Friday 11 March 2016

2016 Champions of Business Announced by Junior Achievement

Posted by at 4:28 PM in

Wausau, WI – Three more outstanding area business leaders who helped shape our area’s economy in past years will be honored this spring at the seventh annual Champions of Business Dinner established by Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. - Northcentral District. A panel of independent judges selected the Fromm Brothers, John Slayton and David Smith as the 2016 honorees. A dinner on Thursday, May 12 at the Jefferson Street Inn will celebrate their historic contributions to the Wausau area business community. Tickets to the eighth annual event are on sale at Junior Achievement of North Central Wisconsin (715.842.1056) or online at   

In 1901, midst their adolescence, the four Fromm Brothers of Hamburg, WI discussed their dream of producing the finest silver foxes in the world.  In order to acquire the capital necessary to pursue this dream, the Fromm brothers began farming ginseng.  The Fromm farm quickly became the largest ginseng operation in the world.  By 1913, the brothers were able to purchase their first premier silver foxes.  By the 1930s, the Fromm's had also become the world's largest producer of silver fox furs, and were instrumental in funding research for animal vaccines and genetics.  The Fromm Brothers will be honored with the “Founder Award” for their business success prior to 1945.

David Smith and John Slayton will receive the "Developer Award" for their contributions to the Wausau area economy and community after 1945.

David Smith was born in 1907 and became a close business associate of D.C. Everest. He worked for Marathon Corporation from 1927-1938 and then served as general manager and president of Ward Paper Company in Merrill. In 1950, Smith was named president and general manager of Wausau Paper Mills Company and served in that capacity until his unexpected death on his 60th birthday in 1967. At Wausau Paper, Smith guided the company through exceptional growth and plant expansions while overseeing efforts to stop pollution of the Wisconsin River.  He served as president of the Wisconsin Paper Group of Neenah, as a director of Trees for Tomorrow, Inc. and as an active leader of the YMCA and Camp Manitowish. He also served on the boards of Central Wisconsin Bankshares, Inc., Wisconsin Valley Trust, Employers Mutual Insurance Company, and Boston Manufacturers Fire Insurance Company.

John Slayton worked for Marathon Electric Manufacturing Corp for 41 years (1948-1989) serving as Vice President of Finance, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer and President, and as a member of the Board of Directors.  He retired from Marathon Electric in 1989.  Slayton was active in many civic, community and public service organizations serving as the president and director of the Wausau health Foundation, the Woodson YMCA Foundation, Wausau Area Chamber of Commerce and the Marathon County Certified Development Corp.  He was also the director of the Wausau Area Volunteer Exchange.  He was distinguished with many awards, among which was the honor of being named the 1984 Wausau Citizen of the Year. 

 “Although these honorees are no longer with us, each of these Champions of Business has left a lasting impact on our regional business economy and serves as an excellent role model for those young people among us who may become our future entrepreneurs,” said Bridget Wenman, event chairperson. “The Champions of Business honor is unique because it cannot be awarded to business leaders who are currently actively involved in their business. Each of these individuals and our previous winners have stood the test of time, and their success can teach us a lot about what it takes to create and maintain a quality and ethical company.”

“To ensure a prosperous local economy for the next generation, it’s important that we and our children understand the values and leadership styles that made these individuals so successful,” Wenman said. “We want our young people to know that Central Wisconsin has a rich business history and offers tremendous potential for future business ventures.”

Twenty two other Champions of Business have been honored in the past seven years. They include D.C. Everest, Bernie Greenheck, John Ullrich, Hans Hagge, Marv Schuette, Ray Goldbach, Walter Alexander, Dick Dudley, E.O. Johnson, Cyrus Yawkey, Bart Kellnhauser, Rick Gering and Art Juedes, Alexander Stewart, Lula Jacob, W.F. McCormick, Walter McIndoe, Ed Creske, Gordon Backer, Daniel Plumer, Robert C. Greenheck, and G. Lane Ware. Information about past winners and the Champions of Business annual event is available at

Title sponsor for The 2016 Champions of Business Event is Ruder Ware.  Reception sponsor is Integrity First Bank.  Other sponsors include E.O. Johnson, Peoples State Bank, The Samuels Group, Greenheck, Schenck, TEC, UMR, and Wipfli.

All proceeds from the event will go to the local Junior Achievement district office, which provides business and economic education programs to area schools.

More than 10,589 Northcentral District Kindergarten through 12th grade students participate in JA’s experiential learning programs. Critical to the success of JA’s approach is the use of community volunteers who use their own job and life experiences to bring the curriculum to life. Ethics, as it relates to business, has always been taught as part of the Junior Achievement curriculum.

The purpose of Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy. Today, Junior Achievement reaches more than 166,000 Wisconsin students annually and ten million students worldwide. 

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