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Shock the World Campaign
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Shock the World Campaign
Leslie Rudd ’81 shared his entrepreneurial success with Wichita State


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Leslie Rudd

Philanthropist, entrepreneur and Wichita State alumnus Leslie Rudd died May 3, two days after his Rudd Foundation named the first 20 recipients of its new scholarship program for Kansas students. He was 76. Mr. Rudd was a 1981 graduate of Wichita State University whose generous support of his alma mater placed him in the WSU Foundation’s most exclusive giving club, the Fairmount Society.

On May 1, the inaugural class of Rudd Scholars was identified. Of the 20 students, 12 will be attending Wichita State in the fall. Students eligible for the four-year awards must qualify for a Pell Grant, and demonstrate the Midwestern values of grit, humility and strong work ethic. The scholarship covers the remaining cost of attendance after all other aid, grants and scholarships are applied.

Through the years, Mr. Rudd made significant contributions to WSU Athletics, especially the men’s basketball program. He made a sizeable donation to establish the Koch Global Trading Center in the W. Frank Barton School of Business. He also supported a faculty fellowship in the Barton School. Other gifts established scholarships and student support honoring his mother, Elenore.

“Les wanted very much for Wichita State to be successful, in both academics and athletics,” said Elizabeth King, WSU Foundation president and CEO. “He achieved enormous success in his businesses, yet never forgot that Wichita was where his entrepreneurship first flourished.”

Born in Wichita, Mr. Rudd built his family’s company, Standard Beverage, into the largest beverage distributor in Kansas. An aficionado of food and wine, he moved to California’s Napa Valley in 1996 and purchased 55 acres that would become his namesake estate winery. That same year, he bought the upscale grocery chain Dean & DeLuca, which he sold in 2014. He opened Press restaurant in 2005. He bought the famous Oakville Grocery, the oldest continually operating grocery store in California, in 2007.

Mr. Rudd was also a philanthropist, establishing the Rudd Foundation in 1998. Among causes the foundation supports are education, efforts to find solutions to childhood obesity, health care for people in need and programs connected to Judaism, his faith.

Mr. Rudd is survived by his wife, Susan; his daughter, Samantha; and his grandson, Rudd.