Alumnus donates $1 million in support of Korean Studies ProgramSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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In April, Elder Sang-Yong Nam celebrated his 70th birthday. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren, friends, colleagues, and fellow parishioners. While he has plenty of life left to live, it was a natural time to reflect on his legacy. To his family he has shown the rewards that hard work, dedication, and faith can bring. To the University of Michigan, his second family, he will leave a trail of endowments, gifts, service, and foresight that will touch hundreds or possibly thousands of scholars in the years to come.
In 1964, all Nam wanted to do was come to the United States and continue his advanced studies. With the help of several people from Ann Arbor and U.S. government workers in Korea, Nam found his dreams fulfilled when he was accepted into the city planning program at the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan.
"I was thrilled when I found out that I was accepted. From that day on I was a Michigan man," says Nam. "From that first moment I loved the University of Michigan."
By the time he reached U-M he had $4 in his pocket, one suitcase and myriad of dreams. He quickly immersed himself in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and of course the University. But one thing has bothered him over the years: in the Asian Library collection there were hundreds of thousands of volumes from and about China and Japan, but very few of Korea. There were established Chinese and Japanese Studies programs but nothing about Korea; and the art museum has 1437 objects in its Chinese collection compared to the 46-piece Korean art collection. He was determined to change that and at the same time to help students from Asian countries have the same opportunity to study at U-M that he had.
Today, after 40 years of working, saving and raising children, Nam and his wife Moon Sook, are satisfying that dream of giving back.
Elder Nam is generously giving over $1 million to the University. But the gift's distribution is designed to benefit the maximum number of students—both here and abroad:
*A gift to the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning that will fund a student/faculty exchange program with Chung-Ang University and the Architecture Institute of Korea.
*An endowment fund for the Korean Studies Program that will enhance the program and establish a permanent chair.
*The purchase of the Hasenkamp collection of Korean art, one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in the country, for the U-M Museum of Art. The collection is composed of nearly 250 objects, including paintings, bronzes, and furniture. According to Maribeth Graybill, senior curator of Asian art at the Museum, the glory of the collection is the ceramics, which present a comprehensive survey of the medium over 2,000 years and will be on view at the UMMA in mid-December through the winter term.
"Elder and Mrs. Sang-Yong Nam have been a great support to the Korean Studies Program in both their enthusiasm and resources," said Meredith Woo-Cumings, director of the Korean Studies Program. "There are six million Koreans living around the world and we can see and study their influence in various societies through art, politics, literature, film and economics. That is the unique angle that the Korean Studies Program at the University of Michigan takes."
Elder Nam sits back on his couch in his comfortable home surrounded by artwork, photos, flags—representations of everything he loves about Korea, the United States, and U-M. As he talks about his ability to help create a program, donate funds to give students the kinds of opportunities that he was offered, and to round out a museum collection he is visibly moved.
"I had a dream that I would do something, but I never thought that I would be able to do this," he says almost surprised at his own good fortune. "If I make more money I'll give more money away."
To find out more about the Korean Studies Program at the U-M, visit <http://www. umich.edu/~iinet/ksp>.
Eleanor Shelton is a freelance writer and editor based in Ann Arbor.