Irvine Company announces $20-million gift to Irvine Unified School District for fine arts, music and science programs

The 10-year grant allows for continuation of esteemed program that provides art, music and science specialists for every 4th through 6th grade class in IUSD.

IRVINE, Calif. (Sept. 26, 2016) — Irvine Company announced today a $20-million gift to the Irvine Unified School District that will allow for the continuation of an esteemed enrichment program that provides art, music and science teachers to every fourth through sixth grade class in the district.

The 10-year grant funds another decade of the popular Excellence in Education Enrichment Program that began in 2006 with a similar 10-year, $20 million commitment from Irvine Company. The initial gift nearly tripled the amount of funding allocated toward enrichment programs in the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD).

The renewal ensures that Irvine public schools will continue to offer the finest, most comprehensive and professionally driven enrichment curriculum for fourth through sixth graders of any district in the state. The grant helps to fund more than 30 teachers at 24 elementary schools for the next decade.

“Irvine Company is pleased to continue its long-term commitment to Irvine Unified School District and the holistic education of its students,” said Robin Leftwich, Irvine Company’s vice president of community affairs. “Enrichment is an integral part of exemplary student achievement and high standardized test scores, elevating Irvine Unified above every other district in the state.”

Since the program’s inception in 2006, IUSD high school students have significantly outperformed their peers in California and the nation in science and visual and performing arts.

“This gift from Irvine Company allows us to continue an enrichment program that distinguishes Irvine schools nationally,” Superintendent Terry Walker said. “This is vital, especially during the shift to Common Core and new science standards requiring substantially more hands-on instruction.”

Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren and the Donald Bren Foundation have a long history of passionate support for education in Irvine. More than $220 million has been invested to support students, teachers, principals, schools, school districts, universities and university scholars on The Irvine Ranch. Irvine is recognized for having the most successful school district in California due in large part to Irvine Company’s philanthropy, public policy initiatives and master-planning.

Irvine Company Completes Open Space Master Plan with Gift of Additional 2,500 Acres, Brings Preserved Irvine Ranch Lands to 55,000 Acres

Irvine Company Completes Open Space Master Plan with Gift of Additional 2,500 Acres, Brings Preserved Irvine Ranch Lands to 55,000 Acres

  • Gift Culminates 50 Years of Open Space Master Planning
  • Nearly 60% of Historic 93,000-Acre Irvine Ranch Preserved
  • Lands Connect to 22-Mile Mountains to Sea Trail

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., Aug. 12, 2014 — Culminating more than 50 years of open space master planning on the historic Irvine Ranch, the Irvine Company today announced a major land gift of 2,500 acres near Orange and Anaheim Hills now approved for 5,500 homes that instead will be donated as open space.

The gift builds on previous donations to create one of the largest urban land preserves in the nation, stretching from the coastal mountains to the sea. In all, the lands that will be gifted bring the grand total of parklands and open space donated by the Irvine Company to nearly 55,000 acres, or approximately 60% of the 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch.

The gift comes as the Irvine Company celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2014. The Irvine Company has long treasured land as a precious resource to be used for the benefit of the public. In 1897, the founding Irvine family donated more than 300 acres to the people of Orange County for what today is Irvine Regional Park.

150th Anniversary

“As we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Irvine Company, this is a perfect opportunity to add to our open space and parklands legacy,” Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren said. “With this gift, we complete our open space vision.”

“The lands represented by this new gift are last pieces of a spectacular open space puzzle that has been assembled on The Irvine Ranch,” said Michael O’Connell, executive director of the nonprofit Irvine Ranch Conservancy, which works with the County of Orange to manage natural lands while providing public volunteer and recreational opportunities. “Preserving these areas protects the balance of stewardship and recreation that ensures the long-term health of this tremendous natural resource.”

In recognition of the biological and geological significance of the open spaces of The Irvine Ranch, thousands of acres of preserved lands were designated as a National Natural Landmark in 2006 and as a California Natural Landmark in 2008.

Enjoyed by Millions

Prized for their beauty and public accessibility, the preserved lands of The Irvine Ranch are visited by more than 2 million outdoor enthusiasts annually. The lands’ trails, parks and open spaces are enjoyed for hiking, biking, running, riding horseback, camping, picnicking at Irvine Regional Park or connecting with nature on guided tours of the diverse geography and unique habits.

The northern and southern open spaces of The Irvine Ranch are linked by the Mountains to Sea Trail, which stretches 22 miles from oak-filled Weir Canyon to Upper Newport Bay. The Mountains to Sea Trail makes exploring the diverse open spaces of The Irvine Ranch easy and accessible.

