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Alumni: Dr. Ramon Ortiz (East, ’91)

Dr. Ramon Ortiz Jr.’s Journey of Achievement

Dr. Ramon Ortiz’s journey from Madison East High (Class of ’91) to his current esteemed position as dean of continuing education at Madison Area Technical College is a testament to the transformative power of education.

Ramon’s path to success was shaped by pivotal experiences that began during his seventh-grade year when he found himself attending a summer residential program at UW-Whitewater. Daily classes at McCutchan Hall, where a professor guided him and other middle schoolers through computer skills training, exposed him to a world of possibilities. Living among college students fundamentally shifted his long-term outlook. “Their presence shattered the myth of college. I could see all these men who looked like me – not rich, not white. Suddenly college seemed like something that an average person can do, if they focus and do the right things.”

This revelation fueled Ramon’s determination, leading him to maintain a regimented routine that landed him on the Dean’s List during his first year of college. It was during this time that he caught the attention of John Dominguez, an economics faculty member who became a mentor in the McNair Scholars Program, an undergraduate research initiative. “He reached out to me. Here was a guy who looked like me and talked like me – he grew up in east L.A. – and had a Ph.D. in economics from MIT. That raised the bar for me in terms of the expectations for academic rigor. It was a powerful experience.”

Inspired by Dominguez and the McNair Scholars Program, Ramon began to see the potential of graduate school. After earning his undergraduate degree, he returned to campus to pursue an MBA, intending to enter the corporate world. However, his passion for administrative work and transformative programs redirected his path. “I planned to get a cushy corporate job, but I realized that I had a knack for administrative work and a deep appreciation for programs that transform lives. It’s the American Dream in the 21st Century – education as a path to upward mobility.”

Driven by this belief, Ramon earned a Ph.D. in educational leadership and policy analysis from UW-Madison, a culmination of his commitment to educational excellence, and his proudest professional accomplishment. Today, he serves as an influential leader in both academia and the community, shaping the futures of countless individuals.

Reflecting on his journey, Ramon attributes much of his success to his experiences within the MMSD. “To come from such humble beginnings and reach that level of academic accomplishment was only possible because of a high-quality K-12 public education system.”

Some of his fondest memories from MMSD include the indomitable presence of Principal Milton McPike. “I remember him walking through the hallways ushering (or scaring us) into getting to class on time. As I reflect on this, I realize that Mr. McPike truly had a deep commitment to ensuring his students succeeded.” Additionally, Ramon fondly recalls his 9th-grade biology teacher, Mr. Duvair, whose impeccable appearance, and suave demeanor often led students to speculate about his true identity. “He always wore a suit, had neatly combed hair, and was so suave in his communications that he seemed out of place as a biology instructor, he reminded us of James Bond. My friends and I were convinced his teaching job was just a cover for some top-secret spy mission.”

These experiences within the MMSD not only enriched Ramon’s academic journey but also instilled in him invaluable lessons in empathy and understanding. “I learned to deal with people from across the socio-economic spectrum, different racial ethnic backgrounds, etc. The class makeup was very diverse, and I was lucky to have had that experience before diversity became vogue. It has helped me tremendously in my career.”

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Ramon finds joy in spending quality time with his family, traveling, reading, and exercising. Alongside his wife, Mariana Pacheco Ortiz, a Professor at UW-Madison, and his children Ramon III, Paloma, and Roman, he cherishes every moment spent together, grateful for the opportunities afforded to him through loving parents and a quality public education.

Madison’s public schools are proud to count Dr. Ramon Ortiz among their alumni!

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