The University of California, Irvine today announced a $20 million gift from business leader and philanthropist Donald Bren to support the university’s recently established School of Law.
“This gift provides tremendous momentum for our new law school,” said Chancellor Michael V. Drake. “The endowment will help us attract renowned legal scholars who will educate future leaders, serve the Orange County community, and help our university quickly ascend the ranks of leading law schools in the country.”
The gift establishes an endowment to help recruit and support a nationally recognized dean and 11 distinguished law scholars. It also will provide the dean with discretionary start-up funding. In recognition of the gift, the school will be named the Donald Bren School of Law.
“This is the first public law school to open in California in more than 40 years, and an important new area of study at UC Irvine that will boost the quality and strength of its curriculum across a number of schools,” said Bren. “I would like to see the school built on a foundation of the most accomplished faculty available. And my hope is that this school will educate a new generation of talented students in both law and other important interdisciplinary studies, and produce well-rounded and highly qualified professionals and leaders.”
The law school was approved by the University of California Board of Regents in November 2006. UC Irvine is conducting a national search for a founding dean, and the school is scheduled to open to the first class of law students in fall 2009. The school will produce leaders in law, government and business, and UCI law graduates will be encouraged to pursue careers in public service, including non-governmental organizations and philanthropic agencies.
In addition to offering the Juris Doctor degree, which prepares students to practice law, the school will offer the Master of Laws (LL.M.) and Doctor of the Science of Law (J.S.D.) degrees. Created to emphasize interdisciplinary study, the school will leverage campus strengths in emerging technology, social policy, international business and health care to develop inter-professional programs such as a dual J.D. and Master of Public Health and an accelerated J.D./M.B.A. – one of the most popular joint degrees.
Bren has been a major donor to UCI since 1984, and has endowed more permanent faculty chairs than anyone in the campus’s history. In 1988, he established the Donald Bren Endowment to help UCI successfully compete for the nation’s most distinguished faculty and achieve its goal of becoming one of the country’s premier research universities. The endowment supports 37 endowed chairs for distinguished faculty in the arts and sciences, including those held by such internationally recognized researchers as Nobel Prize-winning chemist F. Sherwood Rowland, National Medal of Science recipient Francisco Ayala and world-renowned choreographer Donald McKayle. The endowed distinguished faculty positions in the School of Law will be supported by the Donald Bren Endowment.
Bren’s previous support at UCI led to the naming of the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, and the renaming of the Claire Trevor School of the Arts – after his late stepmother, the Academy Award-winning actress. Over the years, his contributions also helped build the Bren Events Center and Beckman Laser Institute at UCI.
In 2004, recognizing his wide-ranging support for the University of California system, Bren was awarded its highest honor, the University of California Presidential Medal. Forty-one of the 50 endowed chairs for distinguished faculty he has sponsored at universities and research institutions are at UC campuses. In giving the award to him, UC President Robert C. Dynes lauded Bren for “his passionate philanthropy and commitment to educational excellence [which] have helped strengthen the university.”