PASADENA-The Donald Bren Foundation of Newport Beach has awarded the California Institute of Technology a $10 million grant to establish named professorships to support Caltech's ambitious Biological Sciences Initiative.
The Bren Professors Endowment will provide support for scholarly activities in biology and related disciplines, which are focused on solving some of the toughest problems of the life sciences. This gift brings the Biological Sciences Initiative total to over $80 million. A three-year fundraising effort announced in May 1998, the Initiative aims to provide essential resources and people to explore new territory in the biological sciences through the kind of interdisciplinary approach at which Caltech excels.
"Caltech's focus on biological sciences will open a new area for its scholarly inquiry and research that promises endless possibilities to profoundly touch and improve our lives," said Bren, the chairman of The Irvine Company. "It pleases me to be able to encourage this initiative and the distinguished scholars who will carry it out."
The named professorship is the highest honor a university can confer upon a faculty member. It is a tool to recognize and reward achievements and for recruiting senior faculty to join a new institution. Ultimately, five senior faculty will be named new Bren Professors, joining Peter Dervan who holds the first Bren Professorship established at Caltech in 1988.
Initially, a portion of the $10 million grant will be used to establish the Bren Scholars Program, which will support new faculty identified by Caltech as scientific stars before they are recognized in the scientific community at large. The Bren Scholars Program will fund the expenses associated with initiating their research programs for a period of six years, thus launching them on a lifelong career, and maximizing their contributions to science and engineering. After six years, the endowment for the Bren Scholars Program will be added to the Bren Professors Endowment.
The Bren Foundation grant is being made in memory of Earle Jorgensen, Bren's stepfather, who died this August at the age of 101. He was a self-made Southern California steel pioneer, whose products fortified the area's economic boom and whose commitment to community included support for Ronald Reagan's campaigns for governor of California and president. He also served as a member of Reagan's "kitchen cabinet." Jorgensen was a Caltech trustee from 1957 to 1999.
"Earle's life spanned the 20th Century, and for 42 years, he brought his special energy, optimism, curiosity, and interest in science and engineering to the Caltech board - attending his last meeting as a Life Trustee after he had turned 100," said Bren who has been a Caltech trustee since 1983.
Caltech President David Baltimore said the grant will help Caltech reach its goals. "I think Don has focused his giving on the most important aspect of Caltech, which is the quality of our faculty," Baltimore said. "Bringing the very best people here is at the heart of Caltech's mission."
The Bren Foundation is a private philanthropic organization chartered by Donald Bren, the chairman of The Irvine Company, to further his lifetime interests in public and private education, scientific research, conservation, and the visual arts.
Since 1988, Bren's higher education philanthropy is making possible, over time, the creation of at least 20 endowed chairs that are being filled at U.C. Irvine, U.C. Santa Barbara, Caltech and Chapman University.
Founded in 1891, Caltech has an enrollment of some 2,000 students, and an academic staff of about 280 professorial faculty and 130 research faculty. The Institute has more than 19,000 alumni. Caltech employs a staff of more than 1,700 on campus and 5,300 at JPL.
Over the years, 28 Nobel Prizes and four Crafoord Prizes have been awarded to faculty members and alumni, including the Nobel Prize in chemistry awarded to Professor Ahmed Zewail earlier this month. Forty-four Caltech faculty members and alumni have received the National Medal of Science; and eight alumni (two of whom are also trustees), two additional trustees, and one faculty member have won the National Medal of Technology. Since 1958, 13 faculty members have received the annual California Scientist of the Year award. On the Caltech faculty there are 77 fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and on the faculty and Board of Trustees, 69 members of the National Academy of Sciences and 49 members of the National Academy of Engineering.