IRVINE — Longtime UC Irvine benefactors Joan Irvine Smith and her mother Athalie R. Clarke are giving a $1-million grant to boost the research programs of the university's two top atmospheric scientists.
The award to atmospheric chemist and ozone expert F. Sherwood Rowland and geophysicist Ralph J. Cicerone, will be used to bring top postdoctoral researchers to their programs, the scientists said.
The grant from the Joan Irvine Smith and Athalie R. Clarke Foundation also will help UCI bring the world's preeminent atmospheric scholars to the campus as visiting professors, creating a cross-fertilization that can help build international scientific agreement on atmospheric problems, Rowland said Monday.
"By bringing other scientists here from other countries, we think that we will not only help our research and their research and our students' training, but we also will be laying the basis for future international agreements, for example on greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect, by building consensus on the nature of the problem," said Cicerone, an expert in global warming and greenhouse gases.
"This kind of interaction is clearly what we need for working on global environmental problems, especially atmospheric ones," said Rowland, who with a fellow researcher first discovered in 1974 that man-made chemicals were destroying Earth's protective ozone layer.
Rowland and his group of about 15 researchers at UCI are currently involved in an $8-million National Aeronautics and Space Administration project to sample the Earth's atmosphere for trace gases. Cicerone is chairman of UCI's emerging geosciences department.
Smith, a multimillionaire who won more than $250 million in a legal battle with the Irvine Co. that was formerly owned by her family, said Monday in a statement that the grant is intended to focus greater attention on solving environmental problems.
"Visiting scientists frequently play key advisory roles with their country's leaders and are critical to the formation of current and future environmental policies," she said. "And because global atmospheric chemistry is such a young field, we want to encourage gifted young scientists to pursue advanced studies in this area so that human resources levels will match the needs and scale of the problem."
The donation is one of 18 contributions of $1 million or more to the 27-year-old university. The largest single donation was $8.5 million for the College of Medicine in 1988 from the estate of the late Edna Brophy. The Arnold O. and Mabel Beckman Foundation gave $6.2 million to UCI's Beckman Laser Institute in 1990, and Irvine Co. Chairman Donald L. Bren has donated $3.5 million to the university in recent years.
With the latest award, Smith and Clarke have given a total of $3 million to UCI, including a $2-million gift in 1991 to UCI's College of Medicine. Smith also has said she plans to donate $1 million for an endowed chair in law at UCI, which hopes eventually to have a law school on campus. She also plans to endow a $1-million chair in the campus's School of Engineering to focus on water reclamation, toxic waste management and desalination.
Both women have had substantial involvement in UCI through the years. As the granddaughter of Irvine Co. founder James R. Irvine, Smith pushed the company in the early 1960s to donate the initial 1,000 acres for UCI. Clarke, meanwhile, has been a tireless fund-raiser for the medical college and is a 1987 recipient of UCI's highest non-academic honor, the UCI Medal.
Much as the earlier grant to the College of Medicine reflects Clarke's interests, this latest award is a measure of Smith's growing interest in supporting research to improve water quality and the environment, said foundation director Russ Allen of Newport Beach.
The grant, to be paid in annual increments of $250,000 over four years, could fund as many as four postdoctoral fellows and several visiting professors each year, said Cicerone, who in 1989 was lured from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado to build one of the nation's first interdisciplinary programs in global sciences.
"This is really going to help put us on the map in another way," he added. "We think that with this gift . . . we can ask government agencies and large foundations for co-sponsorship."
Most important, however, is the opportunity to work in collaboration with scientists around the world and help build consensus on the cause of and solutions to environmental problems, the scientists said.
"Atmospheric science is one discipline that benefits very strongly from interaction with scientists elsewhere," Rowland said. "The global atmospheric picture is made up of a lot of regional pictures that are different, so the interchange is especially important for us."
And when it comes to hammering out international agreements such as the recent Montreal Protocols calling for a phaseout of ozone-damaging chlorofluorocarbons, Rowland said political leaders tend to listen most to the advice of scientists from their own nations.
"When it comes to regulatory matters, people in Country X don't like to take the word of scientists from Canada or Germany or the United States," Rowland said. "So that makes it even more important that we have this regular interchange. . . . We (at UCI) already have a remarkably close contact with scientists from around the world. This will just intensify that collaboration."