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Cardinal Stritch campus sold for $24M

The campus was purchased by the Ramirez Family Foundation, which focuses on Christian education

Cardinal Stritch Sign
After more than 85 years, Milwaukee’s Cardinal Stritch University will close at the end of its spring semester in May. President Dan Scholz said the news is devastating for students, employees and the community but declining enrollment and “fiscal realities” left no alternative. Evan Casey/WPR

A foundation that supports a private Christian school in Milwaukee has bought the now shuttered Cardinal Stritch University campus for $24 million.

The Ramirez Family Foundation, run by Gus and Becky Ramirez, supports schools for “underserved students” across the globe. Now, they plan to bring a Christian voucher school to Milwaukee County.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to acquire a unique property that will, in time, provide the Ramirez Family Foundation with a platform to make an even larger impact,” Gus and Becky Ramirez said in a statement.

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In April, Cardinal Stritch President Dan Scholz said the campus would close at the end of the spring semester in May. In a video statement, Scholz said, “it was determined that we could no longer continue to provide the high quality education experiences our students rightly deserve.”

The university announced in June that they were seeking a buyer for the 43-acre property in Fox Point and Glendale. The campus includes 12 buildings with a combined 607,000-square-feet.

Gus Ramirez, the former CEO of Waukesha-based Husco International, said the foundation has been looking to open a school to serve students on Milwaukee’s north side for the last 10 years.

“We thought the needs here were exceptional,” Ramirez said.

The foundation recently supported a 900-student facility expansion at St. Augustine Preparatory Academy in Milwaukee.

“While we have a broad vision to expand access to a high-quality, Christian education for underserved students in Milwaukee, our specific plans for the campus will be determined after careful consideration, analysis and input from educational leaders at Aug Prep,” the statement said.

Enrollment at Milwaukee Public Schools has been dropping for several years as well.

“We thought it was appropriate to give back and try to make a dent in the very difficult education environment that Milwaukee is in,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the school will be a voucher school focused on providing a Christian education for K-12 students. He envisions a diverse student body.

“We think that by having a diversified student body we can create an educational environment that reflects the real world these students are going to go into,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the foundation will create a detailed plan in the next six to twelve months to figure out next steps for the campus. But he did say the dormitories on the campus will likely be torn down to make way for new athletic fields. He also said the goal is to start recruiting students within 5 miles of the campus next summer, to start school in 2025. He believes the school could have more than 1,000 students.

“The key is for us to be sure when they (students) leave our campus, they have the maturity and capabilities to be successful no matter what they do,” he said.

In a statement, Glendale Mayor Bryan Kennedy said he’s looking forward to having discussions with the foundation’s leaders soon.

“The City of Glendale has had a lengthy and extremely positive relationship with Cardinal Stritch University. The university has provided a strong educational foundation to members of our region, with a focus on developing character and improving the lives of people in our community,” the statement said.

“With the sale of the university property to the Ramirez Family Foundation, the space will continue to serve as a place that fosters a similar mission. We look forward to sitting down with the Foundation leadership in the coming weeks and discussing their vision for the property,” it added.

The foundation has supported more than 200 schools impacting more than 300,000 students, primarily in Central and South America. Christine Symchych, the village president of Fox Point, also said she was excited about the plans.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes,” Symchych said. “I think it’s sad that we’re losing Stritch (Cardinal Stritch), I think it’s exciting that we’re getting another educational use on the property. It sounds like it’s going to a vibrant use and I think that benefits everybody.”