The Irvine Company

The relationship between the University of California and The Irvine Company began in the late 1950s when the University began its search for a new southern California campus to accommodate the expected post-World War II student population boom. After considering twenty-one possible sites for a campus in the Los Angeles/Orange County metropolitan area, in 1959 the UC Regents selected a site on the Irvine Ranch in Orange County.

Single ownership of the proposed site by The Irvine Company was a major factor in the selection, particularly given the opportunity to build, in concert with the campus, the university town that architect William Pereira envisioned. The connection between the Company and the campus was further strengthened when Pereira was retained by the Company to expand on the university town concept to design the City of Irvine.

The pedestrian bridge connecting UCI with the Town Center
The pedestrian bridge connecting UCI with the Town Center.

In 1960, thanks in part to the strong support of board member Joan Irvine Smith, the great-granddaughter of the founder of the Irvine Ranch, the Company donated 1,000 acres of land to be used for the new campus. The University paid a symbolic one dollar for the property.

Four years later, the Regents purchased an additional adjacent 500 acres from the Company; this acreage became known as the "inclusion area" and was intended to accommodate non-academic university needs such as housing. The inclusion area has since been developed to include the University Research Park, the University Hills faculty housing complex, the Barclay Theatre, and other structures.

The Irvine Company has maintained its partnership with UC Irvine ever since. Indicative of this relationship are the Donald Bren School of Computer and Information Sciences, named in 2004 for the Irvine Company Chairman and major UCI benefactor, and Watson Bridge, the pedestrian bridge linking UCI to the University Center across Campus Drive. The bridge serves as a symbolic link between campus and community, and it is appropriate that it was dedicated on October 27, 2005, in honor of Raymond L. Watson, the former Irvine Company president who served as chief planner for the Company during the early years when UCI was being designed and constructed.

Samuel McCulloch, Instant University (Irvine: University of California, Irvine, 1996), 5, 184

Photograph: University Communications Photographs. AS-061, Box 25. University of California, Irvine Libraries. Special Collections and Archives. Accessed Dec. 1, 2017