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For the Joy of Learning

Ruth Waltenspiel. Leading the way for decades. And still learning at Sonoma State.

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"Education is the key to a joyful life," declared Ruth Waltenspiel, owner of Timber Crest Farms, where the educational program Sonoma State Cellars took root.  She is continuing her own education at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Sonoma State University, and was recently named one of the North Bay Business Journal's "2013 Women in Business."

Sonoma State Cellars, launched in 2011, is a hands-on, MBA-level, wine business course that teaches students the ins and outs of running a wine business.  Ruth, with her passion for education, success in wine business, and connection to the university, saw a way to help give back.  She donates the grapes to Kokomo Winery, one of the many tenants at Timber Crest Farms, which gives the grad students a chance to market their wine and gain a valuable educational experience before entering the industry.  "We saw a need and filled it." 

Sonoma State Cellars isn't the only way that Ruth is taking joy with the University.  After selling the dried fruit business that her and her husband owned, (you know those sundried tomatoes you love? You can thank the Waltenspiels for that.)  Ruth went from a twelve hour work day down to two hours a day.  "What now?"  She thought to herself.  She was already an exercise fanatic, spending three nights a week at the gym with her husband, walking anywhere she could get her feet on the ground, and participating in endurance rides on her Arabian horses every other weekend from March to November.  Still, she wanted to not just exercise her body, but her mind as well.  That is when she discovered the OLLI at Sonoma State.

"Art, music, history, politics, economy... You name it, I have taken it," Ruth explained.  Not only do these classes lead to more knowledge, they also have opened up doors to travel.  Through OLLI, Ruth has traveled to places like Sicily, Egypt, Israel, Cuba, Eastern Europe, and has just returned from a trip to France.  "Two wonderful, educational weeks spent in Paris," she stated when asked about the trip.

"Do it! Always be learning something," was her fervent answer when asked if one was thinking about furthering their education.  She does not apply the idea of always pursing education in just her own life, but to the lives of those who work for her.  She pays any and all costs for her employees to attend Santa Rosa Junior College to learn about anything that interests them.

Ruth is being celebrated for her impact in business and in the community at the 2013 Women in Business Dinner Gala.  She is one of the sixteen winners who were chosen from nearly fifty nominations based on many factors, including leadership roles in the organization, business-related innovations, vision and community involvement.  In an interview with the North Bay Business Journal, Ruth noted that the achievement she is most proud of is "discovering and developing the sun-dried tomato market here in the U.S."

When asked what the key to success, Ruth listed, "Be on time and work well with others.  Be honest, if something doesn't feel right, don't do it. Give 110% and you will get back much more.  If you are not growing, it is time to move on."  

All these attributes signify a leader in business and in the community, and Ruthie- as she is known to her friends- is definitely that.  Not only is she giving back what she has, she's also leaving her legacy for future wine makers with Sonoma State Cellars.

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