Bob’s Birthday Match

Bob Auerbach is celebrating his upcoming 90th birthday by offering to match $100,000 of donations to the UW Odyssey Project. Bob, father of Emily Auerbach, is a life-time supporter of Odyssey, in part because his alma mater, Berea College, serves as one of the inspirations behind this program.

Born on April 12, 1929, in Berlin, Germany, Bob escaped the Holocaust and fought to overcome poverty here in America. Bob graduated from Berea in 1949 and continued his education, earning his masters and doctorate in Zoology/Genetics at Columbia University. He also completed postdoctoral work at Oak Ridge, Tennessee and at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda. Bob is Emeritus Professor of Zoology, member of the Institute of Aging, and Associate Member of the Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center here at UW-Madison. Bob was honored with a named professorship from UW as well as a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Berea.

When asked about his Berea College experience, Bob says the best part was that it was where he met his wife, Wanda. They came from vastly different backgrounds—Bob from an educated Jewish family that fled Nazi Germany, and Wanda from a poor family living in Appalachia with no running water and no expectation of college. Wanda graduated as valedictorian of Berea and went on to become a medical librarian. Wanda and Bob were married 62 years. From 2003, when Odyssey began, until her death in 2012, Wanda and Bob attended Odyssey classes and graduations together. They were both excited by the way the program transformed people’s lives and broke cycles of generational poverty.

Knowing how much Wanda believed in Odyssey’s ability to change lives, Bob decided at the time of her death to use her retirement account to start an endowment to fund scholarships for Odyssey students. Now he has chosen to mark the occasion of his 90th birthday (April 12, 2019) by announcing his willingness to match up to $100,000 in donations to Odyssey to support the long-term needs of Odyssey, Odyssey Junior, Onward Odyssey, and Odyssey Beyond Bars.

The Odyssey Project thanks Bob Auerbach for his incredible generosity and calls on everyone to help us meet that match!

Read more about Bob’s story in the Wisconsin State Journal!

Click below to have your gift to the UW Odyssey Project matched!


Support Odyssey Family Fund button

To mail your gift: 

Send a check made payable to UW Foundation indicating that you would like to support the Friends of Odyssey Family Fund. Make sure to also include that your gift is in honor of Robert (Bob) Auerbach to ensure your gift is matched!

Mail to:

UW Foundation
US Bank Lockbox 78807
Milwaukee, WI 53278-0807

"As Odyssey has expanded, including Odyssey Junior and Odyssey Beyond Bars, the need for funding has expanded as well. I strongly believe that the program is a model for how to help overcome social, racial, religious, and age-associated barriers.

In my 90 years I have passed from a wealthy early childhood, through persecution and emigration to poverty, to a new life in the USA, to a free college education at Berea College, then a government-supported graduate study, and then to an academic career of half a century which has left me with secure retirement income, time to pursue my long-term avocation in music, and the unsurpassed blessing of a wonderful family. I have decided to offer up to $100,000 as a match for whatever contributions are received as a result of my 90th birthday, with the expectation that this match will strengthen the long-term needs of the Odyssey program."

Bob Auerbach

More on Odyssey

Odyssey documentaryThe award-winning UW Odyssey Project takes a whole family approach to breaking the cycle of generational poverty through access to education, giving adult and youth learners a voice, and increasing confidence through reading, writing, and speaking.

Please visit our Home page to learn more, and click HERE to watch our documentary that aired on the Big Ten Network!


Questions? Contact Colleen Johnson, UW Odyssey Project Director of Development and Community Partnerships.


Colleen Johnson

Director of Development and Community Partnerships


Sign up for our email newsletter >>