Koppaka Family Foundation
The Koppaka Professorship is named in honor of the late Dr. Koppaka Visweswara Rao and Sita Rao. Dr. and Mrs. Rao grew up in neighboring villages in Andhra Pradesh, India and were married in 1943. Dr. Rao learned at an early age that education was his only path out of poverty. At age 23, Dr. Rao graduated from Andhra University with a DSc in organic chemistry and was awarded a government scholarship in 1948 to study for a second doctorate in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, during which time he was separated from his young family for five years. The family immigrated to the United States in 1954, and Dr. Rao went on to enjoy a successful career at Pfizer, identifying new drugs to treat cancer, before joining the faculty at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy.
Meanwhile, overcoming great odds and through the help of friends and the community, Sita Koppaka, became fluent in English and adapted to the customs and culture of her new country. Blending elements from both cultures, she created a warm and caring home for her family. Together, the couple raised three children with the same respect for education, culture, and responsibility to community that their parents had instilled in them.
Dr. and Mrs. Rao had a lifelong interest in Telugu arts, music, and literature. Dr. Rao expressed a desire to expose Americans, particularly young people, to Telugu culture. Mrs. Rao and their children Vijaya Koppaka, Jaya Koppaka, and Ram Koppaka, committed to continue Dr. and Mrs. Rao’s legacy by endowing in 2015 the Visweswara Rao and Sita Koppaka Professorship in Telugu and South Indian Culture, Literature, and History at Emory University.