$1 million gift for engineering scholarships

Randy Christensen (’11 BS Civil Engineering), a former scholarship recipient, is now a paving engineer for the Dallas-Fort Worth Connector Project.

Chicago entrepreneur Avi Shaked and his wife, Dr. Babs Waldman, have pledged $1 million to fund engineering scholarships at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM), where Shaked is an alumnus. It is the couple’s second $1 million gift in the last six years in support of UWM engineering scholarships.

Shaked (’80 BS Electrical Engineering) is CEO and owner of Onward Technologies, a computer firm based in Chicago that provides computer infrastructure to corporate America nationwide that includes: sales of hardware and software, implementation and ongoing support, consulting and custom software development.

Shaked had received a scholarship while attending UWM and wanted to return the favor for others enrolled in the College of Engineering & Applied Science (CEAS).

“Avi Shaked and Babs Waldman’s generosity will keep a vital source of assistance available to high-achieving students,” says UWM Chancellor Michael R. Lovell. “Their gifts are literally improving the caliber and quality of our college.”

Since the couple’s first gift, more than 200 students have received the scholarship, with awards of between $1,000 and $5,500 per year. As of May 2011, 32 recipients of these scholarships have graduated with an average grade point average of 3.4.

One of those is Randy Christensen (’11 BS Civil Engineering), who says the scholarship was the reason he chose to go to UWM.

Today, Christensen lives in Grapevine, Texas. “I am a paving engineer for the Dallas-Fort Worth Connector Project, one of the largest paving jobs in North America,” he says. “Avi Shaked’s generosity did great things for me, my education, and now my career.”

UWM Senior Elizabeth Wendt says the support gave her the freedom to take advantage of new educational opportunities, including participating in the UWM branch of Tau Beta Pi (national engineering honor society) and working on a research project with one of her professors.

“It is an honor for us to renew our commitment to the engineering students,” says Shaked. “UWM made such a difference in my life, and we feel very fortunate to be in a position to help these students. Nothing gives us more pleasure than meeting the scholars personally and knowing that our support is making a positive difference in their lives.”

Shaked emigrated from Israel in 1975 and joined a friend in Milwaukee who already was enrolled at UWM. After graduating, Shaked joined IBM, but soon saw a future in personal computers and left to form his own company.

CEAS was established at UWM in 1964. The college serves about 1,900 students each year and is a leading provider of engineering graduates to local industry.

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