Irvine, Calif., Oct. 18, 2011 Acclaimed UC Irvine geneticist Francisco J. Ayala, best known for his work straddling the divide between religion and evolution, will donate $10 million to the School of Biological Sciences. The gift, the largest ever by a UCI faculty member, will be funded with profits from flourishing vineyards Ayala bought decades ago.
"When you can do good things, you should do them," said the University Professor and Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, who came to UCI nearly a quarter of a century ago. "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."
An ordained Dominican priest and, originally, a self-taught geneticist, Ayala, 77, arrived in the U.S. in 1961 from a "backward" Spain caught in Francisco Franco's grip to study science. Since then, he has achieved international prominence as a molecular biologist whose work has advanced the search for cures for malaria and other devastating diseases. A vocal opponent of "intelligent design" and those who deny the existence of evolution, he has been awarded the National Medal of Science and the Templeton Prize.
Ayala has written more than 1,000 articles and 40 books; his recent "Am I a Monkey?" explores major evolutionary themes, including how science and religion can coexist. A lover of pinot noir and opera, onetime horse breeder and voracious reader, the "Renaissance man of evolutionary biology" as he was dubbed by The New York Times he began buying land in Central California in the 1980s and turned it into vineyards supplying grapes to the state's major winemakers.
The announcement of the gift comes at a welcome time for UCI,
|Contact: Janet Wilson|
University of California - Irvine