Source: ORUUC Newsletter | Mary Adler-Jasny | February 25, 2016
Shigeko Uppuluri is being honored by the Japanese Foreign Minister for her many years of effective work in building relationships between her native Japan and her adopted country, the United States. Marty Adler-Jasny wrote this about her friend Shigeko for their church newsletter…
Soft-spoken and unassuming, she is known at ORUUC for exquisite flower arrangements, intriguing origami for the children, amazing chopping abilities at Tabitha’s Table, delicious Japanese and Indian dishes for potlucks, and most of all, for her lasting legacy to Oak Ridge: the magnificent 4-ton International Friendship Bell in Bissell Park.
She has been central to the Sister City Support Organization, preparing seventh-graders and City officials for their exchange trips to Naka, Japan. She has taught UT students and others who wish to learn about the culture and the language of her native country, and served as translator and guide for visitors and companies in both Japan and the United States.
Shigeko Uppuluri is now being honored by the Japanese Foreign Minister for her many years of effective work in building relationships between her native Japan and her adopted country, the United States.
The prestigious Commendation Award will be conferred on Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at a ceremony at the Pollard Technology Conference Center from 6 – 8 pm.
This quiet dynamo was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1931 and lived there until first grade when the family moved to Shanghai for her father’s business. They lived through the privations of WWII and returned to Japan in 1946. Shigeko immediately entered Kyoto Women’s High School (which soon became co-ed), followed by Doshisha Women’s College majoring in English. Last year she had her last reunion with the girls from her years in Shanghai.
She and her family moved to Tokyo where she worked until, curious “to see the other side” and encouraged by an American faculty couple, in 1958 she came to Indiana University’s graduate school on a scholarship to study anthropology. She met (at the university president’s Christmas day reception for foreign students) and married Ram Uppuluri, an Indian PhD mathematics candidate. Ram and Shigeko’s only language in common was English. A few years later they moved to the University of Michigan while Ram finished his dissertation and in 1963, with their 2-year-old son Rammy, came to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. That winter they made their first visit back their native lands to introduce their spouses and grandchild to their parents.
In Oak Ridge, Shigeko became active in the YWCA, school activities, and church events at ORUUC (Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church). She helped visiting Japanese scientists’ wives, who spoke little English and did not drive, with children’s school activities and doctor’s appointments. She and Ram bought a house, studied for their citizenship, and when it was granted in 1972, celebrated with neighbors at an Indian Lane picnic.
In 1977, after the Uppuluris returned from a year at the University of California Santa Barbara, Shigeko began work at ORNL in the Information Division helping build data bases for carcinogens and teratogens for the National Library of Medicine. In addition to translating technical papers, attending meetings in Japan and teaching Japanese language and cultural norms to researchers from ORNL who were going abroad, she participated in local International events and assisted Japanese people who came to establish Japanese businesses in the East Tennessee area.
Shigeko and her husband developed the idea for the International Friendship Bell and proposed it as a project for the 50th anniversary of Oak Ridge in 1992. They, and members of the community, raised the funds (from the US and abroad) needed for its completion. The Bell, initially controversial, has become a symbol of Oak Ridge, featured on brochures, and rung in celebrations. The beautiful, deep-toned bell honors the Manhattan project workers, expresses the hope for everlasting peace, friendship, and understanding among all peoples, and exemplifies the Oak Ridge 50th anniversary theme: “Born of war, living for peace, growing through science.”
Following her retirement and Ram’s death, Shigeko worked for three years in India, helping young professionals as they prepared for careers with Japanese software companies. After her return to Oak Ridge she continued her volunteer work with the Girl Scouts, Children’s Museum, and assisting executives from local Japanese companies. In 2008, Shigeko received the Covenant Platinum Award, given to people for their accomplishments after the age of 65.
Shigeko Uppuluri has been described as a person of “inner peace and outer strength”. She continues to make a lasting impact on Oak Ridge, and the larger world, and ORUUC is one of the many beneficiaries.