A native of Daejeon, Korea, Sam-Yong Nam grew up in a war-torn country where he nurtured the dream of rebuilding Korea’s ravaged physical environment. After studying architecture at Seoul National University, he moved to the United States, received a master’s degree in City Planning in Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, and worked as a senior city planner for Washtenaw County Metropolitan Planning Commission for 13 years.
With a relentless drive, he built a successful business and became an active and integral member of its university and community life. He was a member of the Korean Church of Ann Arbor, the Ann Arbor Rotary Club, the U-M Haven Presidential Society and director of the Nam Family Foundation. He served as an adviser to The National Unification Advisory Council and as an adjunct professor at Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China and received an honorary doctorate degree from Chung-Ang University in Korea. His numerous awards include the Distinguished Service Award from the College of Architecture and Urban Planning in 2002 and the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor’s Distinguished Service Award in 2009. Nam’s desire to support the cause of education took him to places as distant as Yanbian University of Science and Technology in China and as close to home as Ann Arbor Korean School, but his singular passion was the Korean Studies program at the University of Michigan. His indefatigable determination ultimately led to the naming of the Nam Center for Korean Studies in 2010. Desire, dream, drive, and determination—the “four D’s” that marked Sang-Yong Nam’s remarkable life until his passing in 2011—now comprise a legacy that continues to inspire young people in Ann Arbor and beyond.