Real estate magnate Donald L. Bren became one of the leading donors in University of California history with the announcement Wednesday of a $15-million gift to operate a new graduate school of environmental science and management at UC Santa Barbara.
UC officials said the gift from the 65-year-old owner of the Irvine Co. was the largest to date for the Santa Barbara campus. Bren lives in Newport Beach.
Counting more than $10 million in previously announced gifts in recent years to UC Irvine, Bren's donations to UC total more than $25 million, Irvine Co. spokesman Larry Thomas said.
Rick Malaspina, a spokesman for the university president's office, said, "Clearly this gift makes Donald Bren one of the major individual donors in UC history. This is the kind of gift that provides the margin of excellence for UC."
The largest gift in UC history was $48.4 million given anonymously in 1996 for health science programs at UCLA, Malaspina said. Michael Ovitz, former Walt Disney Co. executive, gave UCLA $25 million this year to help rebuild its hospital.
Bren's gift will be used in part to endow five faculty chairs named in his honor at what is being renamed the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management.
The school, founded in 1995, offers master's degrees and plans a doctoral program. It will draw on experts from several UC campuses: natural and social science faculty from UC Santa Barbara; business faculty from UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Berkeley; and law faculty from Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley.
"The uniqueness of Donald Bren's most recent gift is that it will assist not just one but five UC campuses and ultimately should have wide-ranging significance for the environment," UC President Richard C. Atkinson said.
UC officials say the gift means that Bren will have endowed a total of 15 faculty chairs, including 10 already established at UCI. No other donor has endowed more.
Ernesto Lopez, an assistant vice chancellor at UC Santa Barbara, said an increasing number of students are asking for graduate programs specializing in the environment. The campus has a 27-year-old undergraduate program in environmental studies, one of the nation's oldest, with more than 600 student majors.
Dennis J. Aigner, former dean of UCI's Graduate School of Management, will become associate dean for business management at the Bren school.
The Irvine Co., Orange County's largest developer, owns nearly 54,000 acres in the county.
Bren is a graduate of the University of Washington.