June 10, 2004

Daily Pilot

UCI benefactor Bren breaks new ground

By Tony Dodero

The Irvine Co. first supported higher education with a large endowment to the state in 1959.

UC IRVINE - College educators, high-tech computer aficionados, politicians and businessmen toasted the Irvine Co. Chairman Donald Bren Wednesday for his considerable financial help and long-term vision to fortify the future of the university's cutting-edge computer science school.

Bren, who was revealed recently to be the benefactor of a previously anonymous $20-million gift last December, and who makes few public appearances, was the honored guest at an elaborate groundbreaking ceremony that featured a parade of alumni from the computer science school, credited with masterminding everything from the early days of three-dimensional, computer-aided design to creating Internet domain names.

Bren noted that the idea for the endowment was spawned 20 years ago in a meeting with former UCI Chancellor Jack Peltason in Washington, D.C.

"He said something that I will never forget," Bren said. "He said 'At the end of the day, the key to a university's standing, its reputation, its educational excellence and the quality of its research is rooted in the excellence of its faculty.'"

Bren called the University of California "the most important institution in California," and pointed out that the Irvine Co. began its relationship with higher education with a large endowment to the state in 1959.

"Our company feels very much a part of the UCI campus," he said.

In addition to honoring Bren, whose name will adorn the new School of Information and Computer Sciences, Wednesday's event was a celebration of the appointment of the school's first dean, Debra Richardson, as well as the start of construction on the new building that will house the school. That building, to be named Bren Hall, will be six stories with 138,000 square feet of research and classroom facilities when its completed in 2006.

But more than just welcoming the physical building that will be home to the school, university officials noted that the money from Bren will enable them to hire top-flight educators and continue to build the reputation of the nationally ranked computer science school that has already produced a bevy of celebrity-like computer scientists.

Among the noted alumni on hand Wednesday were Patrick Hanratty, considered the father of computer-aided design or CAD; Paul Mockapetris, creator of the Domain Name System widely used on the Internet; Roy Fielding, the architect of the Internet's Hypertext Transfer Protocol or HTTP; Adam Bonner, the co-founder with fellow UCI grad Victor Liu of Network Synthesis computing systems; and Sepideh Gazeri, a UCI student who completed her bachelor's degree in three years and is entering the school's MBA program in the fall.

Richardson promised that the school will continue to be the pioneer of new technologies like "ubiquitous" computing, which envisions a world where computers are a part of all aspects of daily living.

"[The computer school] is a spectacular success story," Richardson said. "Top 10 in five [years], that's our goal."

Out of Bren's gift, $18 million will go for 10 endowed chairs for distinguished faculty. The remainder will be used for research and other technology developments.

"Today we are celebrating an extremely empowering gift," said UCI Chancellor Ralph Cicerone.

Ted Smith, the chair of the UCI Foundation, thanked Bren for his $20 million investment in the university.

"The return of intellectual capital will be returned many times on his investment today," Smith said.

Bren was also presented with the University of California's prestigious Presidential Medal, the university's highest honor, for his philanthropy to the entire university system.

"It's a heavy honor to carry around," said a joking Bren about the Olympic-style medallion.

The $20 million for the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Science is just one in a long line of contributions totaling more than $40 million that the well-known philanthropist and billionaire has made to UCI and the UC system.

His money has helped establish the Donald Bren Endowment, bringing in the best and brightest faculty to the college; the Donald Bren Events Center; and was the reason behind the naming of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, which is named after his late stepmother, the Academy Award-winning actress Claire Trevor Bren.

"Today is a special day for me, so I am grateful for your kind and generous recognition," Bren said. "I am both proud and honored to be permanently associated with this unique school."
UCI benefactor Bren breaks new ground