Times Staff Writer

The Orange County Performing Arts Center's operating endowment drive has reached $39 million in "gift commitments"--far surpassing the originally announced $20-million goal, Center officials said Wednesday.

The $39-million total, all in private contributions, was disclosed by Carl Mitchell, chairman of the Center Endowment Council. "It is tremendously rewarding not only to have reached but also to have exceeded our goal before the center is opened," he said.

The Center's main-theater phase--a 3,000-seat multipurpose theater and a 350-seat studio-type facility--is set to open in October, 1986, in Costa Mesa. To date, $51.2 million in private contributions has also been raised toward the $70.7-million cost of constructing that phase.

Although several endowment donors have made cash contributions, this fund usually attracts gifts derived from charitable trusts, life-estate agreements, will bequests and life insurance policies, Mitchell said.

Interest generated from the fund is to help defray costs of programming, facilities maintenance and other operations at the Center.

Donors who have pledged endowment gifts of $1 million or more include Robert P. Peebles, the Harry G. Steele Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Hunsaker, Patricia R. Fredricks and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hester/the Hester Family Foundation.

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