2008 Award of Distinction Recipients

Jun 07, 2013 Debra Cheung

Koichiro Aramaki


Koichiro Aramaki, chairman of Kirin Holdings Company, Ltd., built his career helping transform one of Japan’s oldest brewing companies into a leading producer of beverages, dairy products, pharmaceuticals, and functional foods with diversified operations throughout the world. He is being honored among “Outstanding Alumni” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

A native of Japan’s Kanto region, Aramaki earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural chemistry from the University of Tokyo in 1964. He then joined Kirin Brewery Company to work on brewing technology research and later moved into business development. Aramaki studied dairy microbiology at UC Davis, graduating in 1978 with a master’s degree in food science.   He earned his Ph.D. at Niigata University in 1993.

Upon his return to Japan, Aramaki became director of a Kirin subsidiary’s dairy products company.  Kirin took a major step into the pharmaceutical business in 1984, joining with Amgen, Inc., in a joint venture in the United States — Kirin-Amgen, Inc. — that created among its products a treatment for renal anemia and another for  the treatment of leucopenia. Aramaki was with Kirin’s pharmaceutical division for 15 years and served as chairman of Kirin-Amgen in 1995–1996. Aramaki became a board member of Kirin Brewery Company and served as its president and CEO from 2001 until 2006, the year he became chairman.

Aramaki is a supporter of UC Davis' brewing science program, a past recipient of the Cal Aggie Alumni Association Distinguished Achievement award, and a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet for the UC Davis campaign. 

“Koichiro Aramaki commands high regard based just on his quiet wisdom — from which we have benefitted frequently at UC Davis,” said UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef. “Even a brief conversation with him is worth so much, whether one’s interest is in pharmaceuticals, or brewing, or a wide range of other topics.”


George Bruening


Plant pathology professor George Bruening has excelled as a scholar, classroom instructor, mentor to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and as an internationally recognized scientist in a UC Davis career spanning more than 40 years. He is being honored as “Outstanding Faculty” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Trained in biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin, Bruening began his career in the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at UC Davis in 1966. He transferred to the Department of Plant Pathology in 1984 to seek new applications for his research. Bruening’s work helped uncover genetic and biochemical mechanisms of resistance to plant viruses. He was one of the first to discover how RNA molecules can function as enzymes, a property previously thought confined to proteins. Bruening was an early supporter of genetically engineered plants for crop improvement.

In 1992 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and was selected in 1999 as the UC Davis faculty research lecturer. He has always been remarkably committed to his students. In addition to a rigorous graduate course and lab in plant virology, Bruening taught an undergraduate course on agricultural biotechnology and another called “Feeding the Planet.”

Bruening has been of great service to professional societies and to the UC Davis community. He founded the first scientific journal devoted to the study of molecular plant-microbe interactions and was a founding member of the American Society of Virology. He also helped create and lead the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Engineering Plants for Resistance Against Pathogens at UC Davis.

“George is a rare individual and scientist,” said Mark Young, one of Bruening’s former graduate students and now a professor himself. “He is respected and admired worldwide and is amazingly humble considering all that he has accomplished in his long and distinguished career.”


Richard Collins


Richard Collins, founder and president of California Vegetable Specialties, is the only major commercial producer of Belgian endive in the United States. He is being honored among “Outstanding Alumni” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

In 1978 Collins was a high school senior preparing for UC Davis to pursue an interest in farming, a dream nurtured since childhood. On the menu one night in the French restaurant where he worked was a curiosity—braised endive. The next day, Collins bought a package of chicory seeds, from which endive is grown, and began a journey that led to his UC Davis bachelor’s degree in agricultural and managerial economics, an extended visit to western Europe to learn from master endive growers, and ultimately to the creation of his Rio Vista-based company originally called “Rebel Farms” in 1983. California Vegetable Specialties is now a member of the French-based Darome group of international companies. The company has 60 full-time employees and produces both conventional and certified organic red and white endives, as well as other specialty vegetables.

Collins is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program and is a member of the San Francisco Professional Food Society, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, and Slow Food USA. He serves on various boards and councils including St. James Catholic Church, Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, Davis Farmers Market, and UC Davis. Collins’ newest project is Bridgeway Farms, which will produce and showcase locally grown food, promote sustainable agriculture, and protect farmland.

“Rich’s entrepreneurial spirit and visionary approach to production agriculture has significantly benefited both California agriculture and UC Davis,” said award nominator and fellow farmer Craig McNamara. “As he travels the nation and the globe marketing his product, he is also informing the world about the value of a UC Davis education in agriculture and environmental sciences.”


