Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, September 2, 2010

U-M dedicates Center for Korean Studies to
Elder Sang-yong Nam and family

President Mary Sue Coleman and LSA Dean Terrence J. McDonald honored Elder Sang-Yong Nam, his wife, Moon-Sook Nam, and their family on Tuesday at the dedication and naming of the Nam Center for Korean Studies at the International Institute. 

Elder Nam, a U-M alumnus, is president and CEO of Nam Building Management Co. in Ann Arbor. He is the largest benefactor of the Nam Center for Korean Studies, having pledged more than $4 million over the years. The Nam family’s gift has made it possible to significantly expand the center’s faculty, which will make it one of the top Korean studies center in the nation, McDonald said at the ceremony.

“Because of Elder and Mrs. Nam’s generosity we are currently seeking top scholars in the field to fill these new positions in the Nam Center,” McDonald says. “The Nam family have my deepest gratitude for their many contributions and unparalleled support for Korean Studies.” 

When Elder Nam arrived at U-M from Korea in 1964 as a graduate student in the College of Architecture and Design, he found 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. 

Early hardships had prepared him for the challenge. As a high school student during the Korean War, he witnessed his father’s abduction, leaving him and his older brother to provide for their six siblings. After graduating with a degree in architectural engineering from the Seoul National University, he worked for the United States Operations Mission to Korea, which led him to Michigan.

After earning a master’s degree in city planning in 1966, he and his wife built their real-estate management company and worked to raise support for a U-M 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,” Elder Nam says. 

Both sons attended U-M and were active in the Korean Student Association. As president of the KSA, Anthony Nam spearheaded a petition drive to create a Korean Studies Program. In 1995 the program was established and was expanded to a center in 2007, as a result of continuous fundraising and support by Elder Nam.