New Gift from Bren to UC Santa Barbara Brings Total to $20 Million

Philanthropist gives $5 M more to UCSB
Gifts to university now total $20 million.

Philanthropist and Orange County businessman Donald Bren has given $5 million to UCSB — bringing his total contributions to the university to $20 million.

Following his earlier $15 million pledge, Mr. Bren’s latest gift went to the graduate program that in 1997 was named in honor of him: the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

Mr. Bren is the chairman of The Irvine Co. He was not available for comment Wednesday, but company spokeswoman Jennifer Hieger said: “He’s very proud of the work the school has done. It’s truly a trail-blazing approach.”

This latest contribution “will help attract and retain the very best professors in this critically important field,” Mr. Bren said in a prepared statement.

UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said in a prepared statement that Mr. Bren’s “vision for developing a peerless, world-leading institution . . . has been a tremendous source of inspiration and leadership for the Bren School.”

His continued support of the program “will certainly add to its momentum and its visibility,” Mr. Yang added. “We are extremely grateful.”

RAFAEL MALDONADO / NEWS-PRESS PHOTO Donald Bren has given $5 million to UCSB's Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, housed in this $26 million building that's one of the "greenest" in the UC system.
Donald Bren has given $5 million to UCSB’s Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, housed in this $26 million building that’s one of the “greenest” in the UC system.

The Irvine Co. is a real estate investment firm that employs about 2,000 people and is best known for creating sustainable communities at The Irvine Ranch in Orange County. This year, Forbes magazine estimated his wealth at $4 billion. Mr. Bren has contributed more than $60 million to the UC system, mainly to the Santa Barbara and Irvine campuses, and his generosity was recognized last month when he was presented with a University of California Presidential Medal.

Ms. Hieger described Mr. Bren as “a student of the environment.”

An avid outdoorsman, “he has a deep appreciation for nature and for man’s connection to it,” she said. “He certainly believes that finding solutions to environmental problems requires input from multiple disciplines.”

The Bren School emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating natural and social sciences, business and law to train students in research and environmental management so they can help solve the environmental problems of the 21st century.

After the school was founded in 1991, Mr. Bren “saw terrific potential and an opportunity to enrich and expand the concept,” Ms. Hieger said.

Funds from the Bren Foundation are supporting nine faculty chairs at the Bren School: one for the dean, two in environmental law, two in corporate environmental management and several interdisciplinary professorships. Mr. Bren’s contribution will also support a program that brings internationally recognized scholars to the school for teaching and research.

“I strongly believe that the quality of education and research that any institution provides is squarely rooted in the excellence of its faculty,” Mr. Bren said.

Mr. Bren’s contribution will also fund fellowships for master’s students.

The school — which has more than 100 students working on master’s and doctoral degrees — is now housed in Donald Bren Hall, one of the “greenest,” or environmentally friendly, buildings in the UC system.

Dennis Aigner, dean of the school, said in a statement that it aims to “produce leaders who will teach and inspire us. . . . This new commitment serves to strengthen both our resolve and our ability to provide such people with the very best training in an exceptional learning and research environment.”

By Anna Davidson, News Press Staff Writer