The University of California, Irvine, has set its sights on an ambitious goal: to become one of the most distinguished research and teaching universities in the United States. Last month, thanks to the generosity of Orange County real estate developer Donald Leroy Bren, UCI took a giant step toward meeting that goal.

At a July 18 news conference, the school announced a $1 million contribution from Bren, which, together with his gift of $1.5 million last August, will serve as the founding capital for the Bren Fellows Program, a series of up to 25 new faculty chairs, initially in the natural sciences and medicine.

UCI also announced that Francisco J. Ayala, of the university's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, has been named the first Bren Fellow, as well as the director of the Bren Fellows Program. That appointment will be supported by Bren's gift last August, whereas his new...

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