Fresno State will host a celebration of life event to honor Ronald Metzler, a well-respected Fresno State alumnus and supporter, at 2 p.m. Saturday March 12, at the Department of Viticulture and Enology (2360 E. Barstow Ave.).

The event is open to the public and will be held outdoors at the Henry Metzler Gazebo that is named in honor of his father, who also supported Fresno State.

Those attending are asked to wear Bulldog red. Speakers will include family and friends.

Ron Metzler, a 1959 Fresno State viticulture graduate and track and field standout, passed away on Nov. 24 in Arizona after a battle with ALS. He was 78.

Metzler studied enology, horticulture and plant science before establishing a reputation as an innovator in Central California production agriculture.

Through his SunMet brand and Metzler Family Farms, he developed new production techniques for stone fruit, table and wine grapes, citrus, almonds and walnuts, and his “Z” label red wines were acclaimed for their quality.

Metzler’s many developments in area farming included the mechanical pruning and harvesting of grapes and the introduction of granny apples.

“Ron shared a passion for agriculture in so many ways with our students, staff and faculty for over 50 years,” said Sandra Witte, interim dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology at Fresno State. “He worked tirelessly on our viticulture and enology industry advisory board and viticulture and enology alumni board of directors. He also played an equally important role as a founding member and former president of our Ag One Foundation and many other area organizations.”

Metzler received the Fresno State Department of Viticulture and Enology Outstanding Service Award in 2013 and was a Viticulture Alumnus of the Year honoree.

In 1981, H. P. Metzler & Sons endowed the H.P. and Edna Metzler Viticulture Assistantship through the Fresno State Foundation. He also established an endowed scholarship for Fresno State horticulture students in the name of his parents, Edna and Henry Metzler, in 1986 – the same year he served as the inaugural Ag One president.

He also served as executive director for Central California Winegrape Growers, was a founding member for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, was treasurer for the San Joaquin Valley Viticulture Technology Group and was a board member for the California Grape and Tree Fruit Agreement.

He also served as the Sanger Farm Bureau President and was a board member of the Fresno State Agriculture Foundation, International Apple Institute and California Tree Fruit Agreement.

A former Bulldog track and field athlete, Metzler was a two-time conference runner-up in the shot put and a lifetime supporter of Fresno State athletics.

He served as Bulldog Foundation president and as a trustee, and received the Bulldog Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He also served as the Fresno County Athletic Hall of Fame director; Fresno City/County Football All-Star Game president; and was selected as the National Society of Fund-Raising Executives Outstanding Philanthropist.

Born in Sanger, Metzler was introduced to grapes on his family’s vineyard that is now more than 100 years old. He attended Sanger High School.

He is survived by Diadre, his wife of 28 years, his sons Eric, Ryan and Michael and daughter Tracy, their spouses, seven grandchildren and his brother Dennis.

“Ron had a significant and lasting impact on agriculture at Fresno State, the San Joaquin Valley, and California,” said Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers in Fresno and member of the viticulture and enology industry advisory board. “His commitment and passion to whatever he was involved in were inspiring to those around him. His contributions and memory will live on.”

He was honored in August 2014 by students, staff and faculty in the Department of Viticulture and Enology as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge after being diagnosed earlier that year.

Remembrances may be made to the Fresno State Foundation to support the H.P. and Edna Metzler Viticulture Assistantship in the Department of Viticulture and Enology (2360 E. Barstow MS VR89, Fresno, CA 93740), to the ALS Association Arizona Chapter (360 E Coronado Rd STE 140, Phoenix, AZ 85004) or to the Bulldog Foundation, Football Fund for Excellence (Fresno State, PO Box 26267, Fresno, CA 93729-6267).

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