After Fred Ruiz’s father, Louis, asked his son to be his partner and start a frozen Mexican food company, Fred decided to enroll at the College of the Sequoias and take classes that could help him grow Ruiz Foods into the largest manufacturer of frozen Mexican food in the country.

Mission accomplished. More than a half century after Ruiz Foods was founded in California's San Joaquin Valley, its El Monterey brand of frozen Mexican food is in nearly every major grocery store across the nation. 

“I didn’t think I’d be going to a California State University or a UC, but I did know that I needed more than a high school education,” Ruiz said. “So I took some business courses at COS and spent two-and-a-half years studying as much as I could.”

An accounting class gave him a basic understanding of business: debits and credits and balance sheets. “My second class was an economics class and that really opened my eyes,” Ruiz said. “It gave me the global view, the ‘40,000-foot’ overview of business dynamics that was incredibly valuable.”

Ruiz never forgot his roots. He has been inducted in the College of the Sequoias Hall of Fame, served for 10 years on the board for the college's foundation and continues to sponsor scholarships and participate in mentoring projects. In 2008, Ruiz received the American Association of Community Colleges' Outstanding Alumni Award.

He also has turned to College of the Sequoias’ business faculty to provide leadership and business communications training for his management team. Ruiz Foods has grown to more than 2,500 employees, many of whom work in the San Joaquin Valley town of Dinuba, where Ruiz Foods has its headquarters and 300,000-square-foot main manufacturing facility.

Fred Ruiz retired in 2007 and is the company’s chairman emeritus. Kim Ruiz Beck, his daughter, now serves as chair.