Gifted Lands

The newly gifted lands span an area equal to the size of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and San Diego’s Balboa Park combined. In Anaheim Hills, the donation covers 1,100 acres bordered to the north by the Riverside (91) Freeway, alongside the Eastern (241) Toll Road and adjacent to previously preserved open spaces including Gypsum and Weir canyons, which were donated by the Irvine Company to the County of Orange in 2010. In East Orange, the land includes 1,400 acres east of the 241 and alongside the southeastern shore of Irvine Lake, next to open space given by the Irvine Company to the County of Orange in 2010.

“Part of the great quality of life we enjoy here in Orange County stems from those who had the foresight to value open space as much as development,” said Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who represents the Third District where the land is located. “I want to thank the Irvine Company for foregoing their development approvals and providing this land gift for the public’s access and enjoyment.”

Adding to Canyons, Irvine Regional Park

The land gift will combine to create a contiguous area of canyon open space on the northern reaches of The Irvine Ranch, joining with Weir Canyon, Fremont Canyon, Black Star Canyon Limestone Canyon, Irvine Lake, and Irvine Regional Park, which will see an additional 16 acres of added parklands with the donation.

The 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch stretches nine miles along the Pacific coast, 22 miles inland and encompasses more than one-fifth of Orange County’s total 798 square miles. Within its boundaries lie the city of Irvine and parts of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Tustin, Orange and Anaheim, plus unincorporated county land and portions of Santa Ana and Costa Mesa.

The Irvine Ranch is considered one of the largest and most successful master-planned communities in the United States with award-winning residential villages, nationally recognized schools and public safety and abundant parks, trails and open space. For more, visit Forever, a website dedicated to the open spaces of the Irvine Ranch.

“It’s All Yours,” Bren Tells O.C.

Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren signed over 20,000 acres of rugged, dramatic landscape to OC Parks on Tuesday amid windblown grasses and hulking oaks.

“That was painless,” he said after signing a ceremonial deed created for the occasion, while Orange County supervisors, Irvine city officials, park rangers, naturalists and open-space advocates looked on.

Then, before turning away from both the microphone and his role as landowner for some of the county’s most untrammeled wild spaces, Bren, 78, shook the hand of OC Parks director Mark Denny.

“It’s all yours,” he said.

“Yours,” in this case, means all of Orange County. The four major canyons that make up the gift include Black Star, expected to become the 2,000-acre “Black Star Canyon Wilderness Park” within three to four years.

It is the largest gift of land in county history.

Orange County supervisors accepted the 20,000 acres in June, though Bren’s proposal had been announced the year before – and anticipated for 20 years. It increased OC Parks’ landholdings by 50 percent in a single stroke, and caps Irvine Co. land donations over the past century that amount to more than half of the historic Irvine Ranch that stretched across the county’s midsection.

Public access to what was once the domain of cattle and cowboys will gradually increase in coming years.

Hikers, bicyclists and horseback riders already have free access once a month to the Limestone Canyon section, spanning more than 5,000 acres adjacent to Whiting Ranch and home to “The Sinks” – a “breathtaking geological formation” that is “one of the wonders of Orange County, and should be seen by all,” Orange County supervisor Bill Campbell told the group.

And there are other programs and outings on the property led by docents.

Bren’s gift also includes Fremont Canyon, full of poppies in spring, Weir Canyon, full of oak woodlands and mule deer, and Loma Ridge, from which the ocean and downtown Los Angeles were visible Tuesday, with skies blown clear by wind.

Mountain lions frequent the property, raptors hunt rodents in the scrub, owls hoot at night.

“It’s almost like having an entire national park, as a centerpiece, located right here in the middle of Orange County,” Bren told the group. “What’s more, it’s the largest urban open space in the United States. In fact, more than 30 million people live less than 30 minutes from this pristine natural treasure.”

Much of the land is protected under Orange County’s Natural Communities Conservation Plan, an umbrella of land management meant to preserve suitable habitat for a variety of native species.

So OC Parks must balance public access with habitat protection – perhaps keeping some sections closed even as more of the land is opened to the public in the years to come.

For the next three years, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, created by the Irvine Co. to manage wild lands, will continue conducting research, education and restoration on the property.

Environmental groups, including some that questioned the land transfer and the county’s ability to manage and fund it, studied the proposal carefully before lending their support.

