Anonymous No Longer, Bren Praised for $20 Million Gift to UCI’s Computer Science School

UCI benefactor Bren breaks new ground
The Irvine Co. first supported higher education with a large endowment to the state in 1959

By Tony Dodero, Daily Pilot —June 10, 2004

UC IRVINE — College educators, high-tech computer aficionados, politicians and businessmen toasted the Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren Wednesday for his considerable financial help and long-term vision to fortify the future of the university’s cutting-edge computer science school.

Donal Bren
Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren speaks at UC Irvine during a Wednesday groundbreaking ceremony for the new information and computer sciences school to be named after Bren.

Bren, who was revealed recently to be the benefactor of a previously anonymous $20-million gift last December, and who makes few public appearances, was the honored guest at an elaborate groundbreaking ceremony that featured a parade of alumni from the computer science school, credited with masterminding everything from the early days of three-dimensional, computer-aided design to creating Internet domain names.

Bren noted that the idea for the endowment was spawned 20 years ago in a meeting with former UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason in Washington, D.C.

“He said something that I will never forget,” Bren said. “He said ‘At the end of the day, the key to a university’s standing, its reputation, its educational excellence and the quality of its research is rooted in the excellence of its faculty.’
“Bren called the University of California “the most important institution in California,” and pointed out that the Irvine Co. began its relationship with higher education with a large endowment to the state in 1959.

“Our company feels very much a part of the UCI campus,” he said.

In addition to honoring Bren, whose name will adorn the new School of Information and Computer Sciences, Wednesday’s event was a celebration of the appointment of the school’s first dean, Debra Richardson, as well as the start of construction on the new building that will house the school. That building, to be named Bren Hall, will be six stories with 138,000 square feet of research and classroom facilities when its completed in 2006.

But more than just welcoming the physical building that will be home to the school, university officials noted that the money from Bren will enable them to hire top-flight educators and continue to build the reputation of the nationally ranked computer science school that has already produced a bevy of celebrity-like computer scientists.

Among the noted alumni on hand Wednesday were Patrick Hanratty, considered the father of computer-aided design or CAD; Paul Mockapetris, creator of the Domain Name System widely used on the Internet; Roy Fielding, the architect of the Internet’s Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP; Adam Bonner, the co-founder with fellow UCI grad Victor Liu of Network Synthesis computing systems; and Sepideh Gazeri, a UCI student who completed her bachelor’s degree in three years and is entering the school’s MBA program in the fall.

Richardson promised that the school will continue to be the pioneer of new technologies like “ubiquitous” computing, which envisions a world where computers are a part of all aspects of daily living.