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Fred Ruiz – Founder, Chairman Emeritus, Ruiz Foods – College of the Sequoias

Louis Ruiz and his son Fred had a simple goal - to sell frozen Mexican foods based on the family recipes of Grandma Rosie – Louis’ wife and Fred's mother. Ruiz Foods started in California's Central San Joaquin Valley where authentic burritos, enchiladas and tamales were sold to local 'mom and pop' grocery stores. Now, almost 50 years later, the El Monterey brand of frozen Mexican food is in nearly every major grocery store across the nation.

In the early 1960s, Louis Ruiz already had a successful tortilla manufacturing and sales business and Fred Ruiz knew that he’d enter the family business at some time. To be effective, he knew he’d have to get an education. Fred enrolled at the College of the Sequoias and took several classes that helped him grow Ruiz Foods into a dominant player in the frozen foods category.

"I didn’t think I’d be going to a California State University or a UC, but I did know that I needed more than a high school education,"Ruiz said. "So I took some business courses at COS and spent two-and-a-half years studying as much as I could."

Ruiz said an accounting course gave him the basic understanding of business, debits and credits and balance sheets.

"My second class was an economics class and that really opened my eyes," Ruiz said. "It gave me the global view, the '40,000 foot' overview of business dynamics that was incredibly valuable."

Ruiz has been inducted in the College of the Sequoias Hall of Fame, served for 10 years on the board for the college's foundation and continues to sponsor scholarships and participate in mentoring projects. In 2008, Ruiz received the American Association of Community Colleges' Outstanding Alumni Award.

Ruiz serves as a member of the board of directors for The Campaign for College Opportunity, is on the President's Advisory Board for California State University, Fresno; is an advisor to the Institute for Family Business at Fresno State's School of Business; on the board of trustees for the University of California, Merced; on the board of directors for the California Chamber of Commerce; board of directors for the Hispanic College Fund and is on the board of directors for McClatchy Newspapers. In 2004, Ruiz was appointed as a regent for the University of California.

"I've thoroughly enjoyed my time as a regent," Ruiz said. "But I’m also a big believer in community colleges and the important role they play in (California's) higher education. We have to work together."

Ruiz said several times over the years he's turned to the College of Sequoias business faculty to provide leadership and business communications training for his management team. He said the company will continue its relationship with COS into the future.

Ruiz Foods has grown to more than 2,500 employees and many work in the Central San Joaquin Valley town of Dinuba, where Ruiz Foods has its headquarters and 300,000-square-foot main manufacturing facility. Additional facilities are in Tulare and Denison, Texas.

Ruiz Foods has been honored by many local, regional and national organizations. In 1983, Fred and his father received the United States Small Business Persons of the Year Award presented by President Ronald Reagan in the Rose Garden of the White House. In 1992, the company was inducted into the United States Small Business Administration's Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. In 2003, the SBA celebrated its 50th anniversary by inducting Ruiz Foods and 22 other companies into a special anniversary hall of fame. He was named California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Businessman of the Year in 2005 and in 2006, Fred Ruiz was inducted into the Frozen Food Hall of Fame. That same year he received the Entrepreneurial Hispanic Achievement Award by Hispanic Magazine. In 2010, Ruiz was named Businessman of the Year by the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

In 1990, Fred Ruiz assisted in establishing the non-profit status of Ruiz 4 Kids – an organization comprised of team members from Ruiz Foods who recognize a need to help area children. Through two annual fundraising events, Ruiz 4 Kids distributes scholarships and supports child-related programs within local communities – distributing more than $4 million to children in need.

Fred Ruiz retired in 2007 and is the company’s chairman emeritus. Kim Ruiz Beck, his daughter, is chairman. Siblings Bryce Ruiz, Kelly Ruiz Hanchett and Matt Ruiz serve on the board of directors. Rachel Cullen is president and CEO.

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