Living La Vida Local

developed here – the sweeping expanse of beautiful and valuable open space – as it is for the outstanding communities we’ve planned and built offering an unparalleled quality of life,” Donald Bren noted.

Bren is a very likable billionaire, because his scope goes beyond capitalism. A noted environmentalist, in 2001 Bren has donated more than 50,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch to be used as open space and recreation and to preserve the Orange County ecosystem. Mr. Bren also committed $30 million for the long-term management, preservation and restoration of the natural resources on the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve, and increased public access to the lands.

A 2001 Los Angeles Times Editorial noted. “The breathtaking scope of the holiday season land gift, and the renunciation of development opportunities that have accompanied it, has raised the bar for large landowners – not just locally – but everywhere, on balancing growth with wildlife habitate and open space preservation.”

Education is the other philanthropic project of Donald Bren. According to his website a, “ Over the last 20 years, The Irvine Company and the Donald Bren Foundation collectively have committed approximately $66 million to enhance local K-12 education.”

His charitable impact is truly felt at the state University level. Bren is on the record books as contributing more to support endowed chairs than any other single donor in the history of the University of California school system. Privately and through his foundations, he has given more than $60 million to support faculty and programs. In 2004, UC awarded him its highest honor, the University of California Presidential Medal.

“For well over two decades, Mr. Bren’s focus on the creation of endowment funds to support faculty chairs has helped bring to the University of California some of the best researchers and scholars in the nation and the world. His passionate philanthropy and commitment to education excellence have helped strengthen the university,” noted UC President Robert Dynes in June 2004.

UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara have been the two schools to receive the most significant gifts. In 2003, Bren donated $20 million to the School of Information and Computer Sciences at UC Irvine. The School now bears his name. He also has made major gifts to support the Claire Trevor School of the Arts, Bren Events Center, the Graduate School of Managements and the Beckman Laser Institute.

Up at UCSB, Bren gave an initial donation of $20 million to establish the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, a graduate studies program dedicated to the prevention and solution of environmental problems.

Opened in April 2002, Donald Bren Hall is the most environmentally sustainable -- laboratory building in the United States. Bren Hall sets the highest standard for sustainable buildings of the future.

The total cost of the building was $26 million. Building in a sustainable manner with sustainable materials added only 2% to the overall costs, which will easily be recouped by the energy savings over time.

The following year, the UC Regents adopted a Green Building Policy for all of its 10 campuses, and in November of that year UCSB committed to construct all new buildings to environmentally sustainable levels. Bren Hall is being used as a model for facilities and operations.

"This additional commitment to the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara will help attract and retain the very best professors in this critically important field," Bren has noted. His goal is for the school to “firmly establish itself as the most important center anywhere for teaching and research in environmental science and management."


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