UC Merced earned $15 million from Ruiz Foods co-founder

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Fred and Mitzi Ruiz, major donors to UC Merced, will be honored for their $15 million gift to the university in October 2022, as a campus administration building will be named in their honor.

Fred and Mitzi Ruiz, major donors to UC Merced, will be honored for their $15 million gift to the university in October 2022, as a campus administration building will be named in their honor.

UC Merced

Fred Ruiz of Fresno, co-founder and former chairman of Mexican frozen food maker Ruiz Foods, and his wife Mitzi have provided financial support for scholarships and endowments at UC Merced for years.

On Saturday, North Valley University leaders announced the couple’s latest – and largest – contribution to date: a $15 million donation that will go toward a scholarship fund and provide financial support to undergraduate students from across the Central Valley who attend UC Merced.

In exchange, the university is naming its new administration building and enrollment center the Fred and Mitzi Ruiz Center for Administration.

Ruiz’s contribution is one of the largest individual gifts ever made to the university. Chancellor of UC Merced Juan Sanchez Munoz announced the donation at a kickoff event on the Merced campus for the first university-wide fundraising campaign, titled “Boldly forward.” The company officially launched last month.

“UC Merced would not be what it is today without the significant partnership of Fred and Mizzy Ruiz,” Munoz said. “Their generous commitment to name the administrative center is just the latest in their long history of supporting and advancing students and the vital work of our university.”

Fred Ruiz was a founding member of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees and served on the UC Merced Board of Regents from 2004 to 2016.

The couple has contributed to the university’s Ruiz Family Chair in Entrepreneurship Fred and Mitzi Ruiz Scholarship for graduate students who contribute to the school’s diversity, and the Rose R. Ruiz Scholarship and Scholarship Fund to support undocumented and first-generation students.

“My personal goal is to help UC Merced grow,” said Fred Ruiz, “but I am most interested in how his presence helps the region continue to grow and benefit students.”

Mitzi Ruiz shared her husband’s goals. “I would like to see students from the Valley get an education and stay here to add their knowledge to the community,” she said. “If we can get more kids into college and help them succeed, we’ll have a better chance of them staying here and doing great things.”

While the Boldly Forward campaign remains in its early stages, university officials said they have already doubled their original fundraising goal of $100 million because the response from donors, including the Ruiz family, has been greater than expected. The campaign now has a goal of $200 million, of which nearly $73 million has already been raised as of Monday.

In mid-2021, the university received a colossal Donation of 20 million dollars – the largest single donation in UC Merced’s 17-year history – from billionaire philanthropist Mackenzie Scott, ex-wife of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

A lifelong Valley resident, Tim Sheehan has worked as a reporter and editor in the region since 1986 and has been with The Fresno Bee since 1998. He is currently a data reporter for The Bee and also covers California’s high-speed rail project and other transportation issues. He grew up in Madera, has a journalism degree from Fresno State and a master’s degree in leadership studies from Fresno Pacific University.
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