Building names on campus the result of hefty donations

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Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

If a UC Berkeley student wants to attend a lecture in a hall that bears his or her name, he or she might have to fork over at least a $1 million donation to campus.

The names of companies, foundations and alumni present in unassuming plaques or stretched across the front of academic buildings on campus are often the result of multimillion-dollar donations and represent a tangible marker of private support for UC Berkeley.

Donations allow UC Berkeley to “sustain its comprehensive excellence,” especially in the wake of state disinvestment in higher education, according to Chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

Records obtained by The Daily Californian show that more than $70 million in donations from 2011 to 2014 have resulted in honorary names on museums, halls and laboratories. Donations that resulted in the naming of campus structures were at least more than $1 million.

Criteria such as the relationship between the campus and the donor, the size of the gift relative to the cost of the space and previous gifts made by the donor to UC Berkeley are used to determine whether a campus structure should be named after a donor, said Carole Love, director of communications for the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Administration and Finance, which holds a subcommittee on naming.

Love said a building can be honored with a donor’s namesake “when gifts are of a sufficient size” and that the possibility of naming a building is typically initiated by the campus rather than the donor. Only Dirks and UC President Janet Napolitano have the authority to name campus structures.

Three years ago, UC Berkeley alumnus David Woo — resident architect of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive — donated $15 million toward the construction of a new art museum on Oxford Street. He requested that the museum’s current location on 2626 Bancroft Way be named Woo Hon Fai Hall in honor of his late father.

Later that year, former chancellor Robert Birgeneau, former UC president Mark Yudof, Woo and the UC Board of Regents signed a charitable pledge agreement.

Philanthropist and frequent UC Berkeley donor Bernard Osher also donated $5 million in 2012 toward the construction of the new museum in honor of his wife. In recognition, the campus offered to name the Pacific Film Archive Theater in the new museum the Barbro Osher Theater.

Another example is the family of late alumnus John P. Stock. The family donated $10 million to UC Berkeley to establish a faculty fellows program in his honor. The campus subsequently offered to name a lecture hall in the Li Ka Shing Center the John P. Stock Auditorium; the center itself was named after the wealthiest person in Asia after Li Ka-shing donated $40 million to the campus.

Philanthropic foundations and prominent technology companies have also left their mark.

The Simons Foundation, which supports mathematics and sciences, provided a $60 million grant in 2012 toward the construction of the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at UC Berkeley, which promotes collaborative research in computer science.

Meanwhile, Texas Instruments gifted $2.2 million to UC Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences Department in 2012 for the renovation of the undergraduate Electronics Design Laboratory in Cory Hall. College of Engineering Dean S. Shankar Sastry requested that the laboratory be renamed in honor of the company.

“These private funds now play a central role in preserving the university’s public ethos and mission by virtue of the support they provide for a wide range of programs and initiatives focused on campus priorities such as access for low income students, diversity, public service and research in the public interest,” Dirks said in an email.

Contact Sophie Mattson at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MattsonSophie.

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