Dan Flynn, who founded the UC Davis Olive Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science in 2008 and has led the organization for 13 years, recently received the California Olive Oil Council’s highest honor, the Pioneer Award.
Flynn expressed appreciation for receiving the award and for the council’s support for the center, noting that the Olive Center has built a network between the university and industry. “Networks thrive even when members exit,” he said. “The Olive Center will remain strong when I leave.”
Flynn is stepping down as the Olive Center’s executive director at the end of May. His successor, Javier Fernandez Salvador, arrives June 1.
The California Olive Oil Council is a trade association with the mission of encouraging the consumption of certified California extra virgin olive oil, which includes a quality seal program. The council established the Pioneer Award in 1999 to recognize those who have made a major contribution to the California olive oil industry.
“Dan started the center on a shoestring budget and has since grown it to a world-renowned center for olive research and education,” said Brady Whitlow, president of Corto Olive in presenting the award. “In partnership with the industry, UC Davis has helped millions of consumers understand the quality of supermarket olive oil, provided the analytical foundation for California’s strict olive oil standards and educated thousands to become better olive oil growers, processors and tasters.”
A 2010 Olive Center study that evaluated the quality of olive oil on supermarket shelves was a landmark event during Flynn’s tenure. The study found that most imported olive oil tested did not meet extra virgin standards. His decision to publish the study put California olive oil on the map and cemented his legacy.
“In the ensuing furor, Dan stood by the study, weathered the storm, and shepherded the raising of the bar for extra virgin olive oil not only here but also in Europe,” said Karen Bond, president of Bondolio. “Today, the quality of extra virgin olive oil in California is greater than it was in 2008 and continues to improve.”
While the Center’s research and education benefit California, the impact has also helped producers worldwide. Flynn has made the Olive Center inclusive, encouraging people from all over the world to benefit from the research, attend classes and to ultimately produce a better product wherever they do their work.