The renaming of Fresno State’s Vincent E. Petrucci Viticulture Building after the program’s late founder was celebrated April 20 by a crowd of 200 campus staff, faculty, students, alumni, friends and family.
The event began with presentations from Dr. Sandra Witte, dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, and Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. They shared about Dr. Petrucci’s longtime impact on creating Fresno State’s viticulture and enology program that is highly regarded nationally for its applied grape-growing and winemaking focus.
Among other speakers, Dr. Harry Karle, one of Dr. Petrucci’s first students when he started the program in 1948, talked about the impact that Dr. Petrucci had on him and other students. Karle, a plant science professor emeritus and former campus farm director, related that Dr. Petrucci’s limited teaching experience was overmatched by his charisma and drive to educate Fresno State students so they could contribute to and lead the local industry.
Longtime local raisin grower Randy Rocca shared the impact Dr. Petrucci had on him and his late father, Earl Rocca, who was also a viticulture program alumnus. Rocca cited Dr. Petrucci’s restless passion for developing new grape management techniques and his support of the development of mechanized raisin harvest practices. The Central Valley currently supplies nearly all of the nation’s raisins, and exports to 50 countries.
Recent graduate Kelli Williamson extended Dr. Petrucci’s legacy to the current day and related how he served as an enthusiastic mentor to her and other students until he passed away in December 2016.
Dr. Petrucci’s son, Vincent E. Petrucci, Jr., a Fresno State agricultural business graduate, took many of his father’s viticulture classes and stressed his father’s commitment to excellence as an educator while unifying industry support. He added that his love of the grape growing was shared around the world by his students who helped make the California grape and wine industry an international leader.
The event also included tasting of the special edition Petrucci’s Crush Fresno State red wine that he helped to design and was blended by Fresno State winemaking staff and students in the fall of 2016. The wine also commemorated his wife of 69 years, Josephine, who supported him and his career.
The California State University Trustees approved the building renaming in March through a proclamation ceremony that was attended by Castro, Witte and Petrucci Jr.
Dr. Petrucci was conferred an honorary doctorate of science by the CSU system in 1994, a year after he retired after a 46-year career with the program.
“Vincent E. Petrucci not only was Fresno State’s first viticulture professor, but he played pivotal roles in developing academic programs and robust and collaborative research programs in viticulture and enology,” Castro said. “His extraordinary work transformed the lives of thousands of students at Fresno State and influenced an entire grape-growing and winemaking industry.”
Dr. Petrucci also founded the Fresno State Viticulture and Enology Research Center in 1985 and served as its director until his retirement in 1993. He led successful fundraising efforts to support students, faculty and capital projects. Most notably, he raised more than $1.5 million for the viticulture building, which houses state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratories, and a discipline-specific library to serve students and the industry.
The University created a combined Viticulture and Enology Department in 2000. The Fresno State Winery became the nation’s first bonded collegiate winery to commercially market university student-produced wines in 1997.
“Dr. Petrucci’s name is synonymous with viticulture and enology at Fresno State, and our alumni and industry partners can be found in every corner of the world,” Witte said. “It is a distinct honor to name the viticulture building in his memory, given his many enduring contributions to Fresno State and the San Joaquin Valley.”
After his retirement, Dr. Petrucci published numerous papers and books detailing wine and grape growing best practices.
Originally from Escalon in the San Joaquin Valley, Dr. Petrucci earned a bachelor’s degree in pomology in 1947 and a master’s degree in horticulture in 1948, both from the University of California, Davis. He served in the U.S. Naval Air Corps at the end of World War II.