annual and life memberships, alumni may become Hail Varsity members.

The alumni association is governed by a seven-member executive board of directors consisting of alumni of the university and representatives from the University of Nebraska Foundation and the UNL Chancellor's Office. An Alumni Advisory Council meets twice a year; the executive board meets more frequently to provide leadership and policy governance for the association.