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.

After School Help Program gets Major Gift

Developer and philanthropist Donald Bren on Tuesday reached beyond the Orange County communities he helped build and define, announcing an $8.5-million donation to benefit after-school programs in Santa Ana and east Los Angeles County.

The gift will bolster Santa Ana-based THINK Together, an after-school program that extends the school day for children who need extra coaching with classwork or homework help, often because their parents are working or lack English skills. The program provides an additional hour of schooling, homework assistance and physical education.

Natalie Rangel, 8, listens to a friend on a string-and-cup telephone during after-school classes.
Natalie Rangel, 8, listens to a friend on a string-and-cup telephone during after-school classes.

Bren, whose Irvine Co. and Donald Bren Foundation have contributed more than $200 million to public schools and universities, was motivated to choose THINK Together after a January speech by state Education Supt. Jack O’Connell challenged listeners to “imagine if every school had access to a successful business partner to provide mentors, materials and opportunities for students.”

Natalie Rangel, 8, listens to a friend on a string-and-cup telephone during after-school classes.
The donation is Bren’s largest outside the boundaries of the old Irvine Ranch, which included Irvine, Newport Beach, Tustin, Orange, Laguna Beach and Anaheim, said John Christensen, Irvine Co. spokesman.

Beyond having shaped the identity of cities like Irvine and high-end enclaves such as Newport Coast, the Irvine Co. owns about 400 office buildings, 40 retail centers, 90 apartment communities, two hotels, five marinas and three golf clubs.
“My goal is for this funding to help close the achievement gap and truly make a difference by providing resources that otherwise would not be available,” Bren said in a written statement.

THINK Together, which has a $25-million annual budget, already operates in 13 Santa Ana schools. The funding will allow the program to expand to each of the 36 grade schools in Santa Ana Unified School District, said schools Supt. Jane Russo. Programs in Los Angeles County are just beginning.

The infusion of funds could play a role in improving test scores in a district where they have traditionally lagged, Russo said.

At Monte Vista Elementary School, where the program has been in place for a year, the Academic Performance Index jumped 97 points to 724 during the 2006-07 school year. Principal Paulina Jacobs said part of the credit went to THINK Together. Santa Ana students “not only have to learn the California standards, which are the most challenging in the United States, but they also have to learn a new language as well,” Russo said. “This donation gives our students a leg up to do both.”

In a Monte Vista Elementary School classroom in Santa Ana on Tuesday, about 20 children gathered to get homework help from Ernesto Nodado, a THINK Together instructor. Third-grader Jairo Peralta struggled to understand adverbs.

Students in a THINK Together program go to their next class. The program received an $8.5-million donation.
Students in a THINK Together program go to their next class. The program received an $8.5-million donation.

Students in a THINK Together program go to their next class. The program received an $8.5-million donation.
“Does it describe how something is done?” he asked.

Peralta got the nod of approval and continued his homework. Nodado went on to explain that many adverbs end in “ly.”

“My parents really can’t help me,” Peralta explained to a visitor. “They were born in Mexico. So this is a good way for me to do better in school.”

Randy Barth, a one-time stock broker, founded THINK Together in 1997. The nonprofit organization now serves 20,000 students at more than 180 sites in school districts throughout Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

The gift Tuesday includes $150,000 that will be used for a leadership program that will eventually expand nascent programs in eastern Los Angeles County cities, including Whittier, Azusa and Baldwin Park.

Parent Rafaela Cruz predicts that the expansion of the organization’s efforts in Santa Ana will help children like hers.

Cruz said her son, David Peñalosa, 8, “couldn’t read well before he got into the program. Now he can recognize more words, and he’s helping his brother,” a kindergartner, to recognize words.

“What they gave my son was a gift that I couldn’t,” said Cruz, 28, who picks strawberries. “I never made it past second grade myself.”

Los Angeles Times

Jennifer Delson
Los Angeles Times

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

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

UCI Names Computer Sciences School After Donald Bren

UC Irvine Renames Computer Sciences School in Honor of Donald Bren

In recognition of a major gift from TIC Chairman Donald Bren, UC Irvine announced today that it is renaming its new computer science school the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. The school’s renaming – to be celebrated at a public event at the campus next Wednesday, June 9 – recognizes a $20 million gift from Mr. Bren to the computer sciences school last December. Mr. Bren’s gift equaled the largest gift ever to UCI and marked another example of the chairman’s support of public education on The Irvine Ranch.

“This school naming is a fitting and enduring tribute to Mr. Bren,” UCI Chancellor Ralph Cicerone said. “His transformational gift is helping to create a national model for information and computer science research and education, and further strengthens UC Irvine’s position among the nation’s best research universities.” Chancellor Cicerone will participate in next week’s ceremony along with Mr. Bren, UC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs M.R.C. Greenwood, and Debra Richardson, dean of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences.

“I am honored to have my name and support associated with the first computer science school in the UC system,” Mr. Bren said. “It is my hope and expectation that the school – and what it produces in the way of human capital and technological innovation – will be the force behind future breakthroughs in education, science and business that will lift our standard of living and our quality of life.”

The Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences is the first independent computer science school within the UC system and one of the fastest-growing programs of its kind in the nation. Elevated from department to school status in December 2002, information and computer sciences enrollment at UCI has grown by more than 125 percent since 1998, to more than 2,400 undergraduate and graduate students. With experts in areas ranging from embedded computer systems and networking to bioinformatics and the social impacts of computing, the school currently ranks among the top of all public university computer science graduate programs. To learn more about the school, click

At the luncheon ceremony, ground will be broken for the school’s new six-story, 138,000-square-foot research and classroom facility. The building is being financed by the March 2004 passage of Proposition 55 and the passage in 2002 of its companion initiative, Proposition 47, which authorized funds to build, repair and improve the state’s public education facilities. The building is scheduled for completion in 2006 and will be named Bren Hall.

Mr. Bren’s $20 million gift, administered through the Donald Bren Foundation, provides more than $18 million to create 10 endowed chairs for distinguished faculty, an unprecedented number in a single gift to UCI. It also enables the school to compete for the world’s top computer scientists. The balance of the gift creates an endowed fund for excellence, enabling the school to develop and advance interdisciplinary and university-industry collaborations emphasizing new research and enhanced technology transfer efforts.

Mr. Bren has donated more than $40 million to UCI since 1984, and has endowed more permanent faculty chairs than anyone in the campus’s history. In 1988, he established the Donald Bren Endowment to help UCI successfully compete for the nation’s most distinguished faculty and achieve its goal of becoming one of the country’s premier research universities.

See further New Beginnings information on UCI’s website.