Cortopassi remembered for generosity, business acumen

dean cortopassi

Dean (Dino) Cortopassi, a renowned Central Valley philanthropist and agricultural business leader, died Feb. 10 at 84 years of age.

Cortopassi created the Cortopassi Family Foundation in 1990 and was a generous donor to many nonprofits and schools, including University of the Pacific. 

Donald DeRosa, president of the university from 1995-2009, recalls Cortopassi as “inquisitive, challenging and always so well informed and prepared … He was very generous to Pacific with a major gift for the (Donald and Karen DeRosa) University Center along with scholarships for students and gifts for Pacific Athletics.”

One interaction stands out to DeRosa. Pacific was considering a capital campaign in 2000 and a gathering of more than 25 people with the capacity to help was held at the Cortopassi home.

“During the question-and-answer portion, Dino was the first person to stand up and speak. He said ‘I can think of no worse time for a campaign,’ ” DeRosa said. “Dino was actually very supportive of the campaign, but part of his strategy was to make me defend the idea to those in attendance. That was an important component to Dino, and it worked out favorably.’’

Cortopassi started his farming career by renting a 65-acre parcel that he eventually turned into 7,000 acres.  He co-founded and was CEO of Stanislaus Food Products, and invested in several other enterprises: Gilroy Canning, Sierra Quality Canners, Muir Glen Organic Tomatoes and Corto Olive.

He graduated from University of California, Davis, in 1958 and married his high school sweetheart, Joan DeCarli, the same year at Morris Chapel on Pacific’s campus. 

"Dino was a mentor and a friend for over 40 years. He was the most passionate person I've ever known,” said Kevin Huber, president and CEO of Grupe Huber Co. and former Chair of the Pacific Board of Regents. “He pursued his passions relentlessly. Dino's intellect, tenacity and the impact that he had on the community is irreplaceable. He will be greatly missed.”

Cortopassi is survived by wife Joan, four children—Gino, Katie, Becky and David—and 10 grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Salvation Army Lodi Corps and/or St. Mary's Dining Room in Stockton.

A private service will be held by the family.