Pat Brennan
Orange County Register

Irvine Co.’s Bren Gives Philanthropy Equal Priority

The man who built much of Orange County is shifting gears.

Donald Bren, the 78-year-old chairman of the Irvine Co., is spending as much time on philanthropy these days as he is on his business.

What that might mean for the future of his company, or the county, remains to be seen.

What is known is that Bren’s philanthropy has left a mark that rivals the work he’s done building out about one-fifth of Orange County. From the Bren supported Law School at UC Irvine to a 20,000-acre parcel of the original Irvine Ranch that, in June, was transferred to the county as permanent open space, Bren’s charitable projects have been aimed at making a long-term impact.

It’s true that Bren is wealthy even in a world of mega-wealth. His fortune, pegged at about $12 billion, was ranked the 45th biggest in the world this year by Forbes magazine.

It’s also true that the total of Bren’s philanthropy has been staggering. This month, when he was given the first “Donald Bren Legacy of Giving Award” – a permanent award created by the investment group that backs National Philanthropy Day in Orange County – the group listed Bren’s total charity, so far, at $1.3 billion and some 93,000 acres of land.

Bren agreed to chat about philanthropy (other topics weren’t on the table) via e-mail.

Q. If, 100 years from now, somebody reads your name in a book, do you hope you’re connected to the city of Irvine, Crystal Cove State Park or something else?

A. It has all been important to me.

My focus has been on the master planning and master building of the 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch. The land is quite complex, and each area or quadrant requires individual care. It has been my vision through careful planning to create an unparalleled community, where residents enjoy an ease of living and where families have access to the best schools for their children.

My hope is that we at the Irvine Co. are remembered for creating a community in balance with its surroundings and for taking equal care in all aspects of planning related to the Irvine Ranch.

Q. At this stage of your life, what’s more important to you, work or philanthropy?

A. At this stage of my life, both work and philanthropy have equal priority.

Q. You said the other day that philanthropy is a way to build partnerships. Can you explain what you mean by that?

A. Community partnerships create philanthropy. For our community to continue to be a place where people “choose” to live, we need strong community partnerships between businesses, governments and nonprofits to sustain the quality of life that we have come to enjoy in Orange County. For me, philanthropy has always been about simply creating new community partnerships, partnerships that will be valued forever.

Perhaps the best example is our ongoing partnership with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, as well as county government and the Nature Conservancy, working together for the preservation of 50,000 acres of open space, representing more than half of the original Irvine Ranch.

Q. Some of your gifts have touched areas that don’t seem to have much to do with your core businesses. Can you fill in some detail about why you give the way you do?

A. Rather than limiting my contributions to a singular geography, I have tried to focus on certain areas of need – education, for example. I believe that by doing so, we can collectively have the greatest impact.

I believe the greatest investment we can make is in the education of our children, wherever they live. Using THINK Together as an example, I saw a need off the Irvine Ranch, in Santa Ana, to help improve the quality of education in local public schools. Through my partnership with THINK Together, we have been able to serve some 70,000 at-risk and low-income students, raise test scores and improve the overall quality of life for children throughout Southern California.

Q. Your developments and reputation indicate that you see minute detail as critical to the success of any venture. Do you take the same mindset when involved in philanthropy? Do your nonprofit projects take on a life similar to business projects?

A. I consider myself lucky because I have been able to transfer many of my business experiences and much of my own time toward creating nonprofit community investments. And I do try to bring the same level of attention to both my philanthropic and business ventures.

Q. How does one measure the success of a gift?

A. We use the same philosophy for our nonprofit investments as we do for our real estate investments. First, we ask that the nonprofits we support to have goals and to be able to measure their results. We also look for strong leadership, with a passion in their mission. And our nonprofit partners have done a fantastic job due to this shared philosophy and focus.

Q. Is giving an intellectual challenge? Does it engage your head or your heart? Does it have to reach both?

A. Both.

Q. Obviously, some causes are particularly important to you…. Do you foresee your interests changing over time?

A. My two primary areas of focus have been openspace conservation and education, and I expect those to remain my priorities in the future.

The Irvine open space and parklands provide serenity and balance to our unique Orange County lifestyle. When I first joined the Irvine Co., I realized that less than 11,000 acres were designated as open space in the original master plan, and that just didn’t seem adequate to me. So, I began the lengthy process working with public and community organizations to add more open space.

Working together with the Nature Conservancy and local governments, we were able to expand the original 11,000 acres to encompass more than 50,000 acres of land that is now permanently protected and preserved forever. I believe it is truly a national treasure, and one that I’m proud to say we created together.

