Master winemaker named Top Dog Distinguished Alumnus

An icon in the winemaking industry, Marcello Monticelli is among the 2021 Top Dog Alumni Award recipients — a group of accomplished Fresno State alumni who embrace the Bulldog spirit and have made significant contributions to their profession, the University and the community.

This year’s Top Dog Alumni Awards will be a one-hour special, televised on ABC 30 at 7 p.m. (PST) on Sunday, April 18. It will also be streamed for those outside the Fresno area.

Monticelli, vice president of North Coast winemaking for E. & J. Gallo Winery, will receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award — the highest honor given by the Fresno State Alumni Association for career achievement nationally or internationally — for his innovation in the winemaking industry and the creation of an award-winning portfolio of wines from Sonoma County. Monticelli, who was born in Pistoia, Italy into a family of vintners, graduated from Fresno State (magna cum laude) in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology. He began his winemaking career at Gallo in 1970 and later helped develop the Gallo Estate and Gallo single-vineyard wines.

Additionally, every year, one alumnus or alumna is chosen from each of the University’s eight academic schools and colleges, the Department of Athletics, the Henry Madden Library, the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, and the Division of Research and Graduate Studies to receive a Top Dog Outstanding Alumni Award. The Outstanding Alumni Award recognizes Fresno State alumni for exceptional accomplishments in their field(s).

The Arthur Safstrom Service Award honors alumni and friends of the University who have a distinguished record of service to Fresno State. The 2021 Arthur Safstrom Service Award recipients are John and Elizabeth Shields. John Shields, who will be receiving the award posthumously, is a professor emeritus of agricultural economics in the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, and Elizabeth Shields was a professor of finance with the Craig School of Business. The couple has been dedicated to supporting the University and its students for more than 35 years.

“The Top Dog Alumni Awards is an inspiring event that recognizes the achievements of our most accomplished alumni,” said Jacquelyn Glasener, executive director of the Fresno State Alumni Association. “This year’s class of honorees represent what it truly means to be a Bulldog, and we are excited to celebrate their successes with the University and community.”

Fresno State’s 2021 Top Dog Honorees:

  • Distinguished Alumnus: Marcello Monticelli (1969), retired master winemaker and vice president of North Coast winemaking for E. & J. Gallo Winery
  • Arthur Safstrom Service Award: John and Elizabeth Shields, former professors at Fresno State. (John Shields will be receiving the award posthumously.)

Outstanding Alumni by College or Division:

  • Jordan College of Agriculture Sciences and Technology: Walter Bentley (1969), integrated pest management entomologist, University of California Cooperative Extension emeritus
  • College of Arts and Humanities: Barry Falke (2001), chief operating officer for the Pacific Division of the American Red Cross
  • Department of Athletics: Kelly Rodriques (1989), chief executive officer of Forge Global
  • Craig School of Business: Debbie Adishian-Astone (1988, ’94), vice president for administration and chief financial officer, Fresno State
  • Kremen School of Education and Human Development: Maria Maldonado (2000, ’16), former assistant superintendent, Fresno Unified School District
  • Lyles College of Engineering: Juanita Leal (1990, ’95), associate technical fellow and flight test engineer, The Boeing Company
  • Division of Graduate Studies: Bob Nelson (1995), superintendent, Fresno Unified School District
  • College of Health and Human Services: Lisa Casarez (1994, ’00), founder and CEO, Angels of Grace Family Foster Agency
  • College of Science and Mathematics: Rosemary Rockwell Waters (1966, ’72), professor emerita, Fresno City College
  • College of Social Sciences: Geri Yang-Johnson (2009), vice president and community relations senior consultant, Wells Fargo
  • Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management: Andy Souza (1981), chief administrative officer, Immanuel Schools
  • Henry Madden Library: Frank J. Johnson, Sr. (1964), author and retired publisher and former superintendent of West Fresno School District

For more details on the Top Dog Alumni Awards, visit For sponsorship opportunities, contact Peter Robertson at or 559.278.4669.

(Story by Nicole Traverso)