MERCED, CA. — Entrepreneurial programs at UC Merced have received the patronage of UC Regent Frederick “Fred” Ruiz, chairman of Ruiz Foods, and his wife, Mitzie, according to an announcement to be made today at the UC Merced Center in Fresno. Their $500,000 endowment pledge will fund the Ruiz Family Chair in Entrepreneurship to support teaching, research and public service in entrepreneurship and related disciplines.
“By fostering the spirit of entrepreneurialism, the Ruiz family is making a critical investment both in the UC Merced campus and in the economic well-being of our region and state,” says Kenji Hakuta, dean of the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. “The academic focus of this gift is especially meaningful coming from the Ruizes, who have created one of the most exceptional American entrepreneurial success stories. Their vision and dedication will be an inspiration to our students.”
The Ruiz story of entrepreneurship actually began with Fred's father, Louis. In the late 1950s, Louis, along with his brothers, opened a tortilleria. It was there they pioneered the automation of tortilla production - an innovation that was recognized in 2004 when Louis Ruiz was inducted into the Tortilla Industry Hall of Fame.
In 1964, equipped with family recipes and the dream of selling authentic Mexican food, Fred and his father teamed up to form Ruiz Foods. From its humble beginnings in a small warehouse, Ruiz Foods has grown tremendously in response to the popularity for its El Monterey™ brand products and is currently the nation's top manufacturer of frozen Mexican food. The company, now largely managed by the third generation of the Ruiz family, has more than 1,800 employees and is the largest private employer in Tulare County.
Last year, Ruiz ranked 17th among the top 500 Hispanic-owned businesses in the United States and 2nd among the top ten U.S. Hispanic-owned manufacturing firms according to Hispanic Business Magazine, June 2004.
“The success of Ruiz Foods can be directly traced to the determination and hard work of my father,” says Fred Ruiz. “Just as he has created a legacy for our family, UC Merced will establish a legacy of educational and economic opportunity for the San Joaquin Valley. Our family wish is to honor his entrepreneurial spirit through our support of UC Merced.”
During the past 40 years, Ruiz Foods has received several local, regional and national awards and recognitions. In 1983, Ruiz Foods received the United States Small Business Persons of the Year Award. The Award was presented by President Ronald Reagan in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D. C. In the fall of 2003, Ruiz was inducted into the U.S. Small Business Administration Golden Anniversary Hall of Fame along with just 22 other U. S. businesses. It was also during the fall of 2003, Ruiz Foods hosted a visit by President George W. Bush.
In 2004, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger tapped Ruiz to fill a vacancy on University of California Board of Regents. Appointed in July, his term will continue through March 2016.
The Ruiz Family Chair in Entrepreneurship is the 16th endowed chair committed to UC Merced. Assigned to support management programs within the future Ernest and Julio Gallo School of Management, the chair is currently assigned to the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts.
An endowed chair is created with a gift of $500,000 or more to UC Merced. Income generated from the investment of those funds is used to support a faculty member in his or her teaching and research efforts. In this way, a gift to the university can truly continue in perpetuity.