Surendra and Karen Gupta making $1 million gift to support chemistry and biochemistry at UMSL

by | Apr 8, 2024

Surendra and Karen Gupta established American Radiolabeled Chemicals, Inc., in 1983, and Surenda is a longtime member of UMSL's Chancellor Council.
Chancellor Kristin Sobolik, Surendra Gupta and Karen Gupta in front of an UMSL-logoed backdrop

Surendra and Karen Gupta, seen with Chancellor Kristin Sobolik at the 2022 Founders Celebration, are donating $1 million to support chemistry and biochemistry at UMSL. Surendra Gupta is the founder of American Radiolabeled Chemicals, Inc., and a longtime member of UMSL’s Chancellor’s Council. (Photo by August Jennewein)

By Melissa Landry

The University of Missouri–St. Louis is preparing to celebrate 60 years of chemistry education with alumni, faculty and students scheduled to gather on Saturday afternoon in the Millennium Student Center to reflect on that rich history.

Members of the university community are also sharing gratitude for a recent gift that will benefit future generations of UMSL-trained chemists.

Surendra and Karen Gupta, longtime donors and advocates of UMSL, have pledged $1 million to support chemistry and biochemistry education at the university. Their generosity to UMSL might come to some as a surprise as neither of them is an alum of the school. But given their history and the history of the company they founded, American Radiolabeled Chemicals, Inc., it shouldn’t.  

Surendra earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Hindu College and the India Institute of Technology, respectively, before coming to the United States in 1963 to attend Wayne State University, where he earned his PhD in organic chemistry.

“Just one more thing we have in common,” he laughs in reference to the year, which was also the year that UMSL was founded.  

Together, the couple established ARC in St. Louis in 1983. The company is a leading global supplier of radiolabeled chemicals used for drug development and research. Surendra credits much of the company’s success, and their ability to compete with larger more established companies, to the region.

“We have a wonderful group of dedicated scientists and employees in our company,” he said. “But we are also very glad that we started the company here. It would have been very difficult to start a company like this without the resources and the affordable cost of living in St. Louis.”  

Beyond their love for the region, Surendra attributes their attachment to UMSL to the people. Around 2005, Surendra met Chancellor Emeritus Tom George, who served as UMSL’s chancellor from 2003 to 2019. The two became fast friends, finding that they had acquaintances in common. Surendra’s best friend worked under George’s leadership at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point prior to his years at UMSL.

Soon, the Guptas found themselves attending UMSL events where they forged relationships with leadership and members of the faculty. Those friendships led Surendra to join the Chancellor’s Council, a group of leaders that provide access, advocacy and assistance to the chancellor and the campus. 

The Guptas have been generous donors for decades. While Karen is deeply committed to animal welfare and rescue, Surendra is a passionate advocate for education. His own education relied heavily on scholarships. Because of this, he felt it important to give back to society by providing opportunities to those who may feel an education is out of reach. As he made deeper connections at UMSL and learned more about the student body, the programs and the opportunities available, he knew he and Karen could make a real difference.  

The couple previously endowed the ARC and Gupta Family Scholarship in International Studies and Programs at UMSL and have also donated equipment to the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.  

In celebration and grateful recognition of their generosity and the impact they have had on the region, the Town Hall Center in the Science Learning Building will be named in their honor.  

“The Surendra and Karen Gupta Town Hall Center in the Science Learning Building will provide an inviting environment where students and faculty can engage while sharing and developing ideas,” Chancellor Kristin Sobolik said. “As we celebrate 60 years of chemistry at UMSL, this generous gift from Karen and Surendra Gupta turns our eyes to the future and all the possibilities it holds.”

With nearly 8,000 degree seeking students and 115,000 alumni, UMSL is the St. Louis region’s leading educator of the professional workforce. Through this generous gift, students and faculty alike will experience even greater access to research and educational opportunities.   

The Guptas hope that their generosity will help take UMSL to the next level.

“I think UMSL is growing, and they are expanding into different programs, and they have wonderful academic credentials from the staff on upwards,” Surendra said. “I think it’s very exciting to see its progress, and to see it as a major part of the St. Louis education system.” 

The Chemistry Alumni Council will welcome alumni, faculty and students back to campus from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, April 13, to celebrate 60 years of chemistry at UMSL. The afternoon will provide an opportunity to explore the different eras on this successful journey to 60 years. It will be a great opportunity to mingle with chemistry alumni and past and present faculty members while hearing more about the future of the department and its programs.

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