Bren’s Gifts to UCI Reach $43 Million; Computer Science School to Bear His Name

Buildings filling to the Bren at UC Irvine
Chairman of the Irvine Co. who has given the school about $43 million sees yet another site take his name

By Marisa O’Neil, Daily Pilot — June 3, 2004

UC IRVINE — A big donation and a passed bond initiative are giving the nationally ranked School of Information and Computer Science a new name: The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences.

University officials announced on Wednesday that the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences will break ground on a new building Wednesday and recognize its benefactor. Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., donated $20 million to the school in December. Until Wednesday, it was an anonymous gift.

“Providing the gift in December allowed the school to begin recruiting [faculty] immediately, at an important juncture,” said Irvine Co. spokeswoman Jennifer Hieger. “[Bren] wanted the focus to remain on the school and its building momentum, knowing he would be recognized down the road.

“Bren’s $20 million tied the largest donation ever received by UCI. In 1999, Broadcom Corp. co-founder Henry Samueli and his wife, Susan, donated the university’s other $20-million gift, to what is now known as the Henry Samueli School of Engineering.
Since 1984, Bren has donated about $43 million to the university, Hieger said.

He chose the School of Information and Computer Science, upgraded from a department to its own school in 2002, because of its accomplishments and vision, Hieger said.

“Though he has a background in real estate, he realizes that technological innovation is at the heart of economic health and vitality,” she said.

The donation will provide more than $18 million for 10 newly endowed faculty positions. Debra J. Richardson was officially named the school’s dean in March.

The school will be housed in a new, six-story building, to be named Bren Hall, and is scheduled for completion in 2006. About $35 million from school-improvement bonds Proposition 55 and Proposition 47 last November will go toward construction, UCI spokeswoman Michelle Williams said.

“It all came together, not quite simultaneously, but we had an amazing year — becoming a school, the bonds getting passed, getting the gift,” Richardson said. “This is really a transformational gift.

“Bren’s donation will allow the school, ranked 15th nationwide by U.S. News & World Report for computer science graduate programs, to attract senior faculty to the school, Richardson said. The school is planning to recruit faculty who will research “ubiquitous computing,” or small computers that are in everyday use for medical and other applications.

Other campus buildings with Bren’s mark are the Bren Events Center and the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, named for his late stepmother and Academy Award-winning actress.

*MARISA O’NEIL covers education. She may be reached at (949) 574-4268 or by e-mail at [email protected].