Bob playing piano

An Odyssey Birthday Benefit

Emily, Bucky, and BobJust as he did for his 90th birthday, longtime Odyssey champion Bob Auerbach is offering to match up to $100,000 in honor of his 95th birthday. Bob comments, “I know how important free access to higher education was for my wife (from poverty in Appalachia) and me (as a refugee escaping Nazi Germany), and I hope my birthday benefit helps others overcome adversity.” Any gifts made to the Friends of Odyssey Family Fund between February 1 and May 31, 2024 will count toward the match.

New this time, Emily Auerbach and Keith Meyer have offered to match Bob’s match with a five-year pledge of $100,000 of their own in honor of Bob’s 95th birthday and in memory of Wanda Auerbach. This means your gift to the Family Fund will have TRIPLE the impact!

Bob, Emily, and KeithThe Family Fund is Odyssey’s most flexible fund, covering many kinds of wraparound support. In addition to providing emergency assistance (rent, food, childcare, medical/dental emergencies, etc.), it also supplies laptops for all students, cap and gown rental for alumni, and art supplies and puzzles for Odyssey Junior students. Please consider donating below to keep our Odyssey students and their children housed, healthy, and in school!

Support the Friends of Odyssey Family Fund >>

About Bob Auerbach

Born on April 12, 1929, in Berlin, Germany, Bob escaped the Holocaust and fought to overcome poverty here in America. Bob graduated from Berea College 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.

Check out Bob’s recent feature on Channel 3000!

Video of Bob Auerbach


Emily Auerbachs parents

"As Odyssey has expanded, 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 nearly 95 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 95th birthday, with the expectation that this match will help Odyssey support even more students and their families."

Bob Auerbach


Jenny Pressman

Position title: Director of Development and Community Partnerships


Phone: 608-287-8216

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