Emory Report
October 19, 2009
Volume 62, Number 7


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October 19, 2009
Campaign Emory
Professorship created to honor family traditions

By Terri McIntosh

The family of Florida biochemist Visweswara Rao Koppaka and his wife, Sita Koppaka, has made a $750,000 lead gift to help endow a professorship in the Telugu language and South Indian traditions.

The Visweswara Rao Koppaka and Sita Koppaka Professorship in Telugu and South Indian Cultures, Literatures, and History will fulfill the couple’s desire to make Telugu more accessible to younger generations in the United States. Spoken by about 70 million people, Telugu is the second-most common of India’s 22 national languages.

The Koppaka Family Foundation chose Emory for the professorship because Emory is rapidly becoming one of the premier institutions in the United States for the study of Indian languages, literatures and cultures. The University’s current offerings in Hindi, Sanskrit, Indian literatures, Indian music and dance, history, politics, religion and cultural studies will enable a strong partnership between Telugu studies and other fields.

Atlanta is home to Hindu temples, Indian businesses, Carnatic music and Kuchipudi dance schools, and Indian community organizations. Telugu Studies at Emory will draw upon these rich resources to complement the academic study of Telugu traditions.

In addition to students of religion, culture and literature, the professorship will enable Emory students from a broad range of fields including medicine, public health, law and business to gain the cultural understanding necessary to work in South India.

The Koppakas grew up in neighboring villages in the West Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh, India. He learned at a young age that education was his only path out of poverty and, at 23, graduated from Andhra University with a doctorate in organic chemistry. With help from a scholarship, he completed a second doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin and then immigrated to the United States in 1954. After a 15-year career in pharmaceutical research at Pfizer, he joined the faculty of the University of Florida College of Pharmacy where he served for 30 years. He passed away in 1998.

Emory is committed to building a strong program in Telugu Studies to enhance its South Asian Studies programs. With internal funding and support from the Telugu community, Emory hired world-renowned Telugu scholar V. Narayana Rao in 2007. Working closely with graduate and undergraduate students, he has begun laying the foundations for Telugu Studies at Emory.

To fully endow the professorship and ensure Telugu studies will have a permanent place at Emory, the University is raising another $750,000 in matching funds through Campaign Emory. To learn how you can contribute, contact Jeff Prince.