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

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


Latest Gift Brings Bren’s Donations to Reserve to $50 Million

Big Swath Gets a Big Gift

The foundation of the Irvine Co.’s chairman gives $20 million to increase access to 50,000 acres of open space.

Standing in a small clearing amid giant sycamores in Irvine Regional Park on Thursday, Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren pledged $20 million to expand the public’s access to 50,000 acres of the former Irvine Ranch set aside as open space.

The gift brings to $50 million the amount donated by the Donald Bren Foundation to make sure the land is protected and remains in its rugged state.

Bren, making a rare public appearance before 200 invited guests, including U.S. Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, also announced the creation of the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve Trust, a nonprofit he said guaranteed that the acreage would be permanently preserved.

The old ranch land stretches from the Anaheim hills to the ocean and includes Limestone Canyon and Crystal Cove. Three mountains-to-sea bike paths are included in the public access plan, with one of them recently opened. The Irvine Ranch Land Reserve covers more than 145 square miles, about half of it urbanized.

Trish Smith, a senior project ecologist with the Nature Conservancy, which manages 34,000 acres of the reserve, applauded the creation of the trust.

“It’s hard for me to imagine it’s really happening. We’ve been thinking about it for a long time, noodling and wishing for it, but we never thought it would actually happen,” Smith said.

The benefit of the trust, she said, is the consistent management it should provide. If the land were managed by the government, it would be subject to political whim and the government’s own economic restraints, she said.

The skies were overcast and a light fog clung to the hills as Norton and Bren took a short walk before the festivities began. But the clouds burned off and the sun came through as Bren spoke.

“My vision,” Bren told those assembled, “is that the reserve will set a new standard for conservation stewardship and recreation that will be understood and appreciated, not just in Orange County, but throughout the United States.

CHANGE IN THE AIR: Donald Bren, chairman of the Irvine Co., chats with U.S. Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton at Irvine Regional Park, where Bren announced his foundation’s donation. One of three trails from the mountains to the sea has been opened.

“I believe we can create a world-renowned park … a place where the people from Orange County can enjoy nature close to their homes,” he said.

The $20-million gift will be used to enhance public access to areas of the reserve that now are off-limits, including the opening of 30 new trails in the next three to five years, company officials said.

The money will also support management and restoration of natural habitats.

Norton praised the plans for the reserve.

“The Irvine Ranch illustrates what cooperative conservation is all about,” she said. “A conservation-minded corporate citizen is working hand-in-hand with federal and state agencies, the Nature Conservancy, local communities, private citizens and other partners to thoughtfully and purposefully create an environment where both people and wildlife can thrive.”

Times staff photographer Don Kelsen contributed to this report.

By Sara Lin, Times Staff Writer

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

University of California Awards its Highest Honor to Bren

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.


Los Angeles Times

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 http://www.ics.uci.edu/.

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.

Bren’s Land Gift Preserves a ‘Treasure Trove of Biodiversity’

Land-Gift Celebration as Big as All Outdoors
Open space: Officials, environmentalists and scientists
all hail the Irvine Co.’s decision.

Rugged canyons, centuries-old oak trees, and sweeping expanses of Chaparral and sage make up the 11,000 acres that Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren is preserving forever. It includes some of the most sensitive and biologically rich land in Southern California.

“It’s a treasure trove of biodiversity,” said Tom Scott, a natural-resources specialist with the University of California. Local elected officials, environmentalists and scientists are still celebrating Bren’s Wednesday announcement, which ensures that more than half of the 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch will remain undeveloped.

E-mails were flowing as word spread outside the state.

“Yee haw! That is fantastic news. It made my day,” wrote Paul Beier, a mountain lion expert at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, in an e-mail to local environmentalist Claire Schlotterbeck.

news_map_112901_boeck1The land is home to scores of rare indigenous species, from mountain lions to Tecate cypress trees. Environmentalists have coveted it for years.

The preserved land includes a 17-square-mile swath in the northern part of the ranch. The swath stretches from Weir Canyon to Cleveland National Forest, and includes Fremont and Blind canyons and parts of Gypsum, Silverado, Santiago and Baker canyons. Expanses of grasslands, oak groves and other vegetation are studded with striking ridgelines and unusual rock formations.

Bren also preserved the “missing link” in Laguna Laurel, a 173-acre Parcel that links Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park and permanent open space in Irvine. The land is part of one of the last undeveloped coastal canyons in Southern California.

This parcel, valued at $33 million 12 years ago, has been sought by preservationists since the late 1980s. Phone calls have been pouring into the Laguna Canyon Foundation, a nonprofit organization created in 1991 to preserve and enhance Laguna Canyon and the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, since Bren’s announcement at an invitation-only gathering Wednesday night.

news_map_112901_boeck21“We’ve had a lot of well-wishers congratulating us and they’re just so thrilled,” said a receptionist. “It’s been a very joyous day, very joyous.”

The North Ranch and Laguna Canyon parcels will be protected through permanent conservation easements that will be donated to the Nature Conservancy. Over the next decade, ownership of the land will be transferred to cities, the county and nonprofit groups.

But in the meantime, scientists, planners and environmentalists will Formulate immediate and long-term plans for the land. The Laguna Canyon land, for example, has been used for cattle grazing and needs restoration. Much of the land is currently off-limits to recreational users. But public access–which will vary from docent-led tours to picnicking, hiking and camping–could begin in some areas in less than two years.

The Irvine Co.–the largest landowner in Orange County–had extremely valuable development rights to build on some of the land, but company officials declined to comment on details.

On the Laguna Canyon parcel alone, the company could have built 1,500 homes The open space plan also apparently reduces the size of proposed Developments in East Orange and next to Anaheim, though details on how much are unavailable. The company has preliminary approvals to build nearly 20,000 homes on these two parcels but is expected to build far fewer.

news_map_112901_boeck3The company’s plans for a large triangular pocket of unincorporated County land known as the North Ranch Policy Area were unknown until Wednesday, when Bren announced it would be preserved.

Several possible sites where the county was considering building a jail–including two east of Orange–are now off-limits, thrilling city officials–and creating a buzz Thursday in county offices about the loss of the potential jail sites.

Activists also believe the preservation may kill a proposal to build a Road through the Cleveland National Forest to connect Orange and Riverside counties.

“It leverages protection of even more land,” said environmentalist Schlotterbeck, long a critic of Irvine Co. policy. “It was a smart thing to do and a wise thing to do. I am grateful.”