James Kennedy, an internationally known grape and wine chemist and research manager from the Australian Wine Research Institute, has been named chair of the Viticulture and Enology Department and director for the Viticulture and Enology Research Center at California State University, Fresno.

Kennedy will join the Fresno State faculty for the fall semester, said Charles Boyer, dean of the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology. Kennedy succeeds Dr. Robert Wample, who retired in 2009.

“Dr. Kennedy’s experience and ability to work closely with the grape and wine industry in the San Joaquin Valley, state, and throughout the world will be an important factor as he builds upon the foundation achieved by our faculty, staff and students,” Boyer said.

Originally from California, Kennedy earned his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in agricultural and environmental chemistry at the University of California at Davis, where he also completed coursework in viticulture and enology.

He held faculty and research positions at Oregon State University before joining the Australian Wine Research Institute, where he managed numerous research grants and programs involving wine chemistry, enology and viticulture. He has been published numerous times in refereed journals.

Boyer said Kennedy’s broad knowledge and research experience is expected to strengthen the cross-disciplinary training opportunities for Fresno State students.

“Dr. Kennedy will enhance the center’s grape and wine research program and broaden the university’s ties with the grape and wine industry,” Boyer said.

Kennedy said he is looking forward to joining the Fresno State program and working with the grape and wine industry to build upon the work of his predecessors.

“I will work my hardest to build a program that delivers on the needs of our industry,” he said. “Whether it is producing a well-educated workforce, delivering continuing education or conducting world-class industry-relevant research, I feel strongly that Fresno State is uniquely positioned to deliver on those needs.”

In 2000, when the Department of Viticulture and Enology was created, Fresno State became the first university in the California State University system to combine its academic and research programs in viticulture and enology into one program, under the leadership of one director. The industry played a significant role in developing this model bringing education and research together.

With industry support, one of the department’s immediate goals is to increase the number of faculty positions to meet industry and educational needs, Boyer said.

The department offers undergraduate degrees in viticulture or enology, a master’s degree in viticulture and enology, and certificates of special study in enology or sustainable viticulture. Over 125 students are enrolled. The on-campus facilities are used for teaching and research, and include a 160-acre vineyard, raisin processing plant and an award-winning commercial winery.

Faculty and students from the department are also involved in grape and wine research through the Viticulture and Enology Research Center and continue to address critical issues facing growers and winemakers in the San Joaquin Valley.