Raghavan Varadachary was born in Neervalur, a tiny hamlet in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in 1943. Neervalur is a small, religious village approximately 63 kilometers southwest of Chennai. Raghavan was the first of eight children born to Jayamma and VK Varadachary, and grew up in a modest, two room home with his parents and siblings. At age 8, Raghavan’s grandmother made the decision to move him and his younger brothers to the city to receive an exceptional education. Raghavan moved in with his uncle VK Parthasarathy and cousins in Chennai.
Raghavan excelled at school. He completed his BSc in Chemistry at Loyola College in Chennai, followed by his MS in Chemistry at University of Madras. He then began working as a college instructor at Madras Christian College in 1963. In 1967, he learned of an opportunity to travel abroad and study in America. From 1921 until 1965, immigration to America from Asia was effectively banned. That changed with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened America’s doors to Asians for the first time in over 40 years. Two years after the Act was passed, Raghavan applied to be a PhD student in the Chemistry Department at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
Raghavan was accepted and made a long and lonely journey to America. Like the Eastern European immigrants of the past, Raghavan’s name went through a transformation when he arrived. He adopted his village’s name as his first name, his birth name as his last name, his last name as his middle name, and became: Neervalur V. Raghavan. Raghavan lived with four childhood friends from Chennai in a small apartment in South Central Los Angeles. He worked odd jobs to pay the rent (including a stint as a dishwasher at McDonald’s, which must have been challenging as a strict vegetarian).
In 1973, Raghavan earned his PhD, and was accepted as a post-doc in the chemistry department at the Ohio State. In 1975, he married Vathsala Chakravarthy, and the two settled in the Midwest, first to Columbus, Ohio, then to South Bend, Indiana, and eventually to the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Raghavan began post-doctoral work at Notre Dame while Vathsala began a fellowship at Northwestern.
In 1979, their first son, Vijay, was born. In 1982, their second son, Harish, was born. During their time in Hyde Park, Vathsala and Raghavan sponsored the immigration to America of three of Raghavan’s siblings, four of Vathsala’s siblings, and their parents. In 1983, Raghavan took a job at Baxter International in Deerfield, Illinois. The family then moved to Northbrook, Illinois. In 1986, Vathsala and Raghavan’s third son, Ravi, was born.
Raghavan had a long and successful career at Baxter. Despite suffering from a stroke in 2007 and limited by physical disabilities, he continued to work productively until his retirement in 2010 with the title of Vice President of Pharmaceutical Research & Development. Raghavan continued providing consulting services in his post-retirement years.
Raghavan’s journey to America in 1967, like the journey of many other women and men around the same time, would change the trajectory of his family. When Raghavan came to America, there were fewer than 1 million Asians dispersed across the country (of which, Indians were an extremely small percentage). Today, there are almost 19 million Asians in America, including over 5 million Indians. In the intervening years, Vathsala and Raghavan would work tirelessly to support their family by bringing family members to America and sending money back home. All while working very demanding jobs and raising three rowdy children. He had a philanthropical heart and could never say no to his family or friends.
Raghavan’s knowledge and wisdom were not limited to chemistry; throughout his life he had a tremendous impact around all that surrounded him. Raghavan was often found behind the lens of a video camera as his boys were growing up, had a passion for real estate, loved Sudoku puzzles, and his favorite vacation would involve playing blackjack in Las Vegas.
Raghavan passed away on April 25, 2022. He is survived by his wife, Vathsala; son, Vijay, his wife Rajani, their sons, Dev and Roshan; son, Harish, his wife Alanna, their son, Ayan; and his son, Ravi; as well as countless other dear relatives.
Hindu Pooja Service, Thursday, April 28, 2022, from 12 noon to 3:30 p.m., at HABEN Funeral Home & Crematory, 8057 Niles Center Rd., Skokie, with.
In lieu of flowers, please consider memorial contributions to to their. https://give.northshore.org/
Funeral info: 847.673.6111.
Published by Haben Funeral Home & Crematory on Apr. 28, 2022.