CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After 42 years in Charleston, he needed a change. He moved early this month to Charlottesville, Va. That's as far as he cared to get from the adopted town he loves.
A 66-year-old native of India, Sam Uppala grew up dreaming of a life in America, a dream shared by all of his college classmates. He was a bright student and studied diligently to realize his goal.
In 1968, he arrived in the U.S. to get his master's degree in chemical engineering at Montana State University. Carbide lured him to Charleston, but he switched quickly to DuPont and stayed 32 years in a role that required lots of world travel.
Active in all sorts of community events and organizations, a respected juried painter and a certified wine professional, he evolved into the quintessential bon vivant and man-about-town.
With characteristic enthusiasm and optimism, he looks forward to making a new name for himself in Charlottesville.
"I was born in India, south India in the state of Andhra Pradesh. These days, probably 100 million people live there, so it's pretty dense like most of India.
"I was born into a middle-class family. My father was a farmer and a high school graduate. Faming isn't like it is here. Farms are separate from the houses. The house was in the village and farmland was outside the village, so we didn't live on the farm.
"I had a brother and two sisters, all older than me. When I was growing up, they were already gone. I wanted to have an education and be something. I had a free hand. I was never any trouble. I'm self-motivated. They didn't have to worry about me.
"I was top of my class all the time, for every subject. I graduated high school at 14. I skipped three grades one year. The school system isn't the same as here. We don't have semesters. You take an exam at the end of the year to determine if you fail or pass and advance to the next grade. We went to school from June to April.
"My dad had a pretty good education for his time and place. He could write and read English, which many others could not do. You learned English in high school. My mother was basically a housekeeper but also reasonably educated.
"I came here in 1968 after I had my undergraduate degree in chemical engineering. In India at that time, maybe even today, your aspiration is to go into the medical profession or engineering. I could have gone either way, but by chance I got into engineering school.
"I came first to Montana, to Montana State University. That's everybody's dream. All my classmates wanted the opportunity to come here. I had admission to several universities here.
"I was already attuned to the western culture. Growing up in India, we are exposed to the pop culture. I used to read Life and Time when I was growing up, and I watched Hollywood movies. So nothing was too shocking.
"The weather, the environment, was much different. Going to Montana, there aren't that many people around you, so that was a big change. And the infrastructure there was fantastic compared to where I came from.
"I can't say enough about how well people received me here and in Montana.
"I was in Montana two years and got my master's degree there. I came to West Virginia for a job. I was recruited on campus in Montana by Union Carbide. I worked with Carbide a short time then moved to DuPont. It turned out to be a very good move.