Upon deciding to honor the memory of our mother, Nancy Bylan Bratman, through a major charitable donation, we—two of her sons—knew exactly what we wanted to do. By endowing awards for excellence in writing by undergraduate students in the U-M History Department, we could simultaneously pay tribute to three of our mother’s lifelong passions: good writing, the study of history, and the university where she did a lot of both.
Mom was an immensely proud alumna of Michigan, where, as a history major, she was proudest of her A+ junior-year thesis on the Boer War. We hope that our gift will serve in its own small way to advance the causes in which she believed, as do we: the study of history and the development of strong writing skills in college students.
Mom was born June 7, 1929, in Detroit and grew up in Grand Rapids. After a year at Wellesley College, she transferred happily to U-M to complete her undergraduate education. Outside of her academic work, she was active on the Michigan Daily, where she served as a reporter and associate editor, and in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society, for which she was a chorister and treasurer. After receiving her BA in 1951, she worked for several years as an editor in New York and Chicago, mostly for trade publications. She married our father, Dr. Robert Bratman, in 1956, and they moved to California where they raised four sons. She died on March 15, 2014, at the age of eighty-four.