Wausau, WI – Outstanding area business leaders who helped shape our area’s economy in past years will be honored this spring at the 12th Annual Champions of Business Dinner established by Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. - Northcentral District. A panel of independent judges selected John Ringle, David Graebel, and Jerry Viste as the 2020 honorees. A dinner on Thursday, May 7 at the Jefferson Street Inn City Grill will celebrate their historic contributions to the Wausau area business community. Tickets to the event are on sale at Junior Achievement of North Central Wisconsin (715.842.1056) or online at www.championsofbusiness.org.
John RIngle will be honored with the “Founder Award” for his business success prior to 1945.
A successful public servant and businessman during Wausau’s early years, John Ringle became Marathon County’s deputy county clerk when he was just 18. He later served prominent roles in the Wisconsin State Assembly and State Senate and was elected as mayor of Wausau three times. John was one of the original directors of the First National Bank of Wausau and founded the Ringle Brick Company. He was a member of the city council, chairman of the Marathon County board and on the Wausau Board of Education for 30 years. His early and astute leadership helped shape our area’s future.
David Graebel and Jerry Viste will receive the "Developer Awards" for their contribution to the Wausau area economy and community after 1945.
David Graebel, the founder of Graebel Companies, Inc., a global relocation management organization, is also a founding architect of the Junior Achievement (JA) organization in Northcentral Wisconsin. His sixty-year legacy at the helm of Graebel started with helping customers and businesses relocate locally, which branched out across Wisconsin. The Graebel organization’s growth continued nationwide around the U.S. to its current international presence with worldwide offices. Among his many volunteer activities, Dave championed the JA mission to other Wausau business leaders in 1976, introducing the program that now serves over 11,300 students in nearly 600 classrooms across the area.
Gerald (Jerry) Viste was raised on a Minnesota farm, graduated twice from Harvard and served with distinction during World War II. His entire business career was spent with Employers Mutual of Wausau (Wausau Insurance), where he began in 1947, eventually retiring in 1985 as its president and chief operating officer. Retirement for Jerry meant a deeper connection to the community, volunteering with the Marathon County Historical Society, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Foundation, Wisconsin State Historical Society, Performing Arts Foundation, United Way of Marathon County, First Universalist Unitarian Church and was one of the Wisconsin Humanities Council founders.
“Each of these Champions of Business has left a lasting impact on our regional business economy and serves as an excellent role model for the young people who may become our future business leaders and stewards of our community,” said Toni Chacon, event chairperson.
“To ensure a prosperous local economy for the next generation, it’s important that we understand the values and lessons that these leaders can teach us about innovation, teamwork, perseverance and grit.” Chacon said. “We want our young people to know that Central Wisconsin has a rich business history and offers tremendous potential for future business ventures.”
Thirty-three other Champions of Business have been honored in the past eleven 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, G. Lane Ware, the Fromm Brothers, John Slayton, David Smith, George Ruder, Dwight Davis, William Sampe, August Kickbusch, Herb & Ervin Kolbe, A.P. Woodson, T A Duckworth, and Ronald Nicklaus. Information about past winners and the Champions of Business annual event is available at www.championsofbusiness.org.
Title sponsor for The 2020 Champions of Business Dinner is Ruder Ware. Speaker sponsor is Associated Bank. Other sponsors include Peoples State Bank, Samuels Group, E.O. Johnson, and Greenheck. 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 11,300 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 158,000 Wisconsin students annually and ten million students worldwide.