Oct 27, 2022
UC Davis receives $50M pledge for sustainability research

The University of California, Davis, has received a $50 million pledge to support the school’s commitment to address pressing challenges in agriculture and environmental sustainability.

The pledge — from philanthropists Lynda and Stewart Resnick, co-owners of The Wonderful Co. — is the largest gift to the university by individual donors, according to a news release.

The gift will establish the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Center for Agricultural Innovation. Up to $10 million of the monies to be directed toward annual competitive research grants through the Resnick Agricultural Innovation Research Fund. The donation also supports UC Davis’ $2 billion fundraising campaign, “Expect Greater: From UC Davis, for the World,” the university’s largest philanthropic endeavor to date.

Sketch of the proposed 40,000-sq.-ft. Lynda and Stewart Resnick Center for Agricultural Innovation at UC Davis.

“Protecting and preserving our planet for the future means we must take bold steps and push the boundaries of what’s possible,” Stewart Resnick, who is also a member of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Board of Advisors, said in the release. “UC Davis is at the forefront of tackling climate change, developing groundbreaking technologies and solutions to reduce our collective carbon footprint, and creating a more sustainable agriculture system. This gift aims to help our greatest scientific minds rise to the great challenge of our time — the sustainability of our planet for future generations. Lynda, I and The Wonderful Co. are proud to partner with UC Davis to support this all-important work.”

Center design is expected to commence in 2022, with construction slated for completion by 2026. Once built, the new 40,000-sq.-ft., LEED-certified, state-of-the-art hub will house classrooms, research and lab spaces, and student career and advising support near the current plant sciences building off Hutchison Drive in Davis.

The initiative will unite experts from across UC Davis focused on five thematic research areas including
• identifying innovative solutions for agricultural byproducts,
• maximizing water and energy efficiencies,
• developing next-generation technologies,
• making crops more resilient and sustainable in the face of a rapidly changing climate, and
• expanding access to nutritious food.

Ultimately, the center will explore new ways of balancing food production with leading sustainability practices while advancing the global agricultural industry with scalable solutions.

“Thanks to this historic gift from Lynda and Stewart Resnick, UC Davis will further expand its global reach, helping to shape the future of sustainable food production,” Gary May, chancellor, said in the release. “This gift demonstrates a continued commitment to innovative environmental stewardship and allows us to create science-based solutions that can be rapidly deployed while mitigating the impacts of climate change.”

The Resnick Agricultural Innovation Research Fund will provide grants to promote cross-collaboration and strengthen the network among research faculty, agricultural producers, food companies, pharmaceutical companies, commodity boards, and other key stakeholders. Beginning this year, competitive research grants will be awarded annually to UC Davis faculty and Cooperative Extension specialists focused on identifying value-added properties in pistachio, almond and pomegranate byproducts.

“Many specialty crop byproducts are treasure troves of compounds that can promote health, improve soil quality, influence microbial ecology, or be converted into valuable products,” Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said in the release. “This transformative gift will help increase the potential of these byproducts, enhance sustainability and create new markets.”

The center will provide student advising and career support including for more than 60 Wonderful Scholars enrolled at UC Davis. The Resnick-created Wonderful Scholarship program was initially established to provide college scholarships to the children of Wonderful employees from the Central Valley. It has expanded over the last 28 years to also award college scholarships to Wonderful Education Career Pathways Program students, as well as graduates of the Wonderful College Prep Academy and neighboring schools. Many of these recipients are first-generation college students.

Deysi Alvaro Ceja, one of about 40 Wonderful Scholars in attendance at the center’s announcement and a third-year plant sciences major, spoke at the event and expressed gratitude to the Resnicks. She said her parents, farmworkers in the Central Valley, stressed the importance of education to her and her four siblings early in their lives. Their family moved from Mexico to a small town near Fresno when Alvaro Ceja was 6 years old.

“The Resnicks’ scholarship has enabled me to stay focused on my education without worrying about not having enough money to pay for tuition,” she said. “The coaches and tutors have supported me every step of the way, and I have made amazing friendships.”

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