Q. Have you got a favorite project?

A. I tend to be more focused on the cumulative impact of our collective efforts, rather than on any one individual project. For example, one park is not more important than the others, but rather the fact that we have dedicated more than 50,000 acres of open space on the Irvine Ranch is what I find most satisfying.

Q. Is giving money away as fun as making it?

A. I get great satisfaction from both business and philanthropy.

Andre Mouchard
Orange County Register

UCI Building Dedicated to Bren

Six-story campus hall named for Irvine Co. chairman will house information and computer science programs.

DEDICATION: Above, balloons fill the stairwell as guests tour the new Donald Bren Hall at UC Irvine on Wednesday. Below, Bren during the ceremony.
DEDICATION: Above, balloons fill the stairwell as guests tour the new Donald Bren Hall at UC Irvine on Wednesday. Below, Bren during the ceremony.

UC IRVINE — Donald Bren was already in celebration mode when he visited campus Wednesday for the dedication of a new building in his name. The night before, the Irvine Co. chairman had stayed up late watching UCI’s baseball team defeat Arizona State University, and he told the crowd that cheering the team on had resulted in his hoarse voice.

“I don’t usually sound like ‘The Godfather,’ ” he said, moments before donning a UCI baseball cap and shouting, “Go ‘Eaters!”

With UCI still reeling from Tuesday’s come-from-behind victory, the campus celebrated another milestone Wednesday morning, as administrators and guests gathered to officially dedicate Donald Bren Hall. The six-story building, which broke ground almost exactly three years ago, provides a new home to UCI’s information and computer science programs.

At 11:30 a.m., Bren, Chancellor Michael Drake and others gathered inside the new building for opening remarks.

Debra Richardson, the dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, said the state-of-the-art structure would help UCI attract top faculty from around the world. The information and computer science department — better known as ICS — launched at UCI in 1968.

“ICS has been a success story for the last 39 years,” Richardson said. “Next year, we’ll mark our 40th year. Today, I venture to say that we’ve only just begun.”

After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the building opened for tours. The Bren Hall, which covers more than 90,000 square feet, includes research labs, faculty offices, classrooms and more. Bren, who wielded a shovel at the groundbreaking in 2004, said he marveled — as always — at watching a building evolve from scratch.

“As most of you know, at my core, I’m a community builder,” he said. “It’s been my lifelong passion.”

Michael Miller
Daily Pilot

Donald Bren Elected Fellow of American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Donald Bren Elected Fellow of American Academy of Arts & Sciences

TIC Chairman Donald Bren has been elected a Fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Arts & Sciences — a major recognition of his long history of philanthropic contributions to education and open space preservation and access.

Fellows are elected from throughout the world through a highly competitive process, and are chosen for their significant and lasting contributions to their disciplines and society. Mr. Bren was elected in the category of Business, Corporate and Philanthropic Leadership –- Private Sector.

Click here for the alphabetized list of Fellows

Click here for the Academy’s full news release

Founded in 1780, the Academy is one of the oldest learned societies in the country and is unique in its breadth and scope. Throughout its history, it has gathered individuals with diverse interests and perspectives to participate in meetings, studies and projects focusing on critical social and scholarly issues.

Considered one of America’s most generous philanthropists, Mr. Bren through the years has contributed, through The Irvine Company and the Donald Bren Foundation, more than $200 million to public schools on The Irvine Ranch and to institutions of higher education. His gifts range from major contributions to local K-12 schools for enrichment programs, after-school programs for low-income children, and scholarship awards, to funding more than 50 endowed chairs for distinguished faculty at institutions for higher learning. At the University of California, Mr. Bren has contributed more to support endowed chairs than any other single donor in UC’s history.

UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara, in particular, have benefited from Mr. Bren’s generosity.

In a news release, UC Santa Barbara Chancellor Henry T. Yang congratulated Mr. Bren and noted “his extraordinary achievements, leadership, philanthropy, and vision in the arts and sciences.” UCSB is home to the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.

A strong conservationist, Mr. Bren for many years has been at the forefront of efforts to preserve environmentally sensitive land in Southern California, a commitment that was recognized in 2006 with the designation of The Irvine Ranch’s protected parks and open spaces as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. He has committed $50 million for the long-term management, preservation and restoration of the natural resources on the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve®, now being carried out by the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust, which Mr. Bren created. Its mission also is to increase public access to the lands.

In 2006, BusinessWeek magazine ranked Mr. Bren 8th on its annual list of “The 50 Most Generous Philanthropists” in the country.

