A Legacy of Change

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez

A Legacy of Change

By Jennifer Palma Sanchez
It’s been a year and half since his wife of almost 52 years, Nancy T. Clasby, a pioneering English professor who stood up for those who couldn’t stand for themselves, passed away. But Eugene Clasby, English professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, still beams with admiration when he says her name.

“I still have all of the evaluations from her students in my office,” said Clasby, whose smile is evident even over the phone. “You should read them, the students just adored her, even the ones from Colonial Literature, course 213,” he said jokingly.

Nancy’s kindness and passion for equality were infectious and impactful throughout the five decades she spent at UM, and today her husband is at peace knowing that, through UM’s Heritage Society, the Nancy T. Clasby Endowed Scholarship Fund will continue to support students in the way his wife would have wanted.

“She loved every one of her students, but she had a special drive to help the ones who weren’t given the same chance as others,” he said, after the Heritage Society Luncheon on April 10, when he and the Heritage Society’s 169 other members were celebrated for their induction.

“Her love wasn’t specialized; it was specially focused on those who needed a chance.” After arriving at UM together on June 6, 1968, Nancy Clasby didn’t take long to discover her voice in the male-dominated field of higher education. She relentlessly addressed systemic barriers that interfered with student success and tackled racial and social injustices throughout the community.

Long before social movements and the fight for equal rights, Nancy Clasby was truly a pioneer. As a faculty member she established the first Black Studies program and taught the first Black Literature class. Outside the classroom, she transformed the role of women in higher education by pushing for equal pay and treatment through the development and implementation of the first renewable contracts for female faculty.

“She was a groundbreaker,” her husband said. “She had a wonderful way of gaining support for her progressive ideas, even from the most conservative members of the community.”

During the 28th Luncheon celebration, Clasby, who has been a professor at UM for 50 years, was joined by five new faculty and staff inductees to the Heritage Society. Joining him were, Matt McCabe, B.S. '14, area director, Housing and Residential Life and Steven Priepke, B.B.A. '03, J.D. '06, senior associate dean of students, Scott Siegel, M.B.A. '97, development director, Division of University of Advancement, and Danny Yanez, M.A.S.T ’09, senior director of corporate relations, Division of University Advancement. Like Clasby, the faculty and staff recognized at the event, along with the other planned giving donors honored there, know that their gestures of generosity have the potential to secure the continued success of the organization while leaving a legacy for generations to come.

“Nancy gave hope to everyone around her who needed it and I am confident that her endowment will encourage others to do the same,” Clasby said, emphasizing that he and his wife planned the endowment together. “We were always team and, just as I stood beside her throughout each of her endeavors at UM, the decision to continue to support her beloved students through scholarship is one that we made together.”

By making a planned gift and becoming a member of the Heritage Society, you help the University of Miami meet the challenges of tomorrow by leaving a legacy for future generations. The Heritage Society connects individuals with the University and establishes a meaningful and enduring relationship with donors and their families. Please contact Cynthia Beamish, executive director, Office of Estate and Gift Planning, for more information on becoming a member of the Heritage Society. 

A full listing of the 2017-2018 Heritage Society Inductees can be viewed here