UC Irvine will rename its Science Library the Francisco J. Ayala Science Library in recognition of the world-renowned evolutionary biologist’s considerable scientific achievements and contributions to the campus.

Ayala, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at UCI, last month was named winner of the 2010 Templeton Prize — the latest of many honors, including the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest science prize, in 2002.

“Francisco Ayala’s contributions to science and society, along with his groundbreaking research and its implications for world health, exemplify the highest level of intellectual discourse and excellence at UC Irvine,” Chancellor Michael Drake said. “We are honored to have him as part of the UCI community and to dedicate the Science Library in his name.”

Ayala will donate his Templeton Prize award of $1.5 million to UCI to fund Francisco J. Ayala Graduate Fellowships in the School of Biological Sciences. A $100,000 portion will support research in ecology & evolutionary biology, including the evolutionary genetics program, which Ayala directs.

“Graduate students are among the great assets of a university and of science,” he said. “I would feel extremely rewarded and pleased if my gift helped attract graduate students to UCI who otherwise might have gone to other universities, or helped attract to science gifted students who otherwise might not have dedicated themselves to science. I am most grateful for what I have received from UCI over my 23 years on the faculty.”

Ayala, whose research on parasitic protozoa could lead to cures for malaria and other diseases, was announced the 2010 Templeton Prize recipient at a March 25 ceremony in Washington, D.C. The annual award honors people for exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension. Ayala’s elegant discussions on the necessary separation and coexistence of science and religion have made him a respected and sought-after commentator on such issues.

He was appointed in 1994 by President Clinton to the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science & Technology and is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences. While head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the mid-’90s, Ayala developed the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics & Religion program.

The Templeton Prize, bestowed by the John Templeton Foundation since 1973, is the world’s largest annual monetary award given to an individual. Britain’s Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, will present the prize to Ayala in a private ceremony May 5 at Buckingham Palace.

The naming of the Francisco J. Ayala Science Library is pending approval by the UC Office of the President.

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