Mr. Bren was elected a Fellow alongside some of the world’s most eminent scientists, scholars, artists, civic, corporate and philanthropic leaders, including recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel and Academy Awards. The newly elected Fellows also include UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake.


Irvine Ranch Acreage Gets Landmark Status

Irvine Ranch acreage gets landmark status
The governor is among those at a ceremony to announce the national designation, shared by Diamond Head and the La Brea Tar Pits.

David Reyes
Los Angeles Times

October 11, 2006

From left: Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren; National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger walk through Crystal Cove State Park.
From left: Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren; National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger walk through Crystal Cove State Park.

A 37,000-acre swath of Orange County that stretches from the ocean to the foothills — property that once was part of historic Irvine Ranch — was designated Tuesday a national landmark.

National Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella said the designation was in recognition of one of the best examples of preserved habitats and biological and geological characteristics in the country.

The landmark designation was part of a brief ceremony held at Crystal Cove State Park and attended by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine), State Parks Director Ruth Coleman, Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren, Mainella and others.

Other areas similarly designated include Diamond Head in Hawaii, the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County.

At 37,000 acres, the Irvine Ranch National Natural Landmark is one of the largest areas to earn the designation.

The rolling land includes canyons filled with coastal sage scrub, grasslands, and oak woodlands that naturalists say emphasize Southern California’s subtle, natural beauty.

During the evaluation leading to the designation, scientists noted that the area’s natural resources included nearly 80 million years of geologic history “preserved, uninterrupted like a virtual encyclopedia of stratigraphy,” according to Michael Soukup with the National Park Service.

Stratigraphy is the study of rock layers and layering.

The land has many owners, including the state, the county, Irvine, the Irvine Co. and the Nature Conservancy.

To qualify under the landmark criteria, a proposed site must contain some of the best examples of a natural region’s biological and geological features, said Stephen Gibbons, the park service natural landmarks coordinator.

Although national parks are the country’s most treasured assets, there are many other places with unique resources of national significance that won’t ever be protected as parks, Gibbons said.

“I see areas that may not be national-park caliber,” he said. “Nevertheless, they’re great examples of our national heritage. This natural landmark is one of them.”

In his remarks, Schwarzenegger said that Tuesday’s event “celebrates another area of our state that can be enjoyed for generations.”

He also singled Bren out for his “conservation efforts & and generosity.”

The new landmark boundaries are part of the 50,000 acre Irvine Ranch Land Reserve, a nonprofit organization that Bren formed last year to help protect and restore natural resources.

At the time, Bren donated $20 million to support the trust.

Bren said that walking and hiking the ranch’s wilderness lands had made him reemphasize “my dream” that Irvine Ranch would be known “for what has been preserved and protected here.”

The land included in the new designation has been preserved as parks and open space by the various landowners.

It includes Limestone and Fremont canyons, Peters Canyon Regional Park near Orange, Crystal Cove State Park and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and Bommer Canyon in Irvine.

Area Set Aside as Landmark

From shining sea at Crystal Cove to majestic Saddleback Mountain, 37,000 acres given national designation.

From left: Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren; National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger walk through Crystal Cove State Park.
From left: Irvine Company Chairman Donald Bren; National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger walk through Crystal Cove State Park.

CRYSTAL COVE — About 37,000 acres of Irvine Ranch land, extending from Crystal Cove to the foothills of Saddleback Mountain, was recognized Tuesday as the country’s newest National Natural Landmark.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, Rep. John Campbell — who gave Schwarzenegger the new title of “conservationator” — and others gathered Tuesday morning in a parking lot on a bluff in Crystal Cove State Park, thanking Irvine Co. Chairman Don Bren for his help facilitating the process.

“We’re celebrating more than protecting the environment; we’re also celebrating generosity,” Schwarzenegger said.

The land, which is owned by Orange County, the city of Irvine, the Irvine Co., California State Parks and the Nature Conservancy, was subject to scientific evaluation by 10 geology and biology experts to assess its physical and geological significance. The area received the natural landmark designation because of the presence of fossils — which date back 80 million years — and a diverse animal and plant population that includes some endangered species and others unique to the area.

“My dream is that the Irvine Ranch will be known and celebrated just for what has been preserved and protected here & as the Irvine Ranch is known for the outstanding quality of life communities that have been built here,” said Don Bren in a prepared statement to a crowd of supporters and media.

Bren said Tuesday’s announcement marked his dreams of conserving the land coming true.