Richard Kunde


Richard Kunde is a successful businessman, grape grower, and a pivotal figure who has helped shape and preserve Sonoma County agriculture. He is being honored among “Outstanding Alumni” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Kunde grew up on the ranch his grandparents started in 1904 in Sonoma County’s Valley of the Moon. Kunde earned his UC Davis bachelor’s degree in viticulture in 1964 and a master’s degree in horticulture in 1966. He subsequently worked as a viticultural consultant and then director of grower relations for the North Coast Grape Growers Association. In 1982 he purchased Sonoma Grapevines, Inc., and over the course of the next 20 years turned it into the largest grapevine nursery in the United States. In cooperation with UC Davis, Kunde introduced the winegrape industry to newly developed rootstocks and clones that elevated the stature of California’s wine industry.

He has been active in many industry organizations and founded the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association in 1984. As an industry leader, he was the first to promote the European notion of appellations of origin for vineyards and worked with the federal government to formalize the United States’ first viticultural appellation area—the North Coast—and created regulations for establishing future viticultural areas. “A place as beautiful and agriculturally diverse as Sonoma County must be preserved forever,” Kunde says. “My mission has been to keep agriculture strong and the farmland in production for the generations to come.” Today, the Kunde family grows grapes on more than 300 acres in the Russian River valley.

“Without the presence of Richard Kunde in Sonoma County, it is doubtful that we would be as well recognized for super premium wine quality as we are today,” said Richard Thomas, the retired director of viticulture at Santa Rosa Junior College in support of Kunde’s nomination. 


Eddy Lee and Elizabeth (Lee) Mok


Brother and sister Eddy Lee and Elizabeth (Lee) Mok, fourth generation heirs to the Hong Kong company that invented oyster sauce in 1888, have put their UC Davis food science education to work modernizing their family’s business and elevating its international stature in the world of Asian cuisine. They are being honored among “Outstanding Alumni” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Elizabeth and Eddy are two of the five siblings who have helped make Lee Kum Kee one of the foremost producers and marketers of more than 200 different kinds of sauces and condiments — soy sauces, oyster sauces, chili sauces, cooking and dipping sauces, and many others. Both came to UC Davis to obtain an American education and to learn about food and agricultural sciences. They earned their bachelor’s degrees in food science and technology, and then joined the family business in 1980.

Food science professor Charlie Shoemaker, who nominated the pair for the Award of Distinction, has been impressed with the Lees’ creative management style, which has enabled their world-class company to continue as a family-owned enterprise. “The amazing story of how Eddy and Elizabeth, along with their brothers, have restructured the company management to allow recruitment of talent necessary to run an international food corporation but remain a family company is indeed an incredible accomplishment,” he said.


As a food technologist, Elizabeth has been responsible for developing new food products in Lee Kum Kee’s research and development department, and for conducting technical research and chemical analysis on food products. She was appointed technical services director in 1997, gaining additional responsibilities in packaging design, product formulation, labeling, food safety, raw material acquisition, and quality control. One of her major accomplishments was participating in a team that helped set up new soy sauce production facilities in mainland China. Elizabeth is also an adviser to the government on food safety and environmental hygiene and is helping formulate national standards for oyster sauce manufacturing.

Eddy is chairman of Lee Kum Kee. He has promoted Chinese-Western cuisine throughout the world. The company’s sauces and condiments can be found in more than 100 countries and have become internationally recognized for their quality. He has held leadership positions in a number of food industry associations, including being appointed the “permanent honorary president” of the Hong Kong Foodstuffs Association. He has worked to foster better business cooperation with China through regular dialogue with the Chinese government and participation on various committees to stay current on economic strategies. Eddy Lee has organized many chamber of commerce events.

The company has invested heavily in educating its employees about food science, a commitment recognized by the Chinese government. The company has been very proactive for food science and has sponsored food science conferences. Lee Kum Kee Co. has established the highest quality standards for company products and has won numerous awards as a result. Eddy and Elizabeth have been active in other food science activities in China, and have also hosted delegations from UC Davis and from many other food science departments in Asia.

“The Lee family has more than contributed their share in shaping the palate and the growing popularity of Chinese cuisine around the world,” wrote Martin Yan, distinguished UC Davis alumnus, in support of the nomination. “Eddy and Elizabeth Lee have been a prominent guiding force in the growth and recognition of the Lee Kum Kee brand.”


