Obituary: Nancy Gamer

Writer, administrator, educator

Nancy Gamer, a resident of Claremont and Pomona for 43 years, died peacefully in her sleep the morning of April 26, 2017. She was 80 years old.

A native of Olympia, Washington, she was born February 2, 1937 to Kathryn and Norman Schaefer. During her teens she was an avid swimmer, working as a lifeguard on Puget Sound.

It was at the Helen Busch School that she discovered her gifts for literature and writing, serving as senior class president and gaining admission to Mills College in 1955. There she earned her Bachelor of Arts in literature and on graduation won a fellowship to do further graduate study. She received her Master of Arts in May of 1960, married naval officer Jerrold Gamer that June and moved to Great Lakes, Illinois, where she taught writing and where her son Jeffrey was born in 1961. As is common with military families, the next years brought with them several relocations: Monterey (where her son Michael was born in 1964), Norfolk, Jacksonville, Washington, DC, and finally Claremont in 1972.

The move to Claremont coincided with a slump in the academic job market, and so Mrs. Gamer did not re-enter the workplace until 1977, when a temporary position with the Harvey Mudd College Alumni Office became permanent. She began as alumni secretary and was promoted first into fundraising and then to director of alumni relations. At HMC she determinedly advocated for those who worked for her; her kitchen for many years was a kind of social and professional hub. During her 11-year tenure, the annual fund increased 1,000 percent. On her retirement, her position was divided into three, a testimony to her drive and abilities, and she was made an honorary alumna. Even 25 years later, she is still remembered for the pivotal role she played as the college came into its own.

On leaving HMC she went back to her passion and vocation, teaching writing at the Claremont McKenna College Writing Center. Students, especially those writing theses, regularly sought out “that lady…the one who knew all the rules” for more than 15 years. She retired in 2007, eventually moving to Portland in 2015 to be near her son Jeff.

Nancy enjoyed culture in all its forms, from Jane Austen to “All My Children,” from the Laemmle Theater to the Thompson Creek Trail, from Bruce Springsteen to David Hockney, from watching tennis to sitting on the beach. She loved London and was a voracious reader, particularly of fiction, a pleasure she rediscovered in the final months before her death. Her favorite line of poetry was from Blake: “Exuberance is beauty.” She is survived by her sons and by her two brothers, John and Norman.

A luncheon celebrating Nancy Gamer will take place at noon on Saturday, May 20 at Tropical Mexico restaurant, located at 1371 East End Ave. in Pomona. Please RSVP to Michael Gamer at if you would like to attend. Memorial donations in lieu of flowers may be made St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (


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