The maintenance of the land continues to be the responsibility of the land owners and paid for through the Irvine Co.’s $50-million Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust.

“The $50-million trust is for stewardship and educational programs and things of that nature,” said Dan Young, executive vice president of the Irvine Co.

Not since 1987 has land owned by a public-private partnership been given the designation.

“We hope with this kind of leadership happening, maybe others in our country will be so inspired to nominate land,” Mainella said after the formal ceremony.

Fewer than 600 sites are designated as a National Natural Landmark and the Irvine Ranch land joins places such as Oahu’s Diamond Head, and California’s Torrey Pines State Park, Anza Borrego Desert and Mt. Shasta in its designation.

Along with Crystal Cove, other areas recognized by the designation include Limestone and Fremont canyons, Peters Canyon Regional Park, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, the open space between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, and Bommer Canyon.

The program was started to encourage land owners to protect natural areas to promote scientific advancement and education in the areas. Nominated sites must undergo an independent scientific evaluation.

Amanda Pennington
Daily Pilot

Irvine Co. Gives $1 Million for Santa Ana School Programs

Irvine Company commits $20 million to Irvine schools.

The Irvine Co. handed out a gift of $1 million Monday for after-school tutoring, sports and homework help for some of Orange County’s neediest students.

Dan Young, executive vice president of the Irvine Co., attended a ceremony at Madison Elementary School to give the donation to THINK Together, a nonprofit group that provides after-school services at schools in Santa Ana and other cities.

“Through this gift, we hope to invest in the children in Santa Ana,” said Young, who grew up in Santa Ana and served as mayor several years ago. “We also hope other private companies will use this as an example to donate to schools.”

THINK Together has offered after-school programs to students in Santa Ana, Orange, Tustin and Costa Mesa for the past nine years. The Irvine Co. donation will benefit only students from Santa Ana, Young said.

The donation would allow the group to extend after-school programs to 40 of the district’s 50 schools, benefiting more than 10,000 students. The donation should keep the program funded for the next 10 years, officials said.

Since 2000, the Irvine Co. has given more than $80 million to public education.

In Irvine Unified, donations by the developer have helped that district keep class sizes small, funded music and art programs, and helped prevent budget deficits.

Santa Ana Unified Superintendent Al Mijares said the funding would help students in his district perform better academically.

“This will help extend the school day for many of our students,” Mijares said. “They will continue the process of learning even after the typical school day ends.”

Students in Santa Ana, the state’s fifth-largest school district, often struggle with standardized tests. Many of the district’s schools rank near the bottom in Orange County on state test scores. About 75 percent of students come from low-income families and 60 percent are still learning English.

Those were some of the reasons the Irvine Co. selected Santa Ana for the donation, Young said.

Madison Elementary fifth-grader George Samano has already participated in after-school programs provided by THINK Together and credited the program for his solid grades.

“If I wasn’t in this program, I would just be at home all day eating junk food and watching television,” he said.

Giving to schools
Since 2000, the Irvine Co. has given more than $80 million to education. Here are a few of the developer’s previous donations:

  • $20 million for music and arts programs in Irvine Unified, 2006
  • $20 million to UC Irvine, 2000-06
  • $60,000 to the Highland Teen Center in Orange, 2003
  • $1.9 million for science, music and arts in Irvine Unified, 2000

Fermin Leal
Orange County Register

Irvine Co. to Donate $20 Million to Schools

The Irvine Co. said Monday it would provide $20 million over the next 10 years to fund fine arts, music and science programs for fourth- through sixth-graders in the Irvine Unified School District.

The money will be in addition to the $25 million pledged by the Newport Beach developer to Irvine schools in 2000, officials said.

“We think it’s an important investment to acknowledge the importance of these programs in providing a comprehensive quality education in the school district,” said Michael LeBlanc, a company senior vice president.

Dean Waldfogel, the school district’s superintendent, expressed delight.”We’re very excited,” he said. “This will allow us to maintain the program at its current level.”

The program, which sends arts, music and science specialists into classes twice a week at a cost of about $2 million a year, has been funded primarily by the nonprofit Irvine Public Schools Foundation in conjunction with the school district, Waldfogel said.

With that money now guaranteed by the Irvine Co., the foundation will be free to focus on raising money for better healthcare on school campuses, said Tim Shaw, the group’s chief executive.

“Our immediate goal,” Shaw said, “is to lower the ratio from 4,000 students to 2,500 students per nurse on our campuses.”

By David Haldane
Los Angeles Times