UC-Irvine priest-faculty member makes $10 million gift

by Tom Gallagher

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In the good news department, the Orange County Business Journal is reporting:

A University of California, Irvine, professor who is an ordained Roman Catholic priest and has worked to establish common ground between science and religion in the debate over evolution donated $10 million to the School of Biological Sciences there.

Francisco J. Ayala will fund the gift—the largest by a faculty member in UCI's 46-year history—from a vineyard he has owned for decades.

"When you can do good things, you should do them," said Ayala, a native of Spain, in a statement. "This is a way of showing my gratitude to this university, which has been so good to me, where I have been able to do my research and teach wonderful students, and where I have been honored in so many ways. In a larger context, it's a way of expressing my gratitude to this country. I came to the United States as a student, with no intention to stay, and yet here I am."

Ayala serves as the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, a position endowed by the chairman of Newport Beach-based developer Irvine Company. The 77-year-old was ordained as a priest in the Dominican Order, and started his scientific career by teaching himself about genetics.

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