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DAA: Robert W. Wotzak

Robert W. Wotzak

Fullerton, CA | Distinguished Ag Alumni: 2001

Growing up in Chicago, Robert Wotzak was encouraged by his aunt at the University of Chicago to stretch a little and try something new. That first “something new” was coming to Purdue University. The second was choosing food science over biology for his master’s, so that he could use science in an applied fashion. “At the end of a two-hour lab, you can eat the sauerkraut, versus a chemistry lab, where you don’t dare taste the unknown,” he quips. Wotzak continued making “outside the box” decisions as he began his career. His first job was with Carnation Co. in southern California. “I had offers closer to home, but I said, ‘No, this will be the most challenging.”’ He also spent four years in Australia while working for Campbell Soup Co. “I don’t follow the normal path,” he says. Now he’s back in southern California, this time working for ConAgra Grocery Products Co. His passion is the outdoors, sometimes at sporting events involving his three children. Most often, his outdoor activity is walking -10 or 12 miles every weekend. “It’s a chance to break out and think and relax a little bit,” he says. He also enjoys gardening at his family’s San Juan Capistrano home. While flowers have been the mainstay, this spring he’s stepping off the familiar path. “We’re trying vegetables,” he says of the family garden. “I’m building big planter boxes, and hopefully we can control the soil and moisture and keep the gophers out.” What’s ahead? “That’s what scares me,” he laughs. “I tend to sit some place for a couple of years and then ask, ‘Now what?”’