October 5, 2001
MERCED - The Thondapu family of Merced has committed an endowed chair and spearheaded a major fund-raising campaign to purchase books for the University of California, Merced. To be formally announced tonight (October 5, 2001) during the UC Merced World Cultures Institute Library Fundraiser, the Thondapu Family Endowed Chair is a gift from Ramakrishna Thondapu, M.D.; his wife, Sumana; and their children, Vikas and Ramesh. This will be the 10th endowed chair established at UC Merced, which has received a greater number of such endowments than any other United States university campus prior to opening. The fund-raising effort will raise more than $20,000 to support the purchase of books for the World Cultures Institute section of the Leo and Dottie Kolligian Library at UC Merced. Donors will be honored this evening at a special dinner and program at the home of the Thondapus. Included in the program will be an announcement of special gifts, presentations on "UC Merced's World Cultures Institute and You" and "UC Merced Kolligian Library for the New Millennium." "We feel so privileged to have the Thondapu family participate in our exciting enterprise to develop a premiere university campus and expand educational opportunities for the deserving people of the San Joaquin Valley," said UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. "Specifically, their generous philanthropy will further the mission of the University of California to conduct world-class research and teaching." The exact academic use of the endowed chair has not yet been determined.
Contributions of $100 to $1,000 have been received from more than 100 individuals during the initial campaign to benefit the library. The names of patrons, or those whom they wish to honor, will appear on bookplates inside the covers of library books purchased with their donations. "I would like to share my gratitude for the leadership and vision of the Thondapus and the generosity of so many in this important endeavor to build a strong foundation for the World Cultures Institute Library Collection," said UC Merced Founding Librarian Bruce Miller. "Special collections will prove invaluable for research undertaken by faculty and students, and this particular collection will be a resource unique to the UC Merced campus." A member of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees, Dr. Ramakrishna "Krishna" Thondapu is the medical director of anesthesia for Mercy Medical Center. He and Sumana "Suma" Thondapu were looking to relocate from Flint, Michigan to California when an opening surfaced for an anesthesiologist in Merced, and the family made the move 11 years ago. "We have always been excited about the prospect of UC Merced and believe very strongly in providing access to quality, higher education opportunities for students in the region," said Krishna Thondapu. "To make our contribution toward the success of this tremendous educational endeavor is something we feel is very important." "The inspiration to support the UC Merced library evolved from our recent visit to the UC Berkeley library," said Suma Thondapu. "After that tremendous experience, we wanted to help with the development of the UC Merced library so that everyone in the San Joaquin Valley also can benefit from such a resource." Education, with a special emphasis on reading and books, has long held a position of utmost importance in the lives of Krishna and Sumana "Suma" Thondapu, a value they also have instilled in their sons, Vikas and Ramesh. Krishna and Suma Thondapu pursued studies in higher education in their native India, departing after she had earned her master's degree in anthropology and in time for him to begin his medical residency program in Chicago. Showing evidence of wanting to follow his father into the field of medicine, 17-year-old Vikas began his undergraduate studies this fall at Duke University. Ramesh, 15, is a sophomore at Merced's Golden Valley High School. Spelling has been a specific interest of the Thondapu family, with Vikas and Ramesh both advancing to the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee and their mother helping with fund-raising at the local level. Endowed chairs and professorships at UC Merced will facilitate the hiring and retention of outstanding faculty. Income generated by the endowments assures a continuing income flow to fund the research of faculty member appointed to fill these positions. UC Merced may also seek endowments that will pay the salary of the professor as well as offer research funding. The Thondapu Family Endowed Chair in World Cultures is one of 10 endowed chairs pledged to the UC Merced campus. Other donors and their designated endowed chairs are: William and Dorothy Bizzini of Atwater, Biotechnology/Biological Sciences; Walter and Isabel Coats of Merced, Arts; County Bank (Tom Hawker) of Merced, Economics; Ted and Jan Falasco of Los Banos, Earth Sciences; the late Vincent Hillyer of Los Banos, Early Literature; Margaret and the late Joseph Josephine of Fresno, Biological Sciences; Art and Fafa Kamangar of Merced, Biological Sciences (nutrition and preventive medicine); John Myers of Merced and Beverly Hills, Sierra Nevada Research Institute; Keith and Elinor Shaffer of Santa Cruz, Engineering (chair also named for Bettylou George of Merced). Additional major endowments for UC Merced scholarships have been contributed by Margaret Josephine and John Myers. UC Merced currently employs approximately 85 educators and professionals. The University's main campus in Merced is being planned, and is expected to open in fall 2005 to serve 1,000 students. The campus will grow over coming decades to serve 25,000 students. UC Merced contributes to educational access through the entire San Joaquin region via special educational and outreach centers in Fresno and Bakersfield, and through the Tri-College Center in Merced. A new UC Merced center is expected to open in Modesto in 2002.