Karen Musson, managing partner of Gar Tootelian, Inc. near Reedley, was named the latest recipient of the Leon S. Peters Award by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.

In fact, as retired Fresno County Superior Court Judge Robert Oliver was listing the reasons the as-yet-unnamed winner was chosen, about 30 of Musson’s employees who had been hiding in the hallway of a downtown Fresno banquet hall, out of their boss’ sight, entered and cheered Musson as her name was announced.

The announcement was made Monday during Musson’s weekly Downtown Fresno Rotary Club meeting, and she hasn’t yet received her reward. It will be given to her Feb. 12, 2020 at the chamber’s Valley Business Awards Luncheon at the Fresno Convention Center.

Musson was selected as this year’s recipient for the prestigious award based on outstanding leadership and devotion of time and talents to better the community, according to a chamber news release.

“Karen Musson truly exemplifies what the Leon S. Peters Award is all about,” chamber President/CEO Nathan Ahle said in a press release. “GAR Tootelian has been a leader in our ag community for decades, and Karen has been at the forefront of that leadership. She and her family also give tirelessly of their time, talent and treasure to ensure Fresno is a better place to live, particularly for the youth of our community. She is greatly deserving of this honor.”

Her parents Gar and Esther founded the family’s fertilizer supply business in 1949. It has grown to include supplying other chemicals and crop advising, and work is underway to merge the business with Bennett Water Systems based in Lemoore.

Karen and her sister grew up in the family business, before Karen moved to the Bay Area for several years. She returned to the business with her husband Greg, and today GAR Tootelian is operated by them, along with second- and third- generation family members.

For his part, Oliver — a past recipient of the Leon S. Peters Award and a member of the committee that chose this year’s recipient — credited Musson and her family for their integrity in business and being highly involved in Valley philanthropy, which includes Karen serving as CEO of the charitable foundation named in her parent’s honor that has awarded about $2.5 million to causes that include Future Farmers of America groups across the Valley, Habitat for Humanity, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Clovis Community Medical Center, the Central California Community Food Bank and the My Job Depends on Ag movement.

“And this is a family-owned business. This is not some international someplace with money falling out of the trees,” the judge said, putting the generosity of Musson and her family into perspective. “They have made the decision to share what they have.”

“I’m just so gratified we have such a generous community” also giving to worthy causes, Musson said.

The award is named for Fresno businessman, civic leader and philanthropist Leon S. Peters, who died in 1983.

Past recipients include Matty Matoian, Jim Pardini, Bill Smittcamp and Stan Oken.

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