To Virgis and Angela Colbert, there is no better way to invest in the future of a community than by investing in education. 

“An investment in young people is indeed an investment in the future for all of us,” said Virgis Colbert. “We believe in this next generation and we will continue to do all that we can to help dreams turn into reality.”

Over the course of the past 30-plus years, the couple has done so in a variety of ways, knowing the power that education has had in the trajectory of their professional careers.

“We both experienced the power of education in our own lives and believe strongly that education is key to unlocking the doors of opportunity,” Virgis said. “We are committed to extending the key to others.”

Angela earned her bachelor’s degree and law degree at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill before being recruited to join Quarles & Brady’s corporate law practice. She was one of five local leaders who founded the Milwaukee Scholars Charter School in 2011. She served on its board until 2019, including two years as its vice president. She also has served on the boards of University School of Milwaukee and Marquette University High School.  

Virgis earned a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University and honorary doctor of humane letters degrees from Fisk University where he served as chairman of the board and Kentucky State University. Once named one of the nation’s top 50 most powerful Black executives by Fortune magazine, he worked at Chrysler Corporation before spending a quarter century at Miller Brewing Company before retiring in 2005 as its Executive Vice President for Worldwide Operations.  

He was the key driver of Miller’s support of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and is chairman emeritus of the board. The fund was founded in 1987 to provide merit-based financial assistance to students who attend Black public colleges and universities. While the United Negro College Fund provided funding for students who attended private historically black colleges and universities, no funding existed at that time for Black students wishing to attend the 47 public HBCUs. Virgis also led the way in recruiting other big name sponsors like the NBA and Sony Music. To date, the fund has awarded more than $300 million in scholarships.

The couple, now retired, split their time between Milwaukee, Florida and Martha’s Vineyard, but their investment and heart remain in the community where they worked and raised their family. They continue to be involved in Milwaukee through civic and nonprofit board service.

“Our community has supported us in ways big and small,” Virgis said. “Angela and I believe we have an opportunity and a responsibility to give back.”

Their care and commitment to Milwaukee continues to manifest itself in a multitude of ways. In addition to education, the couple is equally as passionate about supporting Milwaukee’s arts and culture scene. Angela was a past Milwaukee Public Museum board member and has served as a Milwaukee Art Museum trustee since 2011. The couple has provided financial support to help bring premier exhibits to those two institutions including “Nelson Mandela: The Official Exhibition,” “Inspiring Beauty: 50 Years of Ebony Fashion Fair,” and “30 Americans.” The Colberts are also part of a Milwaukee African American investor group that is a co-owner of the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.

“Like so many Milwaukeeans, we care deeply about our home community,” said Virgis Colbert. “We all are members of the community with the opportunity and the obligation to support each other. When we work together, we can achieve even greater goals. The more we can do that, the better for Milwaukee.”

Past William C. Frye award recipients >>

2021 civic award recipients

William C. Frye Award

Virgis and Angela Colbert

Frank Kirkpatrick Award

Mark Eppli

Doug Jansson Leadership Award

Carmen Pitre

President’s Leadership in Racial Equity and Social Justice Award

Ness Flores