We would like to nominate Shigeko Uppuluri for the Covenant Platinum Award. She has made a lasting impact on Oak Ridge, and continues to serve her country and its citizens as a well-rounded, very active, productive 77 year-old.
A little back-ground: Oak Ridge, Tennessee has a unique landmark, mainly thanks to Shigeko Uppuluri and her late husband Ram (d. 1995). They were instrumental in the creation of the International Friendship Bell in Oak Ridge, dedicated in 1996. Shigeko and Ram proposed and then raised money for this beautiful Bell. They were joined by leading Oak Ridge scientists in this project, to "commemorate and honor the dedicated workers of the Manhattan Project, 1942-46...., express the hope for everlasting peace, friendship, and understanding among all peoples of the world, and exemplify Oak Ridge's celebration theme: 'Born of War, living for peace, growing through science'". Situated in Bissell Park in the center of the city, the 6.7 foot tall, 8,250 lb bronze bell is featured in Oak Ridge and regional publicity and visited by people from all over the world.
The lovely garden which surrounds the Bell with cherry blossoms and iris in the spring was planned and is maintained by Shigeko. She was presented with the Friendship Bell Award for her work to promote international understanding and for her efforts in securing the International Friendship Bells in Oak Ridge and in Japan.
Shigeko Uppuluri is considered by all who know her to be a leading citizen, artist, volunteer, and church member who is mentally and physically active. Born in Kyoto, Japan, she came to the US in the late 1950's to do graduate work in Anthropology at Indiana University. There she met her Indian husband-to-be, a graduate student in mathematics, and they came to Oak Ridge in 1963. Shortly afterward, the young couple became naturalized citizens. She has taught Japanese at the University of Tennessee, worked at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a technical translator, and continues to assist many students and travelers as they prepare for their visits to Japan.
Shigeko now works part time translating documents and assisting executives from Japanese companies. Following her retirement from ORNL, she worked for three years in India assisting young professionals prepare for a career working with Japanese software companies In addition to the Friendship Bell, Shigeko is best known for her local volunteer work.
She is founder, past-president, and very active member of the Sister City Support Organization in Oak Ridge. Currently she is preparing middle school students from Oak Ridge for their visit to Naka, Japan this summer and will then facilitate the return hosting of Japanese students in Oak Ridge. She is the main planner for the delegation of Oak Ridge women who will visit their counterparts in Naka next year. She also works with students preparing Girl Scout projects, assists at the local Children’s' Museum, as well as other youth groups.
A great favorite with young visitors with her artful origami, she is also a doting and energetic grandmother when she visits 5 year-old grandson Adam on trips to Washington, DC.. Shigeko is both an unofficial and official guide and translator for Japanese visitors, delegates, politicians and business people who visit East Tennessee. She often hosts visitors from Japan who are doing research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and visitors from the sister city of Naka.
Before the TMG school in Sweetwater was closed two years ago, she worked there in several capacities and provided support to staff and parents of children who were attending the residential boarding school. A recent project has been translating archival material of the teachers who worked there as well as the history of the school.
Shigeko is an active supporter and participant in the arts in Oak Ridge. She is a member of the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association Guild, helps usher at the concerts, enjoys the Oak Ridge Playhouse, and is an accomplished painter and calligrapher selling her art work through a local art gallery. She also plays the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument, and flute. Other volunteer work includes membership in the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church. Her beautiful flower arrangements grace the pulpit, the rummage sales know her as an active sorter, and every month she helps prepare or deliver food for Tabitha's Table, a ministry to feed the hungry in conjunction with the Robertsville Baptist church in Oak Ridge. Shigeko is an excellent chopper and brings her own knives to expedite vegetable preparation.
Shigeko sets aside a quiet time in the morning for contemplation, and balances it with brisk walks around the neighborhood (and a little visiting with friends) in the afternoon. Formerly an avid tennis player, she has given that up for sports less taxing on the knees. Doing all her own gardening and lawn maintenance on a large lot provides lots of exercise, and she is an example to the less energetic neighbors. Shigeko is an unassuming, thoughtful, independent, responsible, and vital member of the community. This remarkable woman, whose activities touch so many, has an inner peace and an outer strength admired by all. And her next project now that the Bell gardens are weeded and her lawn is mowed, the middle school children prepared for their visit to the sister city, the translation finished for a friend's video on the post World War II Tokyo Tribunal, and she's agreed to make Japanese appetizers for a happy gathering of an extended family, is planning her twice-yearly trip to Japan to celebrate her mother's 100th birthday. Shigeko Uppuluri is a role-model for us all.