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Joseph Edward Gallo Endowment Gives Healthy Boost to UC Merced

September 30, 2002
$2 Million Gift to Support State-of-Art Recreation and Wellness Facility

MERCED, CA — Joseph Edward Gallo, founder of Atwater-based Joseph Gallo Farms, and his family are making a major contribution to the University of California, Merced, and to the healthy minds and bodies of future students with a commitment of $2 million to support a recreation and wellness facility on campus.

Michael Gallo and Linda Jelacich, Joseph Gallo's children and partners in the endowment, recently presented the gift to UC Merced Chancellor Carol Tomlinson-Keasey. In making today's announcement, Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey said the facility would be named the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center in recognition of the endowment and Joseph Gallo's legacy of leadership.

“UC Merced will make a tremendous impact on the educational and economic future of this region, and our family is pleased to play a role in the development of the campus,” said Michael Gallo, chief executive officer and an owner of Joseph Gallo Farms. “We are deeply honored that this central campus facility will bear the name of our father, who has believed so strongly in supporting the community throughout his life.”

“Our hope is to contribute to a full student experience at UC Merced, complete with the academic excellence associated with the University of California, and an outstanding array of health programs and recreational activities,” added Linda Jelacich.

Planned as an innovative, state-of-the-art facility, the Joseph Edward Gallo Recreation and Wellness Center will be a pioneer in blending wellness services and recreational activities under one roof. The goal is to encourage collaboration, joint programming and the synergies that would naturally come from a focus on athletic and health-related issues.

“A successful campus provides a range of activities for students to pursue when they are not in class. The most popular activities revolve around recreational programs, intramural sports, and exercise classes. This wonderful gift from Joseph E. Gallo and his family will support such active and healthy lifestyles among our students,” said Chancellor Tomlinson-Keasey. “We are thankful that the Gallo family will be our partner in providing resources important to the well-being and recreational life of UC Merced students, faculty and staff, and the community.”

A living legend in California's dairy industry, Joseph Gallo began his lifelong devotion to agriculture as a youngster working in the Gallo family vineyards. His own business first took shape 56 years ago, when he acquired and started developing land to grow grapes, later diversifying into other crops and raising heifers - first for market sale and then for milking. Launched in 1979 with 4,000 cows, the Joseph Gallo's dairy has grown to more than 37,000 head of cattle on five dairies. Successful Farming magazine cited Joseph Gallo Farms as the nation's largest dairy farm in 1995.

Branching out in the dairy industry, Joseph Gallo introduced his award-winning brand of cheese, Joseph Farms, in 1983. Joseph Farms has since become the largest-selling, California-produced, retail brand cheese and is sold in more than 20 states, Mexico, the South Pacific, Guam, the Caribbean and Japan.

Joseph Gallo has been widely recognized for his business acumen and achievements in the agricultural arena. Merced County agri-business leaders honored him for developing many of today's large-herd dairy practices. They also credited him for helping California cheese producers break into the national market with the first large-scale production and sales of Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese. Among other honors Joseph Gallo Farms has received are the Baker, Peterson and Franklin Agri-Business of the Year and the Fresno Bee Central California Excellence in Business for Agriculture award. In addition, Joseph Gallo Farms was one of 10 Central California businesses cited for excellence by the Institute for Family Business at California State University, Fresno in 1999.

Under the leadership of Joseph Gallo, and his son, Michael, Joseph Gallo Farms became a trailblazer for its environmentally compatible farming practices and dedication to preserving natural resources. The balance of commerce and environment is evident in the philosophy and daily operations of the business, which in 2001 received a prestigious award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for “outstanding leadership in protecting the environment and public health for this and future generations.” Years before, Joseph Gallo Farms sold thousands of acres to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the State of California for an environmental preserve and provided more than 2,000 acres for a perpetual conservation easement, including acreage restored to wetlands.

Active in civic affairs, Joseph Gallo has supported organizations and projects both regional and national in scope. He has been a member of the Emmanuel Hospital Chairman's Club of Turlock, the Merced County Farm Bureau and Ducks Unlimited; served as president of the Livingston Rotary Club and been an active Rotarian for many years; and served on the California grape commission. He has lent considerable financial support to such community improvement projects as the Livingston Community Center, the Livingston Community Health Center and St. Jude's Catholic School; and contributed annually to Stanford Hospital. In addition, he was a major donor to the Veteran's Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., in honor of his son, Peter, who died while serving his country in Vietnam.

The recipient of many civic honors, Joseph Gallo was inducted in the “Hall of Fame” at Modesto High School, his alma mater, and received outstanding service awards from the Merced County Board of Supervisors and the Livingston City Council.

Expected to open in fall of 2004 to serve 1,000 students, UC Merced is the 10th UC campus. Over the coming decades, the campus will grow to become a vibrant, comprehensive research university with 25,000 students and approximately 6,000 faculty and staff. In addition to the main campus, UC Merced will leverage digital technology to develop an educational network throughout the San Joaquin Valley. UC Merced currently operates educational and outreach centers in Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield.