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Updated 11:00 AM August 13, 2007
 

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Nam gifts to U-M total $4.3 million for Korean Studies

Elder Sang-Yong Nam, president and CEO of Nam Building Management Co. in Ann Arbor, has made it a lifelong mission to build recognition and respect for the history and culture of his homeland.
Elder Sang-Yong Nam (seated, center), president and CEO of Nam Building Management Co. in Ann Arbor, has donated a total of $4.3 million to the Korean Studies Program. With the Nam family are LSA Dean Terrence McDonald (third from right) and Vice President for Development Jerry May (right). (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

His recent gift of $2.3 million to the Korean Studies Program, combined with his earlier gifts of $500,000 and $1.5 million, will provide the resources to propel Korean Studies in LSA to national prominence, and ultimately will upgrade the program to a Center for Korean Studies. This gift is part of LSA's fundraising effort for the $2.5 billion Michigan Difference Campaign.

"When I came to the University of Michigan as a graduate student in 1964, I found 760,000 books on Asia in the library. Most were about China and Japan—less than 100 were about Korea," Nam says. "In the University Museum of Art, there were 1,400 items in the Chinese collection and 1,300 in the Japanese, but only 45 in the Korean collection, including broken pieces.

"The U-M Center for Chinese Studies and the Center for Japanese Studies were highly regarded, but Korean language and culture were not studied at all. I was shocked by the total lack of interest in Korea. I wanted to correct this disparity and upgrade the status of my country in the intellectual landscape of Asian studies."

Nam has overcome many hardships in his life, so he was ready to take on this challenge. As a high school student during the Korean War, he witnessed his father's abduction, which left him and his older brother to provide for their six siblings. He later graduated with a degree in architectural engineering from Seoul National University, then worked for the U.S. Operations Mission to Korea, which eventually led him to Michigan.

After earning a master of city planning degree from the College of Architecture and Design in 1966, Nam and his wife, Moon-Sook Hong, built a successful real estate management company and worked to organize University and community support for a Korean Studies Program.

"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," he says.

Both sons attended the University and were active in the Korean Student Association. When Anthony Nam was president of the KSA, he spearheaded a petition campaign to create a Korean Studies Program. 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 1995. Today it produces some of the finest scholarship on Korea in the nation.

"Elder and Mrs. Nam have been instrumental in getting the Korean Studies Program started at U-M," LSA Dean Terrence McDonald says. "Now, through their tremendous generosity, the program is positioned to move to the forefront of its field. Their gifts will enable us to recruit world-class scholars, provide unparalleled learning opportunities and fund innovative research that will contribute significantly to the depth and breadth of new scholarship on Korea. The Nams' gift will create a legacy for decades to come."

The Nams also support dozens of organizations in the United States and Korea including: the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, the Korean-American Society of Greater Ann Arbor, the Korean Church of Ann Arbor, the Korean School of Ann Arbor, as well as the Architectural Institute of Korea, the Seoul National University, the Chung-Ang University, the Yanbian University of Science and Technology, and the Pyong-Yang University of Science and Technology in North Korea.

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