“Without question, Berkeley’s success depends on private support,” says Bill Ausfahl. “There’s never been a time in the history of this campus when we as individuals can make more of a difference, one generation helping the next.”
Retired group vice president and CFO of the Clorox Company in Oakland, Bill received his B.A. in economics from Berkeley and an MBA from Stanford. Currently a trustee with the UC Berkeley Foundation, he is “passionate about public education and sustaining the excellence and access that Berkeley represents.”
As the Foundation’s chair from July 2007 to June 2009, Bill partnered with Chancellor Birgeneau on the Hewlett Challenge, reaching out to alumni and gathering pledges for 100 new endowed faculty chairs. Trudy and Bill led by example, establishing the Ausfahl Chair in Philosophy, which provides a stable, predictable source of funding for a professor to apply to research and to supporting top graduate students.
The Ausfahl family’s campus giving began with athletic programs and has continued to the arts and humanities, math and sciences, and graduate student support. Asked what has motivated his longtime campus giving, Bill says, “We should never forget the places that have had a major impact on our life. Berkeley taught me to think independently, to think constructively. It also introduced me to my wife.”
Bill and his wife Trudy spearheaded the first Graduate Division matching program, the Named Fund Initiative, by creating the Ausfahl Family Fellowship. “It was pretty clear that Cal was not competing as effectively as it could with the Ivy League schools and Stanford in terms of support for graduate students,” says Bill. “So that was the driving force for us.”
James Apgar, a graduate student in musicology, says he owes his “whole presence at Berkeley” to the Ausfahl Fellowship, which enabled him to return to his studies after performing professionally.
“I am very grateful for the Ausfahl Fellowship; without funding I would have been unable to pursue graduate study in the first place,” explains Imogen Forbes-Macphail. A doctoral student in English at Berkeley, she is currently researching medieval literature at Cambridge University. “Having full funding for the duration of my entire degree leaves me free to pursue my work without distraction, and to make it the full focus of my thought.”
Over the past few years, Bill and Trudy have enjoyed getting to know the students who have received their fellowship. Their interests are international, wide-ranging, and “quite intellectually stimulating,” notes Bill. “One of our fellows is an organist who has played at the National Cathedral, while another fellow that we met is studying sanitation systems in Central America.”
Most recently, Bill and Trudy met Michael Arsenault. A first-year graduate student pursuing contemporary philosophy of the mind, he will be studying the works of Aristotle and Wittgenstein. “The Ausfahls’ support was instrumental in my being able to come to Berkeley,” says Michael, adding, “I am honored to have had the opportunity.”