Donor Story: Sam Uppala

A LONG-TIME WEST VIRGINIA RESIDENT CONTINUES TO SUPPORT HIS COMMUNITY 12 YEARS AFTER LEAVING.

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Sambasiva “Sam” Uppala first  came to the United States from  India in the 1970s, finding a  home in Bozeman, Montana.  There, he attended Montana  State University where he  received his Masters in Chemical Engineering before moving to  the Mountain State where he  worked for DuPont until he  retired in 2004.  

His background is not strictly science-based—the  humanities were also a big part  of his college experience and education. “That is where my  heart lives,” Uppala admits. “I  was involved with just about  every arts and musical institution  in the Charleston area. I’m a  big fan of West Virginia Public  Broadcasting and the West  Virginia Symphony.”  

Before he even got started with  contributing to The Greater  Kanawha Valley Foundation,  Uppala was directly giving to  arts-based entities like the West  Virginia Symphony, the Clay  Center, and Kanawha Valley  Friends of Old-Time Music and  Dance (FOOTMAD). “I think around my retirement, I was looking to give a bit  differently, and I had the opportunity at the time  financially,” he says. “I kind of knew about the  Foundation, had friends there, and thought ‘This is  the place and the time to do it.’” 

The ‘American Spirit’ seems like we are individuals and  can do it by ourselves, but my accomplishments are  largely because of the help from the communities I have  interacted with and the people I have crossed paths with.

Choosing a donor-advised fund was an important  decision for Uppala, one that he remains pleased  with after 20 years of working with TGKVF as a  donor. “We established a named fund”—the Sam  R. Uppala Fund—“that would be sort of advised  by me in how the funds would be dispersed. We  started the fund, and then every year I have been  getting a note from them around September about  how much money from the fund we can give, and  I tell them three or four organizations that I want to  allocate funds to.” As an avid supporter and lover  of arts and culture, Uppala’s recipients most often  fall under that category. “The fund has grown from  what I’ve given, and I don’t have to worry about it  every year. It’s a perpetual thing—that’s the beauty  of it. You can always increase your contribution  to the fund, which is a great thing to do whenever  you can.” 

Uppala—becoming a certified wine professional  through the Culinary Institute of America in 2009— left West Virginia in 2012, moving next door to  Virginia where he spends his days happily working  in the tasting room of a local winery. Over time,  Uppala’s direct donations eventually became  more focused on his new community and other  established funds. He gives directly to his alma  maters, Montana State University and Marshall  University, and to the University of Virginia, of  which he is a fan of their programs in the realm of  arts and culture. “I have much interest in cultural  organizations that are involved with performance  and plastic arts. I tend to gravitate towards those,  seeing the value to the community and what they are doing.” However, despite his move, his fund  with the Foundation was one of the West Virginia based philanthropic connections he retained.  

“They are wonderful,” he says. “I haven’t been  there that much, but I did go to West Virginia  recently, and they just happened to have one of  their meetings at the Clay Center. The staff has  changed, but some I used to know are still there.  I get communications regularly. It’s an institution  that needs to be supported.” 

When asked why he feels it’s important to give  back to the communities he’s been a part of,  Uppala shares that it’s a question he actually  considers often. “We are a society. We depend on  each other. The ‘American Spirit’ seems like we  are individuals and can do it by ourselves, but my  accomplishments are largely because of the help  from the communities I have interacted with and  the people I have crossed paths with,” he says.  “They have helped me become the person I am.  We have a collective responsibility to each other.  That’s why I want to participate in returning at least  a part of what I received.”

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