The Nam Family
Sang-Yong Nam arrived at the University of Michigan from Korea in 1964, with only $4 in his pocket, as a graduate student in the College of Architecture and Design. He found only a few books about Korea in the U-M library and a lack of Korean art in the U-M Museum of Art. It became his dream to correct the disparity and make U-M a premier center for Korean studies.
Over the years Elder Nam, president and CEO of Nam Building Management Co. in Ann Arbor, became the largest benefactor of the Nam Center for Korean Studies at the International Institute, pledging more than $4 million and making it one of the top programs in the country. In the fall of 2010, the Center was named in his honor. He also gave generously to the Asia Library, the U-M Museum of Art, and the College of Architecture and Urban Planning. A self-proclaimed “Michigan Man,” Elder Nam often sported U-M apparel as he strolled around campus regaling friends and colleagues with his jokes and stories. Elder Nam, 77, died of cancer at his home in Ann Arbor on March 29, 2011 surrounded by his wife Moon-Sook Nam, sons Andrew and Anthony, and their families. Mrs. Nam and her sons continue to be actively involved in Center events and activities.
The Nam Family Legacy
Sons Andrew (BSME’88, MBA ’95) and Anthony (BS ’91) share their parents’ educational vision. “I asked my sons, Andrew and Anthony, to attend U-M so that they would share my vision for Korean studies and carry on my philanthropy and mission,” Elder Nam said during an interview. As president of the Korean Student Association, Anthony spearheaded a petition campaign that helped launch U-M’s Korean Studies Program in 1995. Several years later, through the support of many people at the University and in the Ann Arbor and metro Detroit communities, the Korean Studies Program was established. In July of 2007, a $2.3 million gift from the Nams to the Center for Korean Studies, combined with $2 million in previous contributions, provided the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) with the resources to upgrade the Program from the current designation to the Center for Korean Studies. Today it produces some of the finest scholarship on Korea in the nation. “With his tremendous generosity Elder Nam has created a legacy for many decades,” said Terrence J. McDonald, dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. “His gifts will enable us to recruit world class scholars, provide unparalleled learning opportunities and fund innovative research that will contribute to new scholarship on Korea.’’