In 1997 low-key Californian developer Donald Bren pledged $15m to what became the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, topping that up with a further $5m in 2004. The Bren School educates research scientists and environmental management professionals. It also plays a leading role in identifying and solving the environmental problems of the 21st century. Bren’s fortune is put at £8.7 billion in the 2008 Forbes list of richest Americans.
Six-story campus hall named for Irvine Co. chairman will house information and computer science programs.
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.”
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.
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.
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Land baron Bren built much of Orange County
Donald Bren began with one house: a Lido Isle custom home financed with a $10,000 loan from Bank of America.
A Big Name on UCI Campus
Irvine Co. Chief Executive Donald Bren is honored Wednesday at UC Irvine’s School of Information and Computer Sciences. Bren donated $20 million to the university, endowing more permanent chairs than anyone in the campus’ history. In recognition of this contributions, UCI awarded Bren the University of California Presidential Medal, the university’s highest honor.