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Late cattle rancher Russell Rustici wills millions to UC Davis for rangeland research

By Pat Bailey on March 8, 2011 in

The late Russell Rustici, a Lake County cattle rancher who had a scientist’s drive to understand the rangelands that were his livelihood, has left about $9.5 million to the University of California, Davis, to support research and outreach efforts addressing problems that face California cattle producers and rangelands.

Rustici’s gift establishes the Russell L. Rustici Rangeland and Cattle Research Endowment in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The endowment will support applied research in water quality, rangeland ecology, animal health and other areas of importance to ranchers and residents across the state.

"Russell Rustici's bequest will assure the long-term health of rangelands and cattle ranching in California," said Neal Van Alfen, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "His gifts will allow our researchers to solve ecosystem problems facing ranchers and help improve the quality of life for generations to come. Russell clearly understood how private donors can support our land-grant mission of solving society's problems."

Rustici, who died in October 2008, fulfilled a lifelong dream to become a cattle rancher in Lake County after working many years in produce distribution. As he became immersed in ranching, he sought to better understand the science behind rangeland and cattle management.

His bequest follows years of philanthropy in support of research at UC Davis. In 2008, he gave $1.2 million to establish two endowed positions at the university: the Russell L. Rustici Endowed Chair in Rangeland Watershed Science and the Russell L. Rustici Endowed Specialist in Cooperative Extension in Rangeland Watershed Science.

The endowed chair position, held by Randy Dahlgren, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Land, Air and Water Resources, is devoted to research that examines water quality, nutrient cycling and hydrology on rangeland watershed. The endowed extension position, held by Cooperative Extension rangeland management specialist Kenneth Tate, is focused on helping livestock producers manage rangelands in ways that simultaneously improve both water quality and ranch profitability.

Rustici’s total gifts to UC Davis are expected to exceed $10.8 million once his estate has been fully distributed. He is among the top 10 donors to The Campaign for UC Davis, which seeks to raise $1 billion by 2014 for expanding the university’s capacity to meet the world’s challenges and educate future leaders.

Media contact(s)

Pat Bailey, Research news (emphasis: agricultural and nutritional sciences, and veterinary medicine), 530-219-9640,