The Telugu World     Column: 23

Many Great Telugu Academics in the US

Betterindia.com lists Neeli Bendapudi (most probably Neelima) as an American academic and the 18th president of the University of Louisville.  She succeeded James R. Ramsey in May 2018 when he was made to resign after some scandals. She is the first non-white president of the University and is noted for her attention to developing a culture of openness.

Neeli was born in India and moved to the United States to study at the University of Kansas  where she earned her Ph.D. Following a time at both Ohio State University and Texas A&M University she returned to Kansas to serve as the dean of the University of  Kansas School of Business. Till her election as president at Louisville U, she served as as provost and executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas. Within days of taking over at Louisville she was acclaimed for striking the name of John Schnatter (founder-owner of Papa John Pizza) from the football stadium of the University, ‘in response to his use of a racial slur’.  Neeli and her husband, Venkat, were born and raised in India, in the city of Visakhapatnam (Vizag) in Andhra Pradesh. She earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees there before coming to the U.S. for her doctorate. 

Ravi Bellamkonda is another Telugu academic who distinguished himself. He also holds a professorship in the Duke Department of Biomedical Engineering, where his laboratory explores the interplay of biomaterials and the nervous system for the development of peripheral nerve regeneration, brain electrode interfacing and brain tumor therapies. His research was the subject of a BBC science report on cancer. He also had his profile featured in the   international journal, The Engineer.  Ravi was president of the American Institute of Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) from 2014 to 2016. He is on the editorial board for several scientific journals of the Biomedical Engineering Society of which he was a board member. He is an advisory board member of several biomedical engineering-related departments and programs nationally.

Ravi has a BE in Biomedical Engineering from Osmania University (1989) and Ph.D. from Brown University in the US (1994). He was a Markey Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the famous MIT and held many academic positions at Ohio and at Georgia Tech and Emory U., both in Atlanta, Georgia. A Distinguished Scholar of Georgia Cancer Coalition, he was the deputy director of research at the Georgia Tech/Emory Center for the Engineering of Living Tissue. He was also associate vice president for research at the Georgia Institute of Technology and chair of the Biomedical Engineering department at Georgia Tech and Emory.

These are the few who distinguished themselves and rose above the American average. These are many more in the academic field all over that country and in Europe like Kamisetty Ramamohan Rao professor of electrical engineering at University of Texas at Arlington a co-inventor of discrete cosine transform (DCT) along with two other Indians.

Telugu people also participated in American and European politics. The first Asian to be appointed as US Ambassador to Brazil by President Obama was Vinai Thummalapally, son of T. Dharma Reddy, a retired scientist of AP Forensic Laboratory and T. Padmaja. Born in Hyderabad, he went to America in 1974, and attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he was Barack Obama’s roommate. He was CEO of   Mitsui Advanced Media) and has two patents in optical disc manufacturing design. Vinai has a B.S. degree from California State University and took graduate classes in business administration from both CSU and the University of Tennessee. Another is Nellore-born Democratic politician Chivukula Upendra  who was Commissioner of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. Korcherlakota Narayana, former President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minnesota, is named one of the top 100 global thinkers. Gangadharrao S Maddala (1933-1999) taught at several Universities, published over 110 scholarly papers and wrote 12 books covering most of the emerging areas of econometrics. His 1983 book titled Limited Dependent and Qualitative Variables in Econometrics is now regarded as a classic and seminal text for advanced studies in econometrics.

The US is the dreamland of Telugu people and is the country where many of them are settled. And they are not just scientists, software engineers or academics. They also include, Siddarthm (Sid) Katragadda (writer-poet-painter),  Dileep Rao a film actor, entrepreneur Shashi Reddi of Guntur, Nina Davuluri chosen Miss America 2014 in a beauty contest, actress Sarayu Rao (Mrs Blue) daughter of Elcheru Narayana Rao and a well-known Telugu story writer Nidadavolu Malathi, Rajahmundry-born Fox News anchor Uma Pemmaraju, social activist against domestic violence Emani Vijaya Laxmi (born in Kurnool), pop singer Yellapragada Swati Rao (aka Rajakumari), editor-journalist ethnic media pioneer Gopal Raju (1928-2008),  stand-up comedian Hari Kondabolu, and Ajay Naidu, an actor. There are thousands like them of Indian origin and Telugu people are only a small fraction among them.

And they are all American citizens.


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