Sheela the Philanthropist

The role of philanthropist has come naturally to Sheela Murthy. Her father always instilled in his daughters the responsibility they had toward others. He grew up quite poor in their native India, but worked hard and built a successful career as an officer in the Indian Army. It was an accident of birth, he said, that made them the fortunate daughters in his household, instead of the daughters of a poor family. These are words that Sheela took to heart, and she repeats them often. Her father’s influence on her was deep and profound.

Sheela and her husband, Vasant Nayak (a photographer by profession, and the marketing genius who put online in 1994, skyrocketing Murthy to internet and immigration stardom), spent the early years of Sheela’s private immigration law practice learning on the fly how to manage employees and build a successful business. Other attorneys were just beginning to post shingles online to advertise their services, when Vasant convinced Sheela to go further – to give information away. That was a foreign idea to any attorney in the early 1990s. “The internet is going to change the world,” he told her. So, going on love and blind faith, she empowered and educated her readers by explaining U.S. immigration law, warning them of pitfalls, and alerting them to common misconceptions through articles, FAQs, and newsflashes – all free of charge. She drew a huge and loyal following. It was a way to give to the immigrant community, and philanthropy became a cornerstone of her business model. This changed the trajectory of Sheela’s law firm – and her future.

On September 11, 2001, as we all watched the attacks on the United States perpetrated by a small group of terrorists, Murthy and her husband knew they had to do something. They set about establishing a foundation that would support causes they believed in for those in need who were located in or around Baltimore, the couple’s adopted home, and in India, their homeland by birth.

The MurthyNAYAK Foundation (MNF) is an independent, nonprofit, non-governmental organization. In general, MNF seeks to help with children’s and women’s health and educational needs, orphanages and old age homes, and to support programs that assist immigrants to the United States, educate and advocate for U.S. immigration, and support disaster relief efforts.

The generous donations made through MNF are more than most would consider enough to do their part. But Murthy also lavishly bestows her time on worthy organizations and causes, mentoring young lawyers and entrepreneurs, serving on boards, and putting herself on the front lines as a servant of change, where it is needed.

A list of Sheela’s mentions in the media and her public appearances is available here.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy.
I awoke and saw that life was service.
I acted and behold, service was joy.

~ Tagore

More on Murthy’s Philanthropy at

Philanthropic Accolades

Accolades and Honors in all areas are available here.

  • Girl Scouts of Central Maryland’s Distinguished Women’s Award, 2016
  • Delta Epsilon Iota Society lifetime, honorary membership, 2015
  • Chai Annual Award, 2015
  • 44th Annual Clementine Peterson Award, United Way of Central Maryland’s Board of Directors, 2014
  • Murthy / Reihl Global Education Leadership Lecture Series is announced by the Community College of Baltimore County. Murthy’s endowment of $50,000 sponsors this series, in memory of Donna Reihl, 2013
  • Award for Excellence for Leadership in Immigration Law and Philanthropy, ASHA for Women, 2012
  • Sadie Award for Philanthropic and Humanitarian work, The Children’s Guild, 2012
  • I-Fund Leadership Award, Board of Directors of the Independent College Fund of Maryland (I-Fund), 2012
  • Nominated Person of the Year, Corridor, Inc., 2011
  • Spirited Woman Award for Philanthropy and Community Involvement,, 2010
  • Radha Pathak Humanitarian Award, Chai (Counselors Helping (South) Asians / Indians, Inc), 2009


Sheela Murthy : United Way Keynote Address – Part 1

Sheela Murthy : United Way Keynote Address – Part 2

What the Tocqueville Society Means to Sheela Murthy

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