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UC Irvine unveils $2-billion fundraising drive for research, healthcare, scholarships and culture

UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman gives the “zot, zot, zot” hand signal during the 2019 College Signing Day rally in May at the university’s Bren Events Center.
UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman gives the “zot” hand signal during the 2019 College Signing Day rally in May at the university’s Bren Events Center.
(File Photo)

Raising $2 billion in donations is no small feat, but UC Irvine is giving it a try.

In what the university calls the largest philanthropic campaign in Orange County history, UCI publicly launched a five-year fundraising drive Friday morning in an effort to bolster its scientific research, healthcare, student scholarships and cultural undertakings.

Initial fundraising for “Brilliant Future: The Campaign for UCI” began in August 2015, but it didn’t go public until Friday. The occasion was punctuated with festivities across the university’s main campus in Irvine and its medical center in Orange.

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As of Friday morning, the university had raised $776 million from thousands of donors, according to campus spokesman Tom Vasich.

The campaign, chaired by UCI Foundation trustees Jimmy and Sheila Peterson, is trying to raise a total of $2 billion by 2024.

“We’re looking for donations from all sources — from individuals, from foundations, from business leaders, from individual citizens like you and me,” Vasich said. “We really want to engage our alumni and we’re making connections with 75,000 of our alumni. We want our alumni to get involved in getting back in touch with being an Anteater.”

About half the money is earmarked for strengthening UCI’s healthcare programs, partly by expanding clinical facilities and the Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences, according to the university.

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New buildings for the College of Health Sciences and the Sue and Bill Gross School of Nursing are scheduled to break ground in January.

Expanding the medical program is a key part of the campaign’s effort to “spur groundbreaking discoveries and transform the campus,” Vasich said.

“Our department of pharmaceutical sciences and the program in public health will be elevated to the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and the School of Population Health,” Vasich said, “which will need funding to support the new infrastructure and faculty recruitment.”

Other projects include new research buildings, a new center for student success programs and an art museum and institute to showcase the university’s collection of California art.

The Student Success Center was announced in November and is expected to open in fall 2022. The museum is in its conceptual phase, Vasich said.

“UCI’s mission is to change lives for the better,” university Chancellor Howard Gillman said in a statement. “A vital part of accomplishing that involves support from community partners, grateful patients, alumni and parents who share our vision.”

This is UCI’s second 10-figure fundraising campaign. The first was launched in 2005 and raised more than $1 billion over a decade for 500 scholarships and graduate fellowships, endowment of 50 academic chairs and other efforts, according to a news release.

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