The UC Irvine Beckman Laser Institute received the largest single cash contribution in the university's history Thursday as the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation of Corona del Mar presented the medical clinic with $6.2 million.
The gift launches a campuswide campaign that officials hope will bring in more than $200 million over the next few years and continued support from the Orange County community.
"This gift is most exciting because it assures the institute the funding necessary to remain at the forefront of laser biomedicine," said the institute's director and co-founder, Dr. Michael Berns.
A large part of the donation--$5.2 million--will be directed toward the institute's research endowment, while the remaining portion will complete a pledge made last year by the Beckman foundation to support new research positions.
The gift brings the laser institute's endowment to more than $10 million.
The laser institute, which is named for Dr. Arnold O. Beckman, is reported to be the first facility in the world where laser research and treatment take place side by side. The $7-million building that houses the clinic was specially designed around lasers, which number more than 30, with a special lasers distribution system, portable lasers and special walls to diffuse an ill-directed light beam.
Beckman, who has contributed more than $11 million to the institute since its inception in 1982, said he is continuing his support of the clinic to further the research of laser technology and to ensure the clinic's international recognition.
"I've been especially pleased by the progress made toward establishing the laser institute as an internationally recognized facility," Beckman said. "The institute has become renowned for the quality of its research. Scientists come here from all over the world to participate in collaborative projects. It's serving as a model for the creation of laser facilities in Europe and the Soviet Union."
The Orange County philanthropist has reportedly donated more than $160 million during the past five years to medical and science research around the country.
Beckman, who suffers from hearing loss, added that he was also pleased about the institute's research into optic fiber laser surgery within the inner ear to correct impaired hearing.
The institute, which also receives $2 million in government grants each year, uses lasers to reshape human corneas, treat infertility in women, remove birthmarks from children, and diagnose and treat cancer.
Along with adding three senior-level scientists to the clinic staff, administrators say they also hope to establish with the Beckman gift an in-house residency program that will allow scientists from around the world to join in research efforts.
"This endowment provides us the flexibility to continue to do highly innovative research and collaborate with other top institutions," Berns said. "To attract top talent, you must have the funds."
UCI received more than $32.8 million in private gifts during the 1988-89 school year, making it Orange County's largest fund-raiser, according to UCI spokesman Scott Nelson.