October 18, 2011 | 2:37pm
Francisco Ayala has announced he is donating $10 million to UC Irvine's School of Biological Sciences, the largest gift ever by a faculty member at the university.
A renowned geneticist, the 77-year-old professor was once dubbed the 'Renaissance man of evolutionary biology' by The New York Times. He's a vocal opponent of intelligent design and the intrusion of religion into science.
And no, the chunk of change is not coming from his professor's salary. The gift will be funded with profits from the vineyards he owns in Central California, which supply grapes to major winemakers across the state.
"When you can do good things, you should do them," Ayala told the university.
Al Bennett, UCI's biological sciences dean, will be the first beneficiary and hold a $2 million endowed dean's chair. The donation will also fund four new research chairs.
"The purpose is to recruit the best possible people," he Ayala told the school. "UCI is a very young university, but it is very good, and we are getting better and better. Ours is one of the finest departments of ecology and evolution in the world."
In the wake of campus budget cuts, university chancellor Michael Drake said in a statement that the donation is "much more than we could have imagined."
"This gift provides help right when we need it, right where we need it, targeted strategically to produce the greatest impact for our campus."