Former Fresno State winemaster and internationally known enologist Ken Fugelsang died Monday from cancer. He was 70 years old.
Mr. Fugelsang is credited with helping to build Fresno State’s enology department into a world-class program, known for producing skilled winemakers and award-winning wines.
Easily recognized for his Dutch beard, Mr. Fugelsang was a Fresno State alumnus, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1969 and his master’s degree in 1972, both in biology.
He was hired as an enology professor at Fresno State in 1971, and over his 45-year career taught more than 500 students to become winemakers. He officially retired in 2011 but continued teaching part time until May 2016.
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He had a passion for the wine industry and for teaching future generations of winemakers and wine industry leaders.
Alan Cannon, certified wine educator, director of distributor relations and education at Rombauer Vineyards in Napa
“Ken Fugelsang was an exemplary college professor and mentor who gave his all to his students,” Fresno State President Joseph Castro said in a statement. “He taught and directed hundreds of students in the science and art of winemaking and was a key player in establishing the Fresno State winery, the first university winery licensed to produce, bottle and sell wine.”
Former students praised him for his leadership and his friendship. Alan Cannon, a certified wine educator and director of distributor relations and education for Rombauer Vineyards in Napa, studied under Mr. Fugelsang in 1980.
“He always had time to listen and was very encouraging to all of us,” Cannon said. “He had a passion for the wine industry and for teaching future generations of winemakers and wine industry leaders.”
Mr. Fugelsang’s wife, Ann Fugelsang, said he kept in contact with many of his students. They would call him for his expertise or just to catch up.
“I remember one time, one of his former students came back to see Ken and he brought his son, who was enrolling as a Fresno State enology student,” she said. “He taught more than one generation of winemakers, possibly even three. He really loved what he did.”
Sandra Witte, dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, said the industry has lost a “truly talented and kind man.”
“His influence on our enology program will not be forgotten and lives on in our program graduates,” she said.
Mr. Fugelsang’s expertise extended beyond the classroom.
Over the course of his career, he published more than 150 technical papers, 18 books and contributed to U.S. and international journals. He received an award from the Paris-based International Office of the Vine and Wine for the 2007 book – “Wine Microbiology, Practical Applications and Procedures” – he co-authored with Charles Edwards of Washington State University.
He also received about 50 research grants totaling about $5 million and was one of the world’s leading experts on a grape disease known as brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast.
Mr. Fugelsang also served as the past president of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi and received numerous awards, including the Claude Laval Award for Innovative Technology and the Fresno State Outstanding Alumnus Award.
Former student Bryce Willingham, who graduated in 2012 and is a winemaker at Ravage Wines in Lodi, wrote a note to Mr. Fugelsang after finding out that he was ill with cancer. Her message was included in a statement released by Fresno State.
“I want you to know that everything you did as a judge and professor shaped so many winemakers,” she wrote in the message. “That means that you will always be here with us. In every glass. In every sip. In every moment that bottle creates. You live in the wines of the people you taught and the people they taught. You’re with us forever.”
Born: Dec. 13, 1946
Died: Feb. 20, 2017
Occupation: Enology professor
Survivors: Wife, Ann; son, Jeffrey; brother Paul
Services: A celebration of life will be held later this spring.