Alumnus, entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr. Earl Smittcamp dies at 96

by Kathleen Rhodes Schock


Local rancher Dr. Earl Smittcamp passed away in his sleep in October at age 96. A proud Fresno State alumnus, Dr. Smittcamp grew a 200-acre orchard into one of the region’s most successful agribusiness enterprises and used his success to elevate the community while supporting generations of Fresno State students and alumni.

Born in 1918 and raised in Fresno County, Dr. Smittcamp earned a bachelor’s degree from Fresno State in 1939. He often said his education at Fresno State rivaled that of any Ivy League school. While studying at Fresno State, Dr. Smittcamp met his wife, Muriel. Together they would become two of the region’s most generous philanthropists.

“Earl Smittcamp was a man of great character, strength and wisdom,” says Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro. “He loved his family and his community.”

As owner and operator of Wawona Orchards and Wawona Frozen Foods, Dr. Smittcamp oversaw the production and processing of fresh and frozen foods through a multimillion-dollar Clovis-based business that his family carries on today.

In 1997, the Smittcamps gifted Fresno State land and cash valued at $2 million to establish the Smittcamp Family Honors College and the Smittcamp Alumni House. At the time, it was the fourth largest gift in the University’s history.

Smittcamp Family Honors College students receive full four-year scholarships for tuition and housing. Since 1998, the Smittcamp Family Honors College has admitted 875 students.

“Earl and Muriel Smittcamp touched countless lives in the Valley and beyond, and changed them forever in the most positive way,” says Dr. Saeed Attar, director of the Smittcamp Family Honors College.

When the Smittcamp Alumni House opened in March 2000, it was viewed as the finest alumni house in the CSU system. “Building the Smittcamp Alumni House was a defining moment in the Fresno State Alumni Association’s 100-year history,” says Jacquelyn Glasener, director of the Alumni Association. “The transformation it created for the Alumni Association has been remarkable to this day.”

Dr. Smittcamp received an honorary doctorate from Fresno State in 1995 in recognition of his business accomplishments and his service to the University, which included chairmanships of the Agricultural Foundation Board of Governors, the President’s Advisory Board and the University Foundation Board of Governors.

Dr. Smittcamp lost his wife, Muriel, in 2009. He is survived by their four children, Robert Smittcamp, Carol Copeland, Betsy Kimball and William Smittcamp, who now serves as president and CEO of Wawona Frozen Foods.

“It would be impossible to quantify the enormity of Earl and Muriel’s impact not only here at Fresno State, but also throughout the entire region,” Castro says. “They and their children have left a lasting legacy that will touch countless lives in the present, as well as for generations ahead.”