Craig London   


Craig London, a veterinarian and proprietor of Rock Creek Pack Station in the eastern Sierra Nevada, has lived a life of service to the wilderness and to the university where he was educated. London is being honored among “Outstanding Alumni” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

London grew up in a family that led efforts to clean up the backcountry and spent his summers exploring the Sierra. Early on, London became interested in research and veterinary medicine, a calling that led him to UC Davis. He earned degrees in animal physiology in 1976 and veterinary medicine in 1980, and joined Alpha Gamma Rho.

Located near Bishop, Rock Creek Pack Station operates summer pack trips that have given thousands of people an intimate experience of Sierra Nevada natural history while learning practical veterinary medicine, wilderness management techniques, and packing and mountain horsemanship skills. In cooperation with CA&ES faculty, he has led many programs offered through UC Davis Extension.

London has a keen interest in wild mustangs and developed an educational program for the Montgomery Pass Wild Horse Territory on the California-Nevada border. He has co-authored and facilitated research on the high altitude physiology of horses and mules, comparative physiology of mules, and the interrelationships of mountain lions on the population dynamics of wild horses.   

London is active in local civic organizations, and served as president of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce, High Sierra Packers Association, and Mule Days. He is also an associate veterinarian at Bishop Veterinary Hospital.

“In all his activities, London has transmitted his love for wilderness and the science-based way of viewing wilderness that he first learned as an undergraduate at UC Davis,” said UC Davis colleagues Dennis Pendleton, Mike McCoy, and Jim Lapsley. “He never lets anyone forget that he’s an Aggie and proud of it.”


Chet McCorkle


Chester McCorkle, an agricultural economist, professor, UC Davis administrator, and the driving force behind the California Agribusiness Executive Seminar, has helped generations of Californians stay on top of business trends and maintain a competitive edge in the global marketplace. He is being honored as a “Friend of the College” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

McCorkle earned his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from UC Berkeley. His graduate degrees are in agricultural economics. His UC Davis career spanned 43 years. In 1969 he was appointed the third dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. He also served as the campus’s academic vice chancellor and systemwide as executive vice president for the University of California. He has advised state, federal, and foreign governments, as well as private corporations and educational institutions.

McCorkle focused on agricultural business organization and management and on the economics of food and fiber production. He authored three books and more than 100 scientific and technical articles. Since retirement, McCorkle has been a consultant to several university administrators.

McCorkle created the UC Davis Wells Fargo California Agribusiness seminars in 1989. The seminars continue to this day with the involvement of his son, Ken McCorkle, a top executive at Wells Fargo bank. Conducted every two years, the seminars are based on case studies of major farming, packing, and processing firms in the agribusiness field. They have also examined energy, retailing, water, agricultural sustainability, and other important issues.

“Chet has been the driving force behind the seminars, and Ken has distinguished himself in preparing and presenting excellent case studies for the seminars,” said Tom Cortopassi, president of Stanislaus Food Products, in support of the nomination. “I have great appreciation and respect for the effort the McCorkles have given to the California agribusiness industry.”


Ken McCorkle


Kenneth McCorkle, a Wells Fargo bank executive vice president, is a businessman with a long history in California agriculture and support for the University of California. A 1970s graduate of UC Davis, with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science, he is being honored among “Outstanding Alumni” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

McCorkle is in charge of Wells Fargo’s Agricultural Industries Group, the largest agricultural lender among U.S. commercial banks. He has been with the company most of the past 21 years. In 1996–97 he was president of Early California Foods, an olive company, and chairman of food-processing equipment marketer Sadrym-California. From 1979 to 1985 McCorkle was vice president and general manager of Sierra Wine Corporation, the largest bulk winery in California at the time.

McCorkle earned his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1976, where he worked as a research associate. Also a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership Program, he has served on the UC president’s Council on Agriculture and Natural Resources and on the CA&ES Dean’s Advisory Council. McCorkle served previously on the UC Davis Food Science and Technology Leadership Board, and with the California Pepper Commission, the California Plant Health Association, Precision Farming Enterprises, and the Cal Aggie Alumni Association.

At Wells Fargo, McCorkle assembled and trained a corps of agribusiness consultants throughout the United States. He is co-founder, director, case writer, and instructor for the California Agribusiness Executive Seminar co-sponsored by Wells Fargo and UC Davis and has established similar programs in Oregon, Washington, and the Midwest.

