Donald Emil Gumz was a Valley native, who like many lifelong residents, had a love and passion for the region, including Fresno State. He came from a family of grape farmers but worked with numbers, in an accounting career that started with a local entrepreneur and developer, and ended with the Vie-Del Company, which produced brandy, wine and juice concentrates, where his love for wine and the winemaking process began. He also developed an interest in water education through his second cousin, Dr. David Zoldoske, who oversaw Fresno State’s Center for Irrigation Technology and the University’s water initiatives for 35 years.
Gumz, who died in September 2018, left $4.66 million in his estate plans to support the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. His generosity will provide $3.7 million toward renovation of the research winery while the other $933,000 will be used to support the Center for Irrigation Technology.
To recognize this transformational gift, the enology building at Fresno State, which includes the research winery, will be named the Donald E. Gumz Enology Building. The California State University Trustees approved on Tuesday, May 12, the naming of the building in his honor.
“We are deeply grateful for Mr. Gumz’s generous and impactful gift, which aligns perfectly with his passion in winemaking while also broadening the University’s national reputation for research in the fields of viticulture and enology,” said Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro.
About a decade ago, Gumz started attending yearly wine-tasting events hosted by the Ag One Foundation at the Fresno State Winery. There, he met many enology students over the years and enjoyed learning about wine. His first cousin and Zoldoske’s father, Robert, would often accompany him to the wine tastings. It was through Dr. David Zoldoske that Gumz learned about the importance of water for growing grapes.
Gumz’s father grew grapes, and his maternal grandfather was Henry Engelman, who started farming grapes near Biola in the early 1900s. The family continues farming wine grapes today and produces local wines at Engelmann Cellars and LoMac Winery.
Gumz had many interests, which led him to make annual gifts that would improve the student experience in Jordan College programs that included horticulture, the Center for Irrigation Technology and the Viticulture and Enology Research Center.
“While Don never personally attended Fresno State, he knew superior educational opportunities would help build a strong community,” Zoldoske said. “His many significant gifts will leave a lasting legacy here in the San Joaquin Valley.”
Gumz’s generosity will help the winery bridge the gap between laboratory-scale wine research and commercial winemaking, said Dr. Stephan Sommer, director of the Viticulture and Enology Research Center.
“By enhancing our abilities to make wine in small batches while still using modern technology, we enhance learning opportunities for our students and the potential for state-of-the-art research in the same space,” Sommer said. “This will build on Fresno State’s national reputation to provide students with an applied and hands-on learning experience. It will also intensify our collaboration and partnership with the grape and wine industries.”
In addition to Fresno State, Gumz also supported a number of community organizations to help fight hunger, abuse, children’s health and the arts. Recipients include Valley Children’s Healthcare, Marjaree Mason Center, Poverello House, Fresno Art Museum, Ronald McDonald House and Hinds Hospice.