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SSU Recognizes Korbel Owner Gary Heck with Honorary Degree

Submitted By: School of Business and Economics Marketing Team at Sonoma State University, May 05, 2014
May 5, 2014

Sonoma State Recognizes Korbel Owner Gary Heck with 2014 Honorary Degree

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 degree 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.

For more information, contact:
Annemarie Brown, SSU School of Business & Economics, 707-664-2221,
Susan Kashack, SSU Chief Information Officer, 707-664-2122,
Margie Healy, Korbel, 707-824-7715,

About Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute:
Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute is located in the heart of California wine country and was created through a public-private partnership between the University and the wine industry. Founded in 1995, it is the first program in the United States to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees focused exclusively on the business aspects of the wine industry. These include a B.S. with a concentration in wine business strategies (since 1998), an MBA with an emphasis in wine business (since 2008), and an executive MBA in wine business (since 2012). In addition to its academic programs, the Wine Business Institute offers an array of professional seminars and certificates for the industry on relevant topics like accounting and finance, and wine sales and marketing, including an online certificate in wine business management that has reached professionals in a dozen countries since its launch in 2012. Its faculty members are published experts, active researchers, and requested presenters on pressing industry topics locally and around the world. The Wine Business Institute operates within Sonoma State’s School of Business and Economics, a fully accredited AACSB institution. Learn more at

About Gary Heck:
Gary Heck, the owner of Korbel, has served as its president since 1982 and became Chairman of the Board in 1984. In 1965 he began his full-time career at Korbel Champagne Cellars occupying many positions spanning all areas of winery operations from assistant office manager to traffic manager and sales representative to vice president. Under Heck’s leadership, Korbel’s sales have grown from 150,000 cases annually to 1.3 million, continuing a 132 year tradition of family business, wine-making and industry innovation. Heck serves as the chair of Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute Board and ex-officio member of the board of directors for the Wine Institute, is a member of Les Amis du Vin and was named a Supreme Knight of the Knights of the Vine.