Bren to Give $20 Million to Fund UC Irvine’s Law School

Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren will donate $20 million to get UC Irvine’s fledgling law school off the ground and have it named in his honor.

The donation, announced Monday, will ensure that the Donald Bren School of Law will greet an expected first class of 67 students on schedule in fall 2009, said UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake.

“Mr Bren is an astute investor and…wants this law school to be the very best that it can be,” Drake said.

“If there are any strings attached, it’s only that we work as hard as we can.”

Bren, the Newport Beach developer and philanthropist whose $8.5-billion fortune makes him the world’s 80th-richest man, according to Forbes magazine, will fund the salaries for the law school’s dean and 11 faculty positions. How to spend the rest will be up to the dean.

The school is expected to eventually have 30 to 40 professors and 600 students.

The school began a search for its dean in November. Drake said the field had been narrowed to fewer than a dozen candidates. A salary of $233,200 to $364,300 has been approved for the position.

“Within about six weeks we hope to come to a decision and to make an announcement shortly after that,” Drake said.

The school intends to focus on interdisciplinary programs that will allow students to simultaneously pursue a law degree and a master’s degree in business administration or public health.

“I would like to see the school built on a foundation of the most accomplished faculty available,” Bren said in a prepared statement.

“And my hope is that this school will educate a new generation of talented students in both law and other important interdisciplinary studies.”

Including Bren’s money, the law school has raised $23 million in private donations.

Bren’s latest donation brings his lifetime contributions to UCI to about $70 million.

The school for information and computer sciences and the events center are already named after him.

The Claire Trevor School of the Arts was renamed in honor of his late stepmother, the Oscar-winning actress.

A recent article in Georgetown University’s Journal of Legal Education said that naming rights for law schools had recently averaged $25 million, but the study said the price varied widely according to the size, prestige and history of the school.

Los Angeles Times

By Garrett Therolf
Los Angeles Times