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Audrey Steele Burnand Gifts $57.75M


Last updated 2/25/2022 at 3:07pm

The estate of Audrey Steele Burnand has gifted $57.75 million to the University of California, Irvine to fund the creation of a new campus wide center that will pursue research into the causes and treatment of depression and also support the UCI-managed Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center.

As part of her estate gift to the university, $2.631 million will go toward providing perpetual support to the UCI-managed Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, which is part of the University of California Natural Reserve System. The 75-acre facility provides research and environmental engagement opportunities for students, scientists and the community.

“The recently announced $2.631 million gift from the estate of the late philanthropist Audrey Steele Burnand to the University of California, Irvine’s Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center provides a tremendous financial boost to the Center,” Jim Dice, Reserve Manager of the UCI Steele/Burnand Anza-Borrego Desert Research Center, said.

“The gift has been converted into an endowment for the Research Center and the interest from that endowment will provide financial stability for the staffing, operations and maintenance of the facility. The Center is fortunate in this respect, as few biological field stations have this type of financial security.”

Dice added, “The proceeds from the endowment will also enable UC Irvine to keep user fees affordable for visiting researchers and for university, community college, and K-12 classes. User fees at the Center have primarily covered the costs of water, electricity, trash and recycling, as well as on-going maintenance.”

A previous gift by Mrs. Burnand was responsible for the establishment of the Research Center in 2011. Since the Center’s opening in April 2012, it has provided lodging, meeting space, and classroom/lab space for researchers and classes from 140 different institutions and organizations around the world – including 27 California universities, 41 other U.S. universities, and 14 different international universities.

The other $55 million of the gift is earmarked for advancing depression research at UCI. It’s believed to be the largest philanthropic donation to a U.S. university to support research focused solely on depression, which is the most prevalent mental health disorder in the U.S.

“This is a truly transformative gift from a longtime and great supporter of our vital work,” said UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Audrey Steele Burnand’s legacy will enable us to create a world-class research center that builds upon UCI’s historical excellence in the neurosciences to make life better for millions of people.”

The gift will create the Noel Drury M.D. Depression Research Center. Drury is a board-certified psychiatrist who practiced in Newport Beach. UCI is distinctively able to use the Burnand gift through the Drury Depression Research Center to conduct innovative research in myriad campus areas – from biology and the health sciences to engineering, psychological science and the social sciences.

“This is an opportunity for UCI to make an enormous contribution toward helping the millions of people who directly and indirectly suffer from the effects of depression, which has become a major mental health crisis that can lead to job loss, social relationship breakdowns, drug abuse and suicide,” said Frank LaFerla, dean of the School of Biological Sciences. “Through the discoveries made at this outstanding new research center, we look forward to becoming a global scientific leader in uncovering the underpinnings of depression and helping those who need it most.”

A well-known philanthropist who lived in Newport Beach, Audrey Burnand contributed to the arts, education, environmental conservation, and scientific and medical research at institutions throughout Southern California. She died on June 27, 2020.

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