Rebecca “Beck” Adams-Nestor (A.B. 1967) was an enthusiastic lifelong learner who continued to nurture her love of knowledge long after she left the University of Michigan, embracing new experiences and discoveries, and developing strong connections with the people she met along the way.

Beck arrived in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1963. Just 17 years old, she had graduated from an intense college prep program at one of the best high schools in Detroit. Beck quickly fell in love with the University of Michigan and immersed herself in college life. She pledged a sorority, became an admissions orientation leader, excelled in her American and British literature and French classes, and went to every home football game (the start of her life-long passion for the team).

Beck was accepted into Michigan’s M.A. program in English Literature, but instead chose to return to Detroit following graduation for a job in human resources at the Detroit Free Press. An excellent writer and a “people person,” Beck found that she loved the atmosphere of working for a daily newspaper. She became a lunch regular at a popular downtown eatery, and it was there that she met her husband, James Nestor. For Jim, then an engineer for the City of Detroit, it was love at first sight. In the fall of 1969, Jim and Beck set off across the country to live in her dream state of California—far from Michigan, but Beck knew she’d be able to see her Wolverines play whenever they made it to the Rose Bowl.

Soon, the world became her classroom. Throughout the years, whether traveling in Europe (where she visited London and Paris, at last!), working to help Jim through medical school, or establishing a new life in California, Beck Adams-Nestor’s passion for words, for literature, and for the University of Michigan never abated. She devoured books, with the newest and best mystery writers at the top of her list, and conquered the New York Times and other crossword puzzles. The frame of her car’s license plate read “So Many Books, So Little Time,” and it proved all too true for this passionate, funny woman who so prized her literature degree from the University of Michigan.

After Beck passed away in 2017, Jim found a way to honor her memory by providing young scholars at her beloved alma mater with hands-on learning experiences that she herself would have treasured. He established the Rebecca Adams-Nestor English and Internship Funds, a blended $2.5 million gift that includes a $2 million bequest, which will provide a broad range of support for internships and engaged learning opportunities for students in the Department of English Language and Literature. The gift underscores the value of helping students gain insight into how they might apply their English degrees to a career following graduation. It also thoughtfully connects Beck’s interests with exciting experiential learning initiatives.

Trying it on for size

“How Beck would have loved during her college career to have spent a summer working and studying in England or France, but summers were spent doing office work to save money for the next year’s tuition,” says her sister, Roberta Adams.

Summer internships provide undergraduate students the space to explore a field or career of interest while building job and networking skills. Unfortunately, like Beck, many students aren’t able to take advantage of these increasingly important (and mostly unpaid) opportunities because of the associated costs. The Rebecca Adams-Nestor Internship Fund will support the LSA Opportunity Hub in its mission to help students from all economic backgrounds afford to participate in domestic and international internship experiences to gain valuable workplace skills without financial stress.

The Opportunity Hub also offers unique short form “flash internships,” fast-paced intensives that allow students to explore a career in the span of a few days. The Writing & Publishing experience hosted by Oxford University Press in New York City is a great example of an opportunity for students to go behind the scenes, while networking with U-M alumni in the industry to get an insider’s perspective. Flash internships are open exclusively to LSA students and, thanks to the generosity of donors, fully funded for all student participants.

“There could be no more fitting testament to Beck’s spirit than to give current University of Michigan students who share her passions the kind of experiential opportunities that were beyond her reach,” adds Adams.

Learning outside the classrooom

After she left the University of Michigan, the world became Beck Adams-Nestor’s classroom. She relished new adventures and seized every opportunity to expand her perspective. Accordingly, the Rebecca Adams-Nestor English Fund will support a range of foundational learning programs in the Department of English Language and Literature that incorporate new modes of immersive and inter-disciplinary coursework.

Beck would have been delighted by the new journalism initiative that the department rolled out this year with the help of visiting journalist and senior academic innovation fellow Will Potter. New courses, internships, and speakers’ series dedicated to the history and craft of long-form journalism will expose students to narrative nonfiction as an artful and publicly engaged literary form. In Potter’s recent investigative journalism incubator course students developed narrative non-fiction storytelling skills with a project that they presented via a thoroughly modern medium, Instagram. This spring, an experimental community journalism course partnered students with practicing journalists to pursue an in-depth writing project from field notes to publication. The public engagement components central to the courses highlight the sea change in journalism in the relatively short span of time from when Beck was working at the Detroit Free Press to now, when news consumers are looking for and receiving news from countless media and social channels.

Beck Adams-Nestor embraced the notion of community—she easily connected with new friends who shared her interests, treated each new experience and acquaintance as an opportunity for enrichment, and was devoted to keeping in touch with those who had touched her and Jim’s lives. Funds from the Nestor gift may also be used to support immersive off-campus learning community programs that broaden the definition and reach of the classroom in the study of literature and writing, including the New England Literature Program (NELP) and the Bear River Writers’ Conference. A new program this summer, Great Lakes Arts, Cultures, and Environments (GLACE), is an interdisciplinary collaboration with the University of Michigan Biological Station. All three programs provide nurturing co-living environments in close proximity to nature and heavily influenced by their particular geography. Participants are encouraged to take creative risks and push themselves both intellectually and physically. Alumni of the programs say the experiences have been especially formative, teaching them about open-ended problem solving, resiliency, and investment in community—characteristics that Beck Adams-Nestor’s approach to life embodied.

“From the time she set foot on campus, Beck was a Wolverine through and through. I’m immensely pleased to have found a way to pay tribute to all that her degree from the University of Michigan meant to her by supporting exciting programs for English Language and Literature students,” says Dr. James Nestor.

“The experiential learning opportunities available to students, both new and time-tested, are generating some real excitement within the department,” noted Department of English Language and Literature Chair David Porter. “We believe that integrating community engagement into the curriculum makes for an even more valuable education for our students, and we are thrilled that donors are showing interest in them. We are deeply grateful to Dr. James Nestor for his generous investment in the future of our department.”