Athalie R. Clarke, a family trustee of the Irvine Co. and a political and philanthropic activist for half a century who helped to establish UC Irvine, has died.
Mrs. Clarke, who was married to James Irvine III until his death, was 90 when she died Saturday in her Newport Beach home.
Her only child, Irvine Co. heiress Joan Irvine Smith, called her mother "the grand dame of Orange County" and described her death as "the passing of an era."
Mrs. Clarke married Irvine in 1929. He was the son of the founder of the powerful Irvine Co., which transformed 108,000 acres of chaparral into an agribusiness producing avocados, oranges and lima beans. After her first husband's death, Mrs. Clarke married U.S. District Judge Thurmond Clarke.
As a young woman, Mrs. Clarke was a commercial artist, rendering fashion sketches for newspapers and magazines and teaching at a Los Angeles art school.
Politically active, she was a Republican delegate to many presidential conventions. She encouraged both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan to run for President.
Mrs. Clarke served for years on the Irvine Co. board of trustees, and when her daughter replaced her in 1957, the two became a formidable force for causes they believed in. Together, they pressed for a master plan for the ranch that included the city of Irvine.
They also persuaded the directors to provide the land on which UC Irvine was established. The two women have donated millions to expand that university and its programs. Last October, they gave a $1-million grant to boost research by UC Irvine's top atmospheric scientists. In 1991, they gave $2 million to the College of Medicine.
Recently, Mrs. Clarke and her daughter began the National Water Research Institute, now one of the largest research organizations of its kind in the country.
Mrs. Clarke was a former trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Science and Industry, and at her death was a director of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation. She had served on the White House preservation committee.
In recent years, Mrs. Clarke and Joan Irvine Smith teamed up to battle the Irvine Co. over the value of their shares. After an eight-year court fight, they reached a settlement in which the company paid each woman nearly $128 million and ended most of the Irvine family's century-long involvement with the company.
In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Clarke is survived by three grandsons and three great-grandchildren.
The family has asked that any memorial contributions be made to the UC Irvine College of Medicine, the House Ear Institute or the National Water Research Institute.