Obituary: V. Udaya Shankar Rao — 1938 to March 26, 2019               


By K. S. V. L Narasimhan, Moorestown, NJ

sim.narasimhan@outlook.com

Vallabhajosyula Udaya Shankar Rao, known simply as Uday to his friends, passed away on March 26, 2019 after stoically living through Parkinson’s disease for the last few years. He was 80. He was born on August 4, 1938 in Vijayanagaram, a small town along the Coastal Andhra Pradesh north of Vishakhapatnam. With his mother passing away when he was young, he and his two young-er sisters were raised by their aunt Aadilakshmi, and her husband Voruganti Lakshmikantham.

After obtaining a bachelor’s degree with honors from Andhra University (1958), Uday joined TIFR and earned a PhD in physics from the University of Bombay (1967). In Mumbai, when he was hospitalized briefly, he met his future wife, Cecilia, an attending nurse at the hospital. After their marriage in 1966, they came to the United States in 1968 with Uday’s postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh, where he later became an assistant professor. Uday was highly respected among the post-doctoral fellows .His ability to break down complex tasks to manageable simple steps helped un-ravel the mystery of why rare-earth magnets are so powerful,

After a short stint at U.S. Steel, he joined the Department of En-ergy’s Pittsburgh Energy Technology Center, working on catalysts for converting coal to liquid fuels. In 1989 he received an award for his work from the Pittsburgh-Cleveland Catalysis Society. He retired in 2006.

During the early days of Sri Venkateswara temple, Uday was active with many of us in assisting Raj Gopal in building the temple for Sri Venkateswara. Originally the temple was to be built in Monroeville, where the Hindu-Jain temple is today.

Conflict on the details of the temple resulted in us breaking away to the current location in Penn Hills. The separation of the Indian group was painful, with Uday, myself, and many others pleading for unity in a meeting where tempers were flying high. With no place even to meet, Uday helped us get together in a classroom at the Uni-versity of Pittsburgh where the first draft of the letter for the S V Temple was prepared for mailing to potential donors. Uday was part of the working committee, executive committee and later served as Chairman of the board of trustees.

Uday always wanted to help the needy. In one of our board meetings he wanted the temple to assist a student at Penn State who was wrongfully convicted. He proposed sending $30,000 to assist in paying the legal fees. The board started debating on the amount rather than on the role of temple in these situations. Finally, an amount was sent. The construction of the temple consumed most of our lives from 1973 for several years.

Uday was a great enthusiast of Indian classical performing arts.  He himself would go on stage and sing on the Aradhana Days at the temple.

When I moved from Austin, Texas to Pittsburgh to work at the University, Uday and Cecilia took care of me to settle down in Shadyside. As was common in those days, after work most of us went to a pub in Oakland for a few beers. Often spouses joined us as well. Uday would stand up on a chair and start singing the Simon and Garfunkel song “Oh Cecilia! You’re breaking my heart … …”

Uday was a great tennis player. Afflicted with Parkinson’s and lying in bed still most of the time, when I went to see him, he engaged in conversation with a sharp mind. I teased him: “My best chance to beat you in tennis is now.” He burst into laughter.

S.G.Sankar from Bethel Park, a close friend, read Hindu scriptures for Uday every week. He found peace in both Hinduism and Christianity. Uday helped both his sisters and their families and Cecilia’s family settle down in the US.

Vivek Rao, his son, in the eulogy to his father described Uday aptly: “My father was a calm, kind and gentle spirit. He never gossiped, criticized others or made them uncomfortable. Although he was not a very outgoing person, because of these qualities, he made and kept many friends.”

Uday leaves behind his wife Cecilia of 50-plus years of mar-riage. He is survived by his sisters, Dr. Indira Varanasi and Dr. Meera Rao; his son Vivek Rao and daughter-in-law Yesoda Nirujogi Rao, and their children Venkat, Jayanth, and Nidhi.

After a funeral mass in Sts. Simon and Jude Church, the mortal remains of Uday were buried at the Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Carnegie, PA on Saturday, March 30, 2019.

Note: Uday Shankar and Cecilia Rao supported the magazine after seeing the very first issue in October 1995. They gave $20 that I distinctly remember even how and I gratefully acknowledge their generosity  —  K S Venkataraman, Editor

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