Wine industry icon Gary Heck, who is recognized not only for his business success but also for his leadership and integrity, will receive Sonoma State's 2014 honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at the University's May 10 commencement at the 3 p.m. ceremony.
Heck, owner of Korbel Champagne Cellars, has served as its president since 1982. Working his way up through the ranks, he became Chairman of the Board in 1984, continuing the legacy of his father.
Heck has built Korbel into the leading premium California champagne producer in this country. In a separate facility, Korbel also produces one of the country's most respected brandies. His dedication to quality, both in the vineyard and in the cellar, is at the heart of his distinguished award-winning portfolio.
Mr. Heck has enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Sonoma State University since 1995. Under his leadership as Chairman of the Board of Directors, Sonoma State's Wine Business Institute launched the first Executive MBA in Wine Business in the United States in 2012, in addition to the first online certificate in Wine Business Management, which has been completed by students in a dozen countries.
Over the past 18 years his support and belief in the mission of the University has been pivotal to the success of Sonoma State's Wine Business Institute. Four years ago, he created the F. Korbel Brothers, Inc. Professorship in Wine Business, a position held originally by Dr. Liz Thach and now rotating to Dr. Armand Gilinsky.
This was the first industry-supported professorship at Sonoma State and the first from a wine industry company. Most recently, Mr. Heck made a generous $1 million commitment to support the new home of the Wine Business Institute.
Dr. William Silver, Dean of the School of Business and economics says, "Gary has made a tremendous difference, not only in business and industry, but more importantly, in our community. His legacy of leadership and generosity has touched and enriched many lives."
"Gary was there from the beginning and has been instrumental in the advancement of the Wine Business Institute. Eighteen years ago he declared the need for education focusing on the business of wine and today we serve more than 500 people annually in our certificate and degree programs," says Ray Johnson, Director of the SSU Wine Business Institute.
In addition to his work with Korbel and Sonoma State University, Gary Heck has served as Chairman of the Board of The Wine Institute, the trade association of California wineries, and continues to be active on its board.
He is Supreme Knight of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine, an organization whose goals are to promote American wines and wine-producing regions, to introduce and recognize quality wines from around the world and to rekindle the respect of wine and wine culture for mankind and country.
Mr. Heck is also a member of Les Amis du Vin, an organization whose goal is to provide a forum for the appreciation of fine wine and food.