The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has received a $2 million gift from alumnus Avi Shaked and his wife Babs Waldman to support the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center and provide scholarships in the College of Engineering & Applied Science.
The gift brings the couple’s total giving to UWM to $4 million.
“Avi Shaked and Babs Waldman are models of generosity,” UWM Chancellor Mark Mone said. “Avi is a success story, and we are so proud to call him an alumnus of UWM. He’s someone who has lived the American dream and is now helping others do the same.”
The gift supports UWM’s $200 million fundraising effort, which the school quietly launched in 2012 and announced in September.
Shaked came from Israel in 1977 to attend UWM, where he had to learn English and enrolled in engineering classes. After his first semester, he received a full-ride scholarship. He graduated in 1980 from the electrical engineering and pre-dental programs.
Shaked began his career working for Milwaukee entrepreneur and philanthropist Nate Zelazo at Astronautics Corporation of America before becoming a computer design engineer at IBM. He then launched his own company called Onward Technologies, which provides IT services and custom software development to corporations.
After selling the business, Shaked and Waldman, a physician and assistant professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical College and Northwestern University Medical School, turned their focus to philanthropy.
“I’m a big believer in education,” Shaked said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the education I got at UWM. My scholarship meant a lot to me. It made the difference. If I hadn’t received a scholarship, I would have had to work for minimum wage; I wouldn’t have been able to take as many classes as I took, and I probably wouldn’t do as well as I did.”
Shaked and Waldman gave their first $1 million gift to UWM in 2005 and their second million in 2011, both directed toward scholarships. The couple’s gifts launched the Engineering Excellence Scholarship Program, which provides four-year renewable scholarships at the College of Engineering & Applied Science.
“The impact that Avi and Babs’s generosity has had on the College of Engineering & Applied Science has been incredible,” Dean Brett Peters said. “They have allowed us to attract students to UWM, elevate the profile of our undergraduates and keep them in the engineering program. This not only benefits our college and the university, it’s also a huge plus for businesses who hire our graduates. I could not be more grateful to Avi and Babs for all they have done for our students and our college.”
Half of the couple’s most recent gift is earmarked for the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center.
“Avi Shaked took risks and seized opportunities, and he became incredibly successful,” said Brian Thompson, director of the Lubar Entrepreneurship Center. “He understands what it takes to build a company from the ground up. This gift from Avi and Babs will strengthen our entrepreneurship program and allow us to share critical skills with more UWM students.”