Shambhuji Shaam Sam Rao fondly remembered by Indian American community

Ritu Jha-

The Sankara Eye Foundation (SEF) has initiated a fundraiser campaign in memory of San Francisco Bay Area community member and former journalist Shambhuji Shaam ‘Sam’ Rao, who passed away on September 15 at the San Leandro convalescence hospital in California, following a 15-month long illness.

“We are raising $5,000 to build a Golden Wall of Founder entry at our Guntur, Andhra Pradesh hospital in memory of Sam Rao,” Murali Krishnamurthy, founder and executive chairman of Sankara Eye Foundation, USA, told indica.

Community leader and Sankara volunteer Prabhu Venkatesh told indica that a few people requested Rao’s cousins that they be allowed to contribute towards his funeral expenses, but instead they requested that the money be donated to Sankara. “Sankara volunteers wanted a fitting tribute to Sam Rao,” Venkatesh told indica. “He would do anything for the community and has helped a lot of non-profits in the Bay Area.”

Venkatesh told indica that Rao was held in high esteem by the community. “He not only held important portfolios, but also contributed liberally to the community. I was sad to see how he passed away, and I think we as a community failed to help him when in need. He was sick and had to take shelter at church community in San Leandro,” he said. “There are so many Hindu temples and organizations in the Bay Area and the vibrant Indian community but sadly no one cared to understand the need of an ailing person.”

He added, “We hope this is an eye-opener and we don’t end up losing gems like Sam Rao in the future.”

Rao had participated extensively in all activities of Sankara Eye Foundation, and other organizations like the Bay Area Tamil Manram, Silicon Andhra, and BATA.

Rao cut across various linguistic groups, nationalities, and races, and was ever focused on this one goal – to serve the community, according to his close friends and associates. He forayed into the print media arena, and between 2005-2011 he was bureau in-charge of West Coast for The Indian Express which has been in business for 80 plus years.

He helped develop the editorial strategy and content for the leading English language newspaper’s weekly edition and led a professional editorial team including freelancers, interns, and provided subject matter expertise and thought leadership to develop relevant and engaging content for the readership base.

Between 2001 to 2016, he worked as a journalist, freelance writer and contributed to various media and publications including new media and audio-visual media like the Indian American, Telugu Naadu (the largest circulated Telugu magazine in North America), Divya Bhaskar India, Gujarat Samachar, and many more magazines. He also wrote for Tri-City Voice, a mainstream paper serving Fremont, Union City, and Newark, CA, and expanding to Milpitas, Hayward, Sunol in the SF Bay area, and Asian Week San Francisco, one of the largest circulated Asian American weekly. He was also a contributor to New Media Publications and Journals.

Later, he worked as a teacher with After School Inc. on a part-time basis. He was also quite popular for his October 2 Gandhi Jayanti celebrations every year to encourage people to understand non-violence and related teachings.

He held key positions in leading Bay area product companies and also at the Indo-American Center and was involved in various important initiatives. He was a regular volunteer and key coordinator for the India pavilion organized by Krishna Kumar at the Alameda County fair and was associated with various temples and non-profit organizations. By providing pro bono services he set up and guided them to incorporate the process and guidelines.

Rao was a native of Mumbai and did his Bachelor of Science at SIES College, Sion Mumbai in Physics. He went on to complete MS in Physics at the University of Louisville. He did not stop there as he got his second MS in Electrical Engineering from the same university in VLSI design and related areas. Then he completed his PhD in Electro-Optics and Engineering.

Though he started his professional career as applications engineer in semiconductors, optics, and laser in various capacities in 1990, his calling was in community service. He became the executive director and board member of the India Community Center and served there for 6 years (1995-2001). He was the first United Way Full Member from the Asian Indian American Community. As a board member and program director, he oversaw the fulfillment of this Prestigious award of Full Membership through the application process and presentation.

Trained by the United Way in various aspects of running non-profit agencies and community centers, he successfully wrote several grants and presented them to various foundations, institutions, and government agencies. He succeeded in getting 6 large grants for the ICC including federal, state, county, and city-wide foundations.

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