Leslie Rudd is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and family man. He is the founder of The Rudd Group, a privately owned portfolio of luxury businesses. Among them is an esteemed collection of food and wine brands: Rudd Oakville Estate, Edge Hill Estate, Oakville Grocery, Distillery No. 209, PRESS Restaurant, Vintage Wine Estates, Covenant Wines and Rudd Farms. He is also the owner of Standard Beverage Corporation located in Wichita, Kansas, where Leslie was born.
Equally committed to and passionate about his philanthropic efforts, Leslie established The Rudd Foundation in 1998 as part of his long-held goal of changing how food and wine was viewed in America. In 2003, he served as the primary benefactor of The Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies at the Culinary Institute of America’s St. Helena Campus, which offers two nationally recognized certification programs and a comprehensive portfolio of wine study classes. To further assist in wine education, The Foundation partnered with The Court of Master Sommeliers to develop the annually held Rudd Master’s Roundtable, a prestigious scholarship training program for wine professionals preparing for the Master Sommelier Exam. In 2005, he created The Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, to fund research and education in the fight against obesity and weight discrimination. The Center has received widespread recognition for its cutting edge research in the field. In 2015 The Center relocated to The University of Connecticut where it continues to produce outstanding work and expand its role in the field of Food Policy.
In 2009, The Rudd Foundation dedicated the St. Helena Performing Arts Center, which now serves the Choral and Drama Departments of St. Helena High School and the community at large. In 2015, Leslie established the Leslie Rudd Investment Company Scholarship Program to provide academic funding for all employees of the Rudd Group of companies and the children of long term employees. In 2017, Leslie launched the Rudd Scholarship Program, funding educational opportunities for underrepresented and first generation Kansans seeking to complete a four year college education in the state of Kansas. The Rudd Foundation continues to support projects dedicated to furthering educational opportunities, health initiatives and Jewish causes.
As a successful entrepreneur, business executive and former Army officer, Pete Nájera brings a wealth of leadership and management experience in leading all aspects of the Rudd Foundation as it's current President. Previously, Pete served as the Chief Operating Officer for Sterling Foundation Management where he was responsible for all operational issues across Sterling’s full suite of philanthropic services including Private Foundation Administration, Sterling’s Donor Advised Fund, Charitable Consulting, and the company’s industry-leading Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT) Program.
Before his career in non-profit management, Pete served as Vice President for the world’s largest biomass energy producer, which he helped build from the ground up as an entrepreneurial, pre-revenue startup. With a global footprint of facilities and associated supply chain, Pete supervised a $300 million international operation in Europe, Latin America, and throughout the United States.
A former Army Officer and combat veteran, Pete honed his leadership and critical thinking skills in adverse and high pressure conditions around the world to include the DMZ in Korea, the Cold War border between East and West Germany, Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, and the Green Line in Cyprus. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Valorous Unit Award for his combat service. Pete also served in the Pentagon as a Harvard Fellow and advisor to the Secretary of Defense, and later in the Executive Office of the President as a White House Fellow.
Pete has been recognized with a number of national and regional leadership awards including the prestigious MacArthur Leadership Award, the Draper Leadership Award, and Notre Dame’s Corby Award for distinguished government service. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Pete has also served as a Young Leader Fellow in Britain, France, Austria and Japan. Pete’s community service and philanthropic endeavors include volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and the Special Olympics. He is also a past supporter of National Children’s Medical Center, Best Buddies International, and the YMCA. He is a former board member of Notre Dame's Hispanic Alumni and US Japan's Leadership Program. Pete received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame and earned a master’s degree from Harvard University.
Dee Bielenberg, PhD
Vice President, Educational programs
Dr. Dee Bielenberg received double Doctorates in History from the University of California, Berkeley in United States and Latin American History. She also earned Master’s Degrees in History, Art History and English. Her areas of specialty include diplomatic history, race, gender, carceral history, immigration, labor, trade and transnational cultural exchange. She has served on the faculty of UC Berkeley, Harvard University, Mills College, Saint Mary’s College and California Baptist University.
Dr. Bielenberg is the Founding Director of Daughters of Lifers, a non-profit dedicated to helping the daughters of men and women serving in California's prisons attain admission to, and success in, college. She has also served on the admissions committees of several universities and currently reviews scholarship applications for a number of foundations and schools including the Rudd Scholarship selection committee.
Corri joined the Rudd portfolio in 2012 and has worked closely with Mr. Rudd’s operating companies. Through this time she has grown an appreciation for the Rudd’s passion to improve access to higher education, advocate for better nutrition and health, support the community of Wichita and promote Jewish initiatives and causes. Prior to joining the Rudd Portfolio, Corri worked as a General Manager for Darden Restaurants. Through her 19 years in this industry she honed her leadership and management skills to a high level as she advanced through the ranks. Most of all, Corri perfected her interpersonal skills interacting with employees and customers to meet their needs and get results, many of which still reach out to her to share their life accomplishments to this day. Her energy and compassion for people are immediately noticeable and known to everyone who meets her.
Corri is an active community volunteer at St. Peter's Catholic Church and at St. Peter's Catholic School. She has also been involved as a volunteer with Kansas Food Bank and their Food-4-Kids program, Big Brother Big Sisters, and the Lord's Diner Wichita to help combat hunger in the community with dignity and respect. Corri began her studies at Kansas State University before earning her B.A. in Psychology from Wichita State University.
Robert manages all facets of the Foundation's accounting needs including but not limited to the annual tax return, grant documentation, required distributions, and assisting with all IRS compliance requirements. Previously, he worked for a small CPA firm and prior to that an oil & gas company based in Wichita.
Robert graduated from Wichita State University earning his Bachelor in Business Administration with a major in Accounting. He later earned his Master of Accountancy also from Wichita State. He passed the CPA exam in 2017 and is an active CPA in the state of Kansas. In his free time, Robert enjoys running 5Ks and 10Ks, hanging with friends and families, and traveling.