It’s often been said the true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.
The old adage certainly rings true for Austin Ramirez, CEO of AEM member company Husco. While there’s no doubting his commitment to helping ensure the long-term success of the Waukesha, Wisconsin-based manufacturer of hydraulic and electro-mechanical control systems, Ramirez is equally as passionate about bettering the lives of those around him – specifically through work being done by his company and the Ramirez Family Foundation to provide quality educational opportunities for young people in need.
“It’s been part of our culture – and we’ve been very deliberate about this – that the economic value we create doesn’t just enrich shareholders,” said Ramirez, whose father, Gus, founded the company in 1985. “That’s been our philosophy since Husco was started, that we use our success to bless others.”
Check out another AEM member success story: Blueprint for Workforce Success: Harper Industries Tackles the Skills Gap at a Local Level
The value of a good education is not lost on Ramirez or his family. Describing his father, Gus, as a “great American success story,” Ramirez pointed to the value his father obtained from a quality public education he received in Miami and Coral Gables, Florida, after coming to the United States from Puerto Rico as a young boy.
“My father credits his success to his education,” said Ramirez, who noted his father was able to leverage the early opportunities bestowed upon him by moving on to pursue additional education at Georgia Tech University and Harvard University before entering the professional world.
“He didn’t come from wealth, but he was able to succeed because he received an outstanding education,” Ramirez added.
Now, decades later, the Ramirez family and Husco are working to pay it forward through a variety of initiatives designed to support educational opportunities for underserved students.
“The American experiment is founded on the notion that everybody has an equal shot at success. And, unfortunately, that’s just not the case for nearly enough kids today, because our educational system is nowhere near where it should be,” said Ramirez. “The need has never been greater. And if you look at what’s happened to our country over the last year – and the racial strife in particular – so much of that boils down to inequities in our education system. We are committed to working to address the causes of those inequities. We can’t continue to thrive as a nation with the amount of inequity that we have. And my family believes education is the key to addressing that.”
ST. AUGUSTINE PREPARATORY ACADEMY
While Ramirez, his family, and Husco have diligently worked to address the ongoing issue of educational inequality in several ways over the years, it’s their work in establishing St. Augustine Preparatory Academy, a K-12 Christian school based on the south side of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that will shape their legacy of service in the years to come.
In 2017, the Ramirez family invested more than $50 million to build and launch the school. Now, in its fourth year of operation – and with Ramirez’s sister, Abby Andrietsch, at the helm as the school’s chief executive officer – St. Augustine Preparatory Academy has seen its enrollment grow to 1,400 students this year.
More importantly, however, those who attend the school are thriving. According to the St. Augustine Preparatory Academy website:
- More than 99% of students are currently receiving choice funding
- 65% of students are participating in extracurricular activities
- Junior students grew their composite ACT scores by 5.6 points in just two and a half years
- The school’s in-person and virtual attendance rate currently sits at 96.1%
“My family has been working on the issue of educational inequality in Milwaukee for decades,” said Ramirez. “And my father, Gus, got to a point a few years ago where he said he’d never be able to see a systematic change in Milwaukee in his lifetime. But he could build a school and create a model of true excellence in urban education. So, that’s what led to the decision to found the school. Aug Prep has been our biggest educational investment by an order of magnitude, and it’s just been a fabulous initiative.”
While the school offers young people in the Milwaukee area access to a high-class education and opportunities to develop skills through extracurricular activities, Ramirez said there’s still much work to be done. Ultimately, he said, the goal is to grow the school by at least 50% and provide all graduating students from St. Augustine Preparatory Academy with scholarships to attend college, a tremendously large financial commitment that will serve as the primary function for the work being done by Husco and the Ramirez Family Foundation over the next decade.
AN ONGOING MISSION
Supporting educational opportunities has remained top-of-mind for Ramirez, Husco and the Ramirez Foundation for nearly two decades. Since 2002, their efforts and support has reached 150 schools and more than 300,000 underserved students – many across Central American countries such as Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. In addition, they supported Gus Ramirez’s alma mater, Georgia Tech, by endowing a professorship that led to a significant grant for the fluid power industry, and they established the Ramirez Family Scholarship Program to provide financial assistance for highly qualified university students.
Efforts to make a positive difference in the lives of others have also extended beyond education. A prime example occurred just last year when the COVID-19 pandemic began to emerge across the United States and around the world. Recognizing a critical need in the community, Husco stepped up to lead a consortium in its efforts to design, develop and produce a reusable face mask for use by healthcare professionals in southeastern Wisconsin. Husco’s Maskforce initiative, while different from the company’s educational efforts, underscored the core belief shared by Ramirez and his colleagues at Husco that success goes beyond just providing value for shareholders.
“There’s so much need in so many different areas,” said Ramirez. “And ultimately, I think that’s why a lot of organizations and individuals don’t act, simply because they aren’t sure how to make a difference. So, to me, bottom line is – just do it. Dive in and do something. And once you do, you’ll find what really drives you to make a difference in the world.”
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