Concern for Orphans Prompts a $250,000 Bequest Pledge to UB’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Study Center

Release Date: November 15, 2000 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. - With the goal of improving living conditions in Southeast Asia, Nila T. Gnamm, retired civil servant, University at Buffalo alumna and world traveler, has pledged $250,000 to the College of Arts and Sciences to support research initiatives of UB's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Study Center.

Gnamm was a non-traditional student who struggled to put herself through college and graduate school while working full-time at various administrative and clerking jobs. When not studying, she was traveling, learning about the world firsthand.

A visit to an orphanage in Thailand was pivotal in Gnamm's thinking. It strengthened her desire to help countries with poor-economic living conditions and resulted in her decision to support global research through a bequest to her alma mater for its APEC Study Center.

"I am more content now, knowing that when I am no longer here, something good will come of it." She added: "I can only hope that this kind of research will promote more global interaction and encourage our gentler human nature."

Gnamm believes UB's center can make a difference because "education and research can make us better world citizens if the research is shared with policy makers who face such challenges as world hunger, low wages and generally poor-economic living conditions."

Gnamm's bequest commitment will establish the Nila T. Gnamm Junior Faculty Research Fund for UB's APEC Study Center. The center, developed in 1994 by D. Allan Cadenhead, Ph.D. professor in the Department of Chemistry, was one of the original APEC study centers in the United States. There now are 21 such academic centers in America and Asia, that support research on trade and economic policy issues for APEC members, which are countries bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Gnamm's donation also will be used for scholarships or fellowships to help UB graduate students from Southeast Asia whose dissertations focus on quality-of-life issues in their home countries.

Jessie Poon, Ph.D., associate professor of geography and director of the UB APEC Study Center, praised Gnamm's generosity.

"This is a very exciting gift that will help put UB on the map because not many of the other APEC centers receive money for research on socio-economic issues in Southeast Asia," she said.

Thomas W. Burkman, Ph.D., director of UB's Asian Studies Program, concurred in his gratitude for the gift. "This is the first major private gift that Asian Studies has received at UB and we feel it is extremely important in the development of our academic program, which is very active in both classroom education and scholarly research."

Burkman also praised Poon for her widely recognized research on trade and labor issues in Southeast Asia: "This is a great encouragement to Poon for her research and for UB as it deals with this dynamic part of the world."

Although Gnamm's goal had been to attend college right after high school, the Depression changed her plans and she started her working career as a counter girl at Love's Candies on Main Street in Buffalo. However, she never lost sight of her education goals even while working a variety of secretarial, clerical and bookkeeping jobs throughout the Western New York area. She took many jobs-skills related courses and in addition, enrolled at UB as a non-traditional student, often modifying her work schedule to accommodate her university classes.

In 1951, Gnamm went to work for the City of Buffalo starting with a position in the Board of Education offices and moving to the Buffalo Police Department in 1957 where she stayed until her retirement in 1985. Along the way, Gnamm earned her bachelor's degree from UB in 1968 and her master's degree from UB's Graduate School of Education in 1971.

Gnamm kept on learning, even after retirement. She took tap dancing at a senior center, challenged her computer in bridge and has traveled all over the world including trips to England, Thailand, Hong Kong, South America, Indonesia, Mexico, Eastern Europe, Russia, Egypt, China and two lengthy world cruises.

Gnamm lives in Snyder.

Her gift is part of UB's $250 million campaign, the largest ever conducted by a public university in New York and New England. Although it's the fifth major fund-raising campaign conducted by UB, it's the first national/international campaign, the first university-wide campaign and the first to be alumni-driven with campaign volunteer leaders from all over the country. Funds raised will used to enrich academic programs, support students ranging from undergraduates to post-doctoral students and to enhance university life.

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