Thursday 16 March 2017

2017 Champions of Business Announced by Junior Achievement

Posted by at 4:49 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 ninth annual Champions of Business Dinner established by Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Inc. - Northcentral District. A panel of independent judges selected George Ruder, Dwight Davis, and William Sampe as the 2017 honorees. A dinner on Thursday, May 18 at the Jefferson Street Inn City Grill will celebrate their historic contributions to the Wausau area business community. Tickets to the ninth annual event are on sale at Junior Achievement of North Central Wisconsin (715.842.1056) or online at  

Born in Wausau Wisconsin in 1884, George L. Ruder attended Wausau public schools before continuing his education at the University of Wisconsin. During World War I, Ruder enlisted in the officer’s reserve corps where he eventually attained the rank of Captain. Shortly after receiving his law degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1920, George Ruder began his first law practice in his hometown of Wausau with other local attorneys, until starting his independent practice in 1933. During this time, Mr. Ruder greatly assisted in the reorganization of several large area businesses, which allowed them to not only survive the Great Depression but also prosper long into the future. In 1954, George Ruder joined Stanley F. Staples, Jr. to form Ruder & Staples. While Mr. Ruder passed in 1970, and Mr. Staples retired from the firm shortly after, the firm that Mr. Ruder founded still exists today as Ruder Ware Law Firm. Mr. Ruder was a leader in the tradition of service to the Wausau Community, he served as President of the former Federated Charities (now United Way) and was also very active in the Woodson YMCA serving on its Board of Directors as well as the YMCA foundation and many other prominent community focused organizations. George Ruder will be honored with the “Founder Award” for their business success prior to 1945.

Dwight Davis and William Sampe will receive the "Developer Awards" for their contributions to the Wausau area economy and community after 1945.

A native of Plymouth, WI, Dwight E. Davis received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Stout, master’s degree from Michigan State, and doctorate’s degree from the University of Illinois. After beginning his career as a high school teacher in Michigan, Davis spent 19 years of his career as a community college executive – first in Joliet, IL and later as President of Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, WI. In 1985, Mr. Davis joined Wausau Insurance, where he held a 15-year career in various senior executive positions before retiring as the company’s President and COO in 2000. After many years of serving on the Greenheck Board of Directors, Davis was asked to assume leadership as President and CEO of Greenheck Fan Corporation by the company’s founders, Robert and Bernie Greenheck. Under Davis’s decade of leadership, the company nearly tripled in size and expanded their business worldwide. Over the years Mr. Davis has been active in numerous community organizations, including the United Way, Wausau Performing Arts Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce and the Marathon County Development Corporation (McDevco).

After serving in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1949 as an electrician’s mate first class, William B. Sampe began his career with Household Finance in Kansas City, MO. After fourteen years at Household Finance, Bill accepted a position with First Wisconsin National Bank, allowing him to relocate back to his home state of Wisconsin. He worked his way through the ranks and in 1976, was offered the presidency of the First Wisconsin National Bank in Wausau, where he grew the bank over a 12-year period. In Wausau, Bill served as president of the Wausau Chamber of Commerce, as well as president and campaign chairman of the United Way. Even after retiring from First Wisconsin National Bank in 1988, Bill remained extremely active in local business development and consulting. During this time, he was instrumental in driving the downtown Wausau revitalization project.  

 “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 business leaders and stewards of our community,” 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-five 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, G. Lane Ware, the Fromm Brothers, John Slayton, and David Smith. Information about past winners and the Champions of Business annual event is available at

Title sponsor for The 2017 Champions of Business Dinner is Ruder Ware. Reception sponsor is River Valley Bank and the Speaker Sponsor is UMR. Other sponsors include E.O. Johnson Business Technologies, Peoples State Bank, The Samuels Group, Greenheck Fan, Schenck, Associated Bank, Graebel, Church Mutual, Mid Wisconsin Beverage and the Wausau Region Chamber. 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 11,100 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 168,000 Wisconsin students annually and ten million students worldwide.