August 16, 2021
To: Members of the University Community
From: Joseph Neubauer, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Subject: Commitment to Undergraduate Financial Aid and Educational Access
Date: August 16, 2021
I am pleased to announce that the University of Chicago is launching a new $200 million commitment to educational access and financial aid for undergraduate students in honor of President Robert J. Zimmer.
The commitment, which supports the Odyssey Scholarship Program, includes a gift of $105 million from members of the University’s Board of Trustees and a challenge to raise a total of $200 million with the support of University alumni, parents, and friends. Odyssey is the University’s flagship financial aid initiative that helps ensure need-blind, loan-free education for students in the College. This transformative gift, the largest in support of financial aid in University history, is a critical investment for continuing the educational opportunities and resources provided through the Odyssey program, such as the elimination of loans and academic year work requirements, mentorship, study abroad, and paid internships.
The effort represents the University’s deep gratitude for Bob’s unwavering commitment to expanding financial aid and educational access to the University of Chicago. During his 15-year tenure, Bob’s dedication to increasing financial support for students in need has greatly helped expand access and diversity at the University. The incoming Class of 2025, for example, will be the most diverse in the history of the College, with a record number of first-generation students and students of different ethnicities.
Bob launched the Odyssey program in 2007 through a $100 million challenge gift by an anonymous alumnus, whom the University dubbed “Homer.” Since then, Odyssey has ensured access to a University of Chicago education for more than 5,300 students in the College—many of whom are the first in their families to attend college—regardless of their financial circumstances. This is, in part, a result of more than 18,000 members of the University community, including faculty, staff, alumni, parents, and former Odyssey and other students, donating to the program since Homer’s original gift to the University.
With profound admiration for their generosity, and in recognition of the importance of ensuring that future generations of talented students may attain a University of Chicago education without financial burden, this new gift and challenge will further the University’s ability to welcome bright students of all backgrounds and geographies into our scholarly community. I applaud my fellow Trustees for their leadership in this important endeavor.
Information about the challenge to support Odyssey will be available soon. In the meantime, to learn about Odyssey, its impact, or how to make a donation, please visit the Odyssey website.