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$15 million gift to UC Merced from Fred and Mitzie Ruiz
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$15 million gift to UC Merced from Fred and Mitzie Ruiz

Fred and Mitzie Ruiz, longtime UC Merced donors and head of the family behind Ruiz Foods, have made a $15 million gift to name the campus’ administration building and enrollment center.

In honor of their philanthropic leadership, the UC Merced facility will be named the Fred and Mitzie Ruiz Administration Center. As a hub of campus business and activities, the Ruiz Administration Center will help establish a lasting legacy that embodies its namesakes’ dedication to both UC Merced and the San Joaquin Valley, according to a news release.

The $15 million donation for the naming honor represents one of the largest individual gifts bestowed to the university, with funds from the gift earmarked for the creation of the Fred and Mitzie Ruiz Scholarship. The new endowment will provide comprehensive financial support to UC Merced undergraduates from the Central Valley and will span the entirety of their academic journey.

“UC Merced would not be what it is today without the meaningful partnership of Fred and Mitzie Ruiz,” said Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz. “Their generous commitment to name the Administration Center is just the latest in their long history of supporting and advancing the students and vital work of our university. Their dedication, leadership and advocacy are truly an inspiration.”

Muñoz unveiled the landmark gift at Illuminate, an on-campus event to celebrate the kick-off of Boldly Forward, UC Merced’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign.

The Ruizes’ contributions to UC Merced — through both philanthropy and service — span several decades. Fred, who is chairman emeritus and co-founder of Ruiz Foods, is a founding member of the UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees and served as regent on the University of California’s governing board from 2004 to 2016. His and Mitzie’s spirit of giving is deeply ingrained in the university’s foundational pillars, with financial support comprising several endowments, including the Ruiz Family Chair in Entrepreneurship; the Fred and Mitzie Ruiz Endowed Fellowship for graduate students who contribute to diversity; and the Rose R. Ruiz Endowed Scholarship and Fellowship Fund to support undocumented and first-generation college students, according to the release.

The couple were also the lead donors in establishing a $1 million UC Merced Foundation Board of Trustees Presidential Endowed Chair to recognize an outstanding scholar at the campus. The chair is currently held by Political Science Professor Jessica Trounstine, whose research focuses on American politics with a special interest in local government.

Among the Ruizes’ top priorities is empowering UC Merced’s mission to advance outcomes in the Central Valley.

“I would love for the students from the Valley to receive their education and stay here to add their knowledge to our community,” said Mitzie Ruiz. “If we can get more kids in college and help them succeed, we have a better chance of them staying here and doing great things.”

“The Valley has benefited greatly from a UC campus – it has contributed to our growth and helped our students,” said Fred Ruiz. “My personal goal is to help UC Merced to grow, but I’m most interested in how its presence helps the region continue to develop and benefits the students.”

The Ruizes’ transformational gift, along with the private philanthropy garnered by UC Merced during Boldly Forward’s early phase, will count toward the initiative’s fundraising target. The university has doubled the campaign’s fundraising goal from $100 million to $200 million, thanks in great part to the prolific support of campus donors, whose giving has outpaced original fundraising projections.

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