Fred and Mitzie Ruiz pledged $125,000 to support the Institute for Family Business at Fresno State, a community resource that promotes family businesses as a catalyst for economic growth.

The pledge serves as the lead gift in an effort to establish a $1 million endowment to provide sustained support for the institute.

“Fred Ruiz has been instrumental to the Institute for Family Business since its inception 27 years ago,” said Dr. Robert Harper, dean of the Craig School of Business at Fresno State. “Now this gift to kick start an endowment campaign will ensure lasting support for a vital community resource.”

The institute was established to preserve the family business heritage by providing a forum for exchanging ideas, researching findings and providing education about the unique issues and opportunities facing family firms.

Jane Olvera Quebe, owner of family-owned and Fresno-based JP Marketing, serves as chair of the Institute of Family Business. She describes the institute as a regional treasure.

“We know that family-owned businesses run deep in the Valley, but only 13 percent make it to generation three,” she said. “The Institute for Family Business is there to engage in these businesses and provide the necessary support to address their needs. Whether it’s financial, legal, marketing or even emotional support, we are here to improve the odds of keeping these businesses intact.”

According to Quebe, the Institute for Family Business has a unique track record for success. “Before the Great Recession there were eight institutes for family business across the state. Now Fresno State’s is one of three. It is a blessing we have sustained, and now this gift will help set the stage for the future.”

Fred Ruiz established Ruiz Foods with his father, Louis, in 1964. Today the Dinuba-based food manufacturing company employs more than 3,000 people with facilities in California, Texas and South Carolina. The company’s El Monterey brand is the top frozen Mexican food in the United States and can be found in over 97 percent of all retail channels. Tornados, the company’s snack brand, is the top roller grill item in convenience stores in the United States.

Recognizing the need for an organization to support family-owned businesses, Ruiz was a founding board member of the institute in 1989. He said it has been a longtime goal to establish an endowment.

“The Ruiz family is very pleased to launch this endowment supporting the legacy founded by a board dedicated to family-owned businesses,” Ruiz said. “We hope other family businesses will join us for the benefit of the institute and family-owned businesses for generations to come.”