Gifts in Action

    The following gifts are just a few examples of various kinds of support received for the people, programs, and facilities of the Bren School. We are deeply appreciative to those who so generously contribute their time, treasure, and talent for the benefit of the school.

    $17 Million Endowment Continues 150-Year Legacy

    The Bren School is thrilled to have received a substantial gift from the Michael J. Connell Memorial Fund.

    Michael J. Connell was born in Ireland in 1854 and immigrated to the U.S. as a young man, where he enjoyed significant financial success in retail, mining, real estate, and banking. He incorporated the Michael J. Connell Charities, Ltd. in 1931 (which ultimately became the Michael J. Connell Foundation) to manage his broad philanthropic  interests in the arts and education. But one cause, the environment, was especially dear to him. Following his passing in 1936, the Michael J. Connell Memorial Fund was established as an independent trust, and the income dedicated to the University of California, with no specific direction as to its use.

    Michael J. Connell Memorial Fund Fellows, 2010-2011

    Recently, Richard Wilson, the only remaining trustee who has a familial connection to Mr. Connell, determined that the Bren School should ultimately be the beneficiary of the trust. As a lifelong conservationist, Mr. Wilson has devoted much of his productive energies toward utilizing natural resources in a sustainable way so that a given landscape can be productive for the economic benefit of its inhabitants.

    Recipients of Michael J. Connell Memorial Fund Fellowship
    Trustee Richard Wilson and recipients of the Michael J. Connell Memorial Fund Fellowship. Back row, from left: Andrew MacDonald, Adeyemi Adeleye, Andrew Prosser, Matt Kay; Middle row, from left: Annie Yau, Richard Wilson, Rachel Freed; front row, from left: Stephanie Horii, Sally Johnson, Mimi Soo-Hoo, Ellie Knecht. Not pictured: Tal Ben-Horin.

    Speaking recently with Bren School dean, Steve Gaines, Mr. Wilson said, “I was keenly interested in shifting the benefit of these funds to the Bren School due to its underlying principle of bringing together the disciplines of environmental science, business management, policy, and law. I know Michael J. Connell would have been interested in this from his perspective in a different era, so I feel that this support to the Bren School carries forward his vision and is quite appropriate.”

    Mr. Wilson feels that it is critical that a respected institution such as the Bren School have the resources that allow it to provide unbiased scientific information to decision makers in California and to the public at large. Mr. Wilson served as director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection from 1991-1999. During his tenure he participated on the front lines of environmental policy and conservation, witnessing a pressing need for environmental solutions to reconcile resource conservation and utilization with the economic forces that drive our way of life. He was frequently frustrated by the lack of capacity in the university system to provide unbiased advice to state agencies. His commitment to the environment and to preserving our natural resources has been a central focus of his personal philosophy. At his direction, funds from the

    Note: Richard Wilson is the subject of an oral history completed by the Regional Oral History Office (ROHO) of The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley. The purpose of ROHO is to capture experiences, information. and insights from those who have impacted California history through their roles in a variety of subject areas.

    Find out more about the Oral History Office project.

    See the interview with Richard Wilson on YouTube.

    Michael J. Connell Memorial Fund are to be used by the Bren School “as it may determine, with some preference to be given to utilizing such distributions in the area of watershed protection and productivity and protection of forest lands as being critical to our water supply.”

    By directing this endowment to the Bren School, Mr. Wilson continues a 150-year legacy of giving to the University of California and commences an unprecedented commitment to independent environmental science and management education and research at UC Santa Barbara. With great appreciation to Mr. Wilson, the courtyard at Bren Hall was dedicated to the memory and legacy of Michael J. Connell in a ceremony at the Bren School on October 28, 2010.

    See the Grand Opening Program