“Ken is exceptional in developing insights into a business and the forces acting on it,” said Chris Rufer, president of The Morning Star Company, in support of McCorkle’s nomination. “He does this across many businesses and industries and his work is evidenced through his professional guidance and his case writings.”


Margrit Biever Mondavi


Margrit Biever Mondavi, vice president of cultural affairs at Robert Mondavi Winery, is a pioneering bon vivant who with her late husband, Robert Mondavi, helped blend an appreciation of music, fine arts, and culinary arts with the California wine industry. She is being honored as a “Friend of the College” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Mondavi joined the winery in 1967, pursuing a life-long interest in uniting wine with fine arts, music, and culinary artistry.  She married Robert Mondavi in 1980 and together they traveled the world; ambassadors for California wine and advocates of a philosophy that the arts contribute to an enhanced quality of life.  Under her direction, Robert Mondavi Winery developed cultural and culinary arts programs that are now benchmarks for the wine world. She introduced cooking classes to develop guests’ appreciation of great food paired with fine wine, as well as the Great Chefs at Robert Mondavi Winery program.

In 2001, a personal gift of $25 million from Robert Mondavi helped UC Davis establish the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science and a $10 million gift from the Mondavis helped establish the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. The Mondavis also worked together as founding patrons of COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts in Napa.

“Margrit Biever Mondavi is a true patron of the arts whose passion for living has helped bring about a transformation in our appreciation of food, wine, and culture,” said Clare M. Hasler, executive director of the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science. “It is because of the vision that she and Robert shared and their willingness to support UC Davis in unprecedented ways that our university is home to a world-class performance venue and state-of-the-art teaching and research facilities for the study of food, wine and other beverages.”


Rod Park


Roderic B. Park, a plant physiologist and veteran administrator in the University of California system, brings a long history of advocacy and leadership skills to bear in one of the state’s newest wine appellations and in support of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. He is being honored as a “Friend of the College” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Park graduated from Harvard College in 1953 and subsequently earned his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology in plant biochemistry in 1958.  He spent the next 34 years at UC Berkeley, filling key administrative posts—department chair, provost, and dean of the College of Letters and Science. In 1994 he left UC to become interim chancellor at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Three years later he returned to his hilltop vineyard in Sonoma County, but UC came calling once more. Park served at the fledgling UC Merced campus as senior associate for academic development in 2000–2001. He became acting chancellor there in 2006–2007and continues today as senior associate to the chancellor.

During the past 15 years, Rod and his wife Catherine established Rockpile Vineyard on a scenic ridge between the Sonoma Valley and the Pacific coast. Since 2003, Park has been on the executive committee of Rockpile AVA (American Viticultural Area). He joined the UC Davis viticulture and enology department’s Board of Visitors and Fellows in 2002 and has served as its chair the last five years.

“Rod is someone who truly understands the connection between quality and partnership and has been exceptionally generous with both his expertise and his financial gifts,” said Andrew Waterhouse, chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology. “His sage advice on important planning issues is helping us to ensure we retain our strength and global standing.”


Dan Sehnert


UC Davis animal science facilities coordinator Dan Sehnert has taken care of an ark full of animals in facilities scattered across the campus and beyond for 27 years. He is being honored as “Outstanding Staff” with a 2008 CA&ES Award of Distinction.

Sehnert began his UC Davis career in 1981, fresh out of Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor’s degree in animal science. He managed the Cole Facility, which includes buildings and equipment for the study of large animal biology and a USDA-inspected meat processing plant. He mastered husbandry and research protocols for large animal research and became an expert in meat processing. His success led to additional responsibilities managing the horse barn and small-animal colony. In his current position since 1993, Sehnert oversees a team of 21 staff employees and numerous student workers who manage 40 campus facilities. He has oversight for pasture lands along with hay and feed grain production on 300 acres, and manages UC Davis beef cattle herds at four locations in the state.

Sehnert is also the animal care liaison for the Center for Aquatic Biology and Aquaculture, the Bodega Marine Laboratory, and the Hopland Research and Extension Center. He has a crucial role in maintaining accreditation of facilities for animal care. He has served on many campus committees and is involved with many public events showcasing animals. He is a familiar goodwill ambassador, judging livestock at state and county fairs, attending major conventions for beef cattle and thoroughbred associations, and leading animal facility tours for campus visitors.

“You will not find a more dedicated, committed, genuine, and capable person than Dan Sehnert,” said Jonathon Beckett, a former graduate student and now a professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. “Dan embodies the can-do, high-standard attitude that continues to be the strength of UC Davis.”

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