As an Ohio State freshman in 1977 without a defined educational plan, Dan Wampler visited many departments across campus. “I stumbled into the lab of Dr. Wilbur Gould in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (FAES) on one of those visits,” he said. “At that time, Dr. Gould was working on tomato-based donuts. He gave me a big bite of one and said, ‘Doesn’t that taste great?’ Although I desperately wanted to get rid of it, I said it wasn’t bad. Gould handed me the rest of the donut and said ‘Enjoy!’”
“Dr. Gould was a pioneer in horticultural products processing and quality,” said Wampler, who earned a bachelor’s degree and PhD from Ohio State, and later, an MBA from Xavier University. “He was a very passionate person. Working with and learning from him made me what I am today.”
After earning his PhD, Wampler remained a committed volunteer for the college, serving on numerous committees and fundraising campaigns. In 1999, he branched out into the business arena and created Sensus, a high-quality flavor supplier to the food and beverage industry.
“The first two-and-a-half years were a struggle,” he said. Wampler put together every bit of money he could to purchase a coveted piece of food-processing equipment. But by the time he received it, he had no place to put it and no money to support it. “I got in touch with Winston Bash, who was then the director of the Ohio State Food Industry Center, and Dean Bobby Moser for advice. They offered me space at the Ohio State processing plant. I asked Winston about the cost to house the equipment and he said, ‘No charge, but if it ever works out, come back and see us.’”
When the equipment arrived at Ohio State, they found they could not get it into the plant because of a measurement error. Rather than be daunted by another setback, Wampler had it set up just outside the plant and forged ahead.
“I was very lucky that I had a couple of products in tea and coffee at that time, and I stumbled into two companies—AriZona Beverage Co. and Starbucks Coffee,” he said. “I never told Starbucks that my ‘plant’ was outdoors, how small it was, or that I was borrowing space from the university. They eventually sent someone to vet our company, and the night before that trial, I informed the fellow that tomorrow, because we love nature, we’ll be outside. That didn’t go over very well.”
Within years of that meeting, Sensus became the premier natural product extraction company in the country. In late 2011, Dan and his wife, Lisa, a graduate of Ohio State’s College of Education, sold Sensus and were able to make good on the promise to come back if things worked out. The Wampler family made a $1.2 million gift to Ohio State to establish the Lisa and Dan Wampler Vice President’s Excellence Fund Endowment and the Lisa and Dan Wampler Endowed Fellowship for Food and Health Research for CFAES. Wampler, recently elected to the Ohio State Foundation Board, co-chairs the CFAES campaign committee and serves on the advisory boards of Ohio State’s Food Innovation Center and the Food Industries Center.
Jessica Cooperstone, a PhD student at Ohio State, is the first fellowship recipient. Her research focuses on cancer prevention with the bioavailability of lycopene from a unique variety of tomatoes, developed and grown at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio. Like her benefactor, Cooperstone may one day look back and attribute part of her success to the tomato.
"As a graduate student in CFAES, I have had the honor of being the first recipient of the Lisa and Dan Wampler Endowed Fellowship for Foods in Health. This fellowship will support me for the remainder of my doctoral education. Lisa and Dan’s generosity has provided funding for me to travel to conferences I would have otherwise not be able to attend and purchase equipment that has been critical to the completion of my research. It is great to see food industry leaders like Dan putting an emphasis on researching the role that foods may play in disease prevention and health maintenance. This fellowship has played a critical role in allowing me develop into a more well-rounded scientist."
-Jessica Cooperstone, Graduate Fellow for the Lisa and Dan Wampler Endowed Fellowship for Foods in Health Research