Wausau, WI – Outstanding area business leaders who helped shape our area’s economy in past years will be honored this spring at the 13th Annual Champions of Business Dinner established by Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. - Northcentral District. A panel of independent judges selected Olive Graham, Ralph Mirman, and Larry Niederhofer as the 2022 honorees. A dinner on Thursday, May 5 at the Jefferson Street Inn & Event Center 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.
Olive Graham will be honored with the “Founder Award” for her business success prior to 1945.
Olive Graham led one of Wausau’s heath care systems at a time most women didn’t work outside the home, building an impressive career as a registered nurse, teacher and serving as a hospital administrator. In 1923, Olive joined the new Wausau Memorial Hospital organization, serving as the School of Nursing’s director. The hospital was funded by $500,000 Mary Plumer donated to memorialize her late husband, a leading business owner. Olive was appointed as the administrator of the hospital, a role she held for 34 years, seeing the organization through facility enhancements, staff additions and countless business and medical equipment improvements.
Ralph Mirman and Larry Niederhofer will receive the "Developer Awards" for their contribution to the Wausau area economy and community after 1945.
A bright and ambitious Wausau native, Ralph Mirman possessed many identities — Army veteran, business owner, civic organizer, athlete and a man of faith. After World War II Ralph left the Army to graduate with his bachelor’s and then a Master of Business Administration degree. He joined Mirman’s Furniture Store, which his father founded in 1921 and ran the second-generation downtown business until 1993. He’s well known for dedicating his time and talents to benefit local projects, including promoting building the Wausau Center mall project, relocating and building a new Mount Sinai congregation, and helping to rejuvenate the Hebrew Cemetery.
Larry Niederhofer, transferred to the area with Apogee Enterprises in the late 1960s quickly became a part of the community’s rich manufacturing history, business development and made his mark as a local nonprofit organization leader. As the CEO of Wausau Metals, Larry led the organization through numerous expansions and acquisitions, including companies like Nanik, Milco, Custom Wall Systems, Lintec, DevTech and Wausau Specialty Products. Larry was also busy serving in volunteer board positions with Junior Achievement, The United Way and Wausau Child Care, and served on the boards of the First National Bank of Wausau and the National Fenestration Council.
“Our community and local economy is built from a foundation of passionate and innovative leaders. These Champions of Business created a solid footing in the area that has been, and will continue to be, developed upon for years to come,” said Marla Kolbeck, event co-chairperson.
“Junior Achievement’s mission is to inspire and prepare young people to succeed. Helping our youth understand the roots that have allowed the businesses in Central Wisconsin to grow and blossom, is one step in ensuring a healthy local economy for them,” Kolbeck said. “As I look back at these tenacious leaders and the history that they made, I look forward to the fearless, compassionate and courageous founders and developers of this community’s future.”
Thirty-six other Champions of Business have been honored in the past twelve 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, Ronald Nicklaus, John Ringle, David Graebel, and Jerry Viste. Information about past winners and the Champions of Business annual event is available at www.championsofbusiness.org.
Title sponsor for The 2022 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.
Kindergarten through 12th grade students participate in JA’s experiential learning programs. 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.