Ricardo Diaz

Ricardo Diaz '74

1988 Distinguished Alumnus Award

Milwaukee Magazine described Ricardo Diaz '74 as the “Pied Piper of South Ninth Street.” In a May 1986 article, the magazine told of his efforts within his role as executive director of the United Community Center to lead the youth of the city away from their involvement in street gangs and into a productive future. The United Community Center provides education, recreational and cultural programs mainly for underserved youth and families in the Hispanic community.

When Diaz speaks of the importance of educational opportunities, he speaks from experience. Diaz came to Carroll from Puerto Rico, where he lived for about eight years after his family fled Cuba. He believed Carroll provided him with a wonderful opportunity that was challenging, fostered his creativity and offered a nurturing environment where he did not get lost in the crowd. He graduated in 1974 majoring in social welfare and Spanish.  

During his student tenure, he was an active volunteer in the community serving at Waukesha’s La Casa de Esperanza as a tutor and a leader in their summer recreation programming. His work at La Casa was so impressive that upon his graduation, he was offered the position of executive director of the organization. Starting with a $12,000 budget in a storefront duplex, Ricardo worked tirelessly at improving services for the Hispanic community in Waukesha. He also spent 8 years with Jewish Vocational Services in Milwaukee where he managed 325 employees, and was responsible for providing services to disabled adults and assistance programs for special populations. During this time, he also earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

In 1980, he was recognized as Waukesha Volunteer of the Year, and in 1984, he was awarded the Hispanic Man of the Year by the United Migrant Opportunities Services, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. That year, he assumed the position of executive director at the United Community Center. At the time, the agency was experiencing low staff morale and in danger of losing its credibility and funding with United Way and other funding agencies. With his excellent record at La Casa and his high profile in Waukesha and Milwaukee as a professional and volunteer, he was the key to turning things around at the agency.  

As the former executive director at the United Community Center, he continues to be a successful spokesperson and has positioned the UCC as the hub within the Hispanic community. Ricardo and his wife live in Milwaukee, Wis.

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