URBANA – Nancy Abelmann, 56, of Urbana passed away on Wednesday (Jan. 6, 2016) at her home, surrounded by her loving family.
Nancy was the Harry E. Preble Professor of Anthropology, Asian American Studies, and East Asian Languages Cultures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She co-founded the Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) in 2002; served as the director of the Center for East Asian and Pacific Studies from 2005 to 2008; and, since 2009, was the associate vice chancellor for research in humanities, arts and related fields.
Nancy was an anthropologist of Korea and of Korean America. Her publications addressing themes of class, education, migration and social mobility established her as a leading scholar in anthropology, Asian American studies and Korean studies. She was a deeply committed educator and mentor, and her work on the internationalization of the contemporary university - much of that done at the University of Illinois- connected her scholarship quite directly to the institution and students she served so well.
A daughter of Dr. Walter H. Abelmann and Rena W. Abelmann, Nancy was born in Boston in 1959 and grew up in Lexington, Mass. At Harvard University, she majored in East Asian studies; her graduate studies were at the University of California-Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. in anthropology.
Nancy was the most generous of scholars. Her intellectual rigor, integrity and enthusiasm enriched the lives and work of those who were fortunate to have her as a colleague, collaborator, mentor and teacher.
Nancy treasured her friendships, so many of which spanned the globe and lasted a lifetime. Nancy had a vast network of correspondents, both professionally and personally, as the nearly 400 handwritten holiday letters that she sent every year attest.
Nancy's family was precious to her. Her twin daughters, Carmen and Simone, and son Isaac, were the greatest joys in her life. Nancy loved planning family trips all over the world - but regardless of the destination, their activities always included the outdoors - biking, hiking - and visiting art museums. And when they were home, Friday nights were spent together enjoying Nancy's wonderful cooking and watching movies.
Nancy loved the ocean and swimming was one of her favorite activities.
Nancy was preceded in death by her father.
She is survived by her mother, Rena Abelmann; her husband of 19 years, Andrew Gewirth; three children, Carmen, Simone and Isaac; brothers, Arthur Abelmann of Laconia, N.H., and Charles Abelmann of Washington, D.C.; sisters, Karen Gross of Washington, D.C., and Ruth Abelmann of Durham, N.H.; and many nieces and nephews who adored her.
Shiva will be at the Abelmann Gewirth household, 402 W. Pennsylvania Ave., Urbana, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. today (Sunday) and Monday. A celebration of her life will be held later in the spring.
In lieu of other expressions of sympathy, contributions may be directed to: University of Illinois Foundation/Nancy Abelmann Scholarship Fund, 1305 W. Green St., Urbana, IL 61801.
Morgan Memorial Home, 1304 Regency Drive West, Savoy, is in charge of arrangements.