Alumni know UC Davis is a special place, and many of them have interesting, heartwarming stories to tell that add to the university’s charm. For Karen Zamudio (’81, wildlife and fisheries biology) that story begins with her parents.
Her father, Stephen Platou, an immigrant from Norway, came to Davis in the winter of 1954 to learn about California agriculture before starting a new job with Gerber Products Company at their Oakland plant. He sat in on a few classes, socialized with the faculty and even taught some of them how to ski. He also met Elly Hinreiner, an organic chemist and assistant professor who ran a campus laboratory focused on the sensory evaluation of food, such as comparing taste differences between grass-fed and grain-fed beef. She also wanted to learn more about a Norwegian berry with innate preservative properties, something Platou knew about from his canning experience back home.
“Over the next year more than berries ripened,” Zamudio said. “My parents were married in 1956 and held their wedding reception in the backyard of the man who introduced them—Emil Mrak, the food technology department chair who would later become chancellor.”
Hinreiner left the university and moved to Oakland with her husband, where the couple raised Karen and her brother, Ted. As a research horticulturist, Platou studied many of the ingredients in baby food like carrots, spinach, peas and peaches. He also worked on controlled atmosphere storage and temperature in rail cars since many baby food raw ingredients were shipped from California to Gerber’s other plants in North Carolina, New York, Arkansas and Michigan.
“Following in my parents’ footsteps and attending Picnic Day since infancy, it was only natural that I would attend UC Davis myself,” Zamudio said. She graduated in 1981 and that summer met fellow Aggie, Desiderio Zamudio, a soil scientist who graduated in 1979. They, too, eventually married and went on to long, successful careers in the U.S. Forest Service working on the rangelands of Nevada, northeastern California and southern Oregon.
Karen Zamudio’s mom passed away in 1999 and her dad in 2015. “With the death of my father, my husband and I were looking for an appropriate memorial donation to make in the family name,” she said. After re-reading his memoirs, her mom’s old notes and letters, and reminiscing on their life together, the Zamudios determined that a gift to the UC Davis Postharvest Technology Center would be most fitting.
Cooperative Extension Specialist Elizabeth Mitcham certainly appreciates the gift. Director of the Postharvest Technology Center at UC Davis, Mitcham says support like this helps the program provide free information to the produce industry through its website.
Zamudio applauds the Postharvest Technology Center’s mission to promote the quality, safety and marketability of fresh produce.
“It’s nice to see that we’re still working on trying to feed the world and give people good, healthy food,” Zamudio added. “Davis is such an amazing place and is so internationally known for agriculture. We’re glad to help the university keep doing the great job it’s doing in an area that was important to our family and to the world.”