A gift of $5 million from Morton La Kretz, a UCLA alumnus and longtime supporter, will catalyze the renovation of the campus’s Botany Building. The restoration and improvements made possible by the donation will enhance research and teaching on plant, conservation and environmental biology in the UCLA College’s department of ecology and evolutionary biology.
“Time and again, Morton La Kretz has stepped up to help UCLA fund important work related to environmental sustainability and conservation,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said. “His latest gift will enable us to proceed with long-awaited upgrades that will provide a first-rate facility for faculty and students engaged in vital research on plant and conservation biology.”
Designed by pioneering architect Paul Revere Williams and completed in 1959, the Botany Building has been home to generations of renowned faculty and researchers. Its location, adjacent to UCLA’s Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden in the southeastern corner of the campus