Donald Bren, Chairman of the Board of Irvine Company, has been deeply involved in California real estate as a master planner, master builder and long-term investor for 50 years.
Born in Los Angeles, Bren earned a degree in economics and business administration from the University of Washington. Following his education, he served three years as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Bren joined the Mission Viejo Company in 1963 as president and began the master planning and master development of the 11,000-acre new community of Mission Viejo, California. In 1967, Bren sold his interest in the Mission Viejo Company to expand his statewide building and development activities.
In 1977, Bren was a member of an investment group that purchased Irvine Company from the Irvine Foundation. Bren was elected Chairman of the Board in 1983 and became the principal shareholder. In 1996, he became sole shareholder.
Irvine Company traces its roots back to 1864, and is one of California’s oldest and most respected companies. It began as a 120,000-acre ranching and farming operation in what is now Orange County, California.
Today, Bren leads a team of Irvine Company executives that plan and bring to life balanced, sustainable communities throughout coastal California, one of the most dynamic and desirable regions in the world. The company’s five divisions of Office, Retail, Apartments, Homes and Resorts oversee a property portfolio that exceeds 120 million square feet.
Under Bren’s leadership, Irvine Company has set aside more than half of the original 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch as permanently protected open space and parklands. In 2006, much of this land was designated a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In 2008, it was designated as the first California Natural Landmark by the State of California.
As one of the world’s leading philanthropists, Bren believes the foundation of a balanced community is a healthy environment and world-class education system. This belief has led him to commit more than $1.3 billion to preserve and care for open space and to support public K-12 education, universities, and research institutions.
Key Philanthropic Contributions
- Established one of California’s largest nature preserves by dedicating 60 percent of the 93,000 acre Irvine Ranch as public open space and contributed $50 million to protect the land and foster public use.
- Created University of California’s first dedicated school of computer science, the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, as part of a $60 million commitment to UC Irvine.
- Created the nation’s first environmental research school, the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, at UC Santa Barbara, with a $15 million commitment.
- Endowed more than 50 permanent chairs at UC Irvine, Chapman University and Caltech to advance research – including more permanent chairs at Caltech and the UC system than anyone in history.
- Provided one of the largest gifts ever to a public school district to teach Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), with a $45 million commitment.
- Caltech’s highest honor, the Robert A. Millikan Medal
- University of California’s highest honor, the Presidential Medal
- Marine Corps University Foundation’s Gen. Leonard F. Chapman Jr. Medal
- Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences