Community Leader of the Year: The Ramirez family

BizTimes Best in Business 2015

Last updated on October 2nd, 2020 at 10:49 am

Austin Ramirez, Anna Ramirez and Abby Andrietsch blossomed through childhood under parents who set leading examples of ambition and community involvement.

The three siblings were “lucky” their parents backed them in charging ahead toward their passions, said Andrietsch, executive director of the nonprofit Schools That Can Milwaukee.

“My parents encouraged us to pursue what we were passionate about and to find meaning in our work, but to also give back,” she said.

A passion for quality education surfaced for each of them and has driven both Anna and Andrietsch’s careers, as well as a share of community efforts taken on by Austin, president and chief executive officer of Waukesha-based HUSCO International.

The trio largely inherited their interest in education from their parents, Gus Ramirez, executive chairman of HUSCO, and Becky Ramirez, who devoted part of her career to teaching.

For its commitment to excellence in education, the family has been named the BizTimes Best in Business 2015 Community Leader of the Year.

The Ramirez family took on its largest financial venture in education earlier this year as Gus unveiled plans to pour $60 million into the development of a private K-12 school, Augustine Prep, on Milwaukee’s south side.

Gus said construction for the new school, which will provide about 2,000 students with a Christian education, will likely break ground in March, with the immediate focus centered on hiring key leaders, including a superintendent and one or two principals.

His daughter Anna, who has seven years of teaching experience, has been by his side, assisting with community engagement and planning for the school.

The Ramirez family is investing in Milwaukee education because of how much the region has given back to it, according to Gus.

“Our family has been extraordinarily blessed from a business perspective,” he said, adding that the family concentrates its community work on areas where it feels it can inspire a lasting impact.

Gus, Becky and their children also aim to take a more direct role in priming the future workforce for job demands at its company and others in the region, according to Austin.

If the region does not produce high school graduates with relevant skills, HUSCO International is going to be in “big trouble,” Austin said.

So will the broader community, he added.

“There is no single issue that can address the issues of poverty and segregation and crime and drug use more effectively than education can in Milwaukee,” Austin said.

The Ramirez clan’s persistent support of education has also ballooned beyond Milwaukee, as Gus and Becky have spent more than 16 years contributing to the development of Christian schools in Central America, including in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Along with gifting financial support, the couple has consistently visited the schools it has aided.

There is a “beauty” in seeing children’s love for their school and “the pride of learning,” Becky said.

That beauty and pride is complemented by a hope that better educational opportunities for Central American students will build a stronger base of next-generation leaders, according to Gus.

The couple’s mission work has impacted 50,000 to 100,000 students to date, he estimates.

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