June 10, 2004

Irvine World News

Ground broken Wednesday for Bren Hall

By Naomi Ulici

Donald Bren, chairman of the board of directors of The Irvine Company, picked up a shovel yesterday, to break ground for the future home of the UC Irvine School of Information and Computer Science that will bear his name. Looking a bit out of place with a shovel in his hands, the businessman and philanthropist gingerly scraped up some topsoil amid applause and laughter at a luncheon ceremony.

Attended by Chancellor Ralph J. Cicerone, and other education and business leaders, the ceremony honored Bren for what was then an anonymous $20 million donation he made to the school in December 2003, equaling the largest gift donated from a single sponsor to UC Irvine. Administered by the Donald Bren Foundation, the donation created 10 endowed chairs for distinguished faculty. The donation was given in secret last year to help the school's newly appointed dean, Debra J. Richardson, gain momentum in finding the best and brightest scientists to fill the open spots.

Established as an independent academic department of Information and Computer Sciences in 1968 with only six faculty members and less than 100 students, the department became an official "school" in 2002 and is being renamed after Bren for his generous contributions. It now has more than 50 faculty members and 1,900 enrolled students.

Bren was presented the university’s highest honor at the ceremony, for his significant gifts to the UC system, which total more than $55 million and more than 20 endowed positions, the majority of which was directed to UC Irvine. Accepting the University of California Presidential Medal from UC Provost M.R.C. Greenwood, Bren said that it was a very wonderful honor, but joked about how heavy it was.

In his speech, he described how his conversation with the university's second chancellor Jack Peltason in Washington, D.C. nearly 20 years ago inspired him to get involved with helping UC Irvine.

"And Jack, in his special manner, suggested ways that I might become more involved..." he said, pausing as the audience laughed.

Richardson, who was appointed dean in December, said that the school's goal was to make "Top 10 in five," or rank nationally among the leading schools for information and computer sciences in the next five years.

"We have a broader computer science program at UCI than at any other UC," she said, pointing out that Irvine is the only autonomous Information and Computer Sciences school of its kind in the UC system. The school has many interdisciplinary aspects with people who are also in biological sciences.

Program graduates like Patrick Hanratty, Paul Mockapetris and Roy Fielding presented personal testimonials of the school's broad concepts and forward-thinking environment. Famous in the technological world for his contributions, Mockapetris is the author and made the first implementation of the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, which allows servers to send e-mails to each other. He also created the Domain Name System that translates web names into internet protocol addresses or numbers that computers read to direct people to a certain website. Fielding is the architect of Hypertext Transfer Protocol (known to most as the http found before each web address).

"I chose to come here (over UCLA or Berkeley) because it was a unique place," said Adam Bonner, who began a business with his partner Victor Liu in 2000, the same year they graduated. He said that most traditional information or computer science schools are part of the engineering or mathematics departments, and usually focus more on those aspects of technology.

A video presentation also was shown of current or graduating students, followed by the presentation of a plaque and flowers to Bren on their behalf.

"It's a really innovative school. When something new comes out, they already start working on how to improve it," said Shawn Shah, 21, one of the featured students who will graduate from the school next year.

The new building, Bren Hall, will be six stories and a total of 138,000 square feet of research and classroom facilities. It's being financed through Proposition 55 and Proposition 47, which authorize funds to build, repair and improve the state's public education facilities. It is scheduled for completion in 2006.
Ground broken Wednesday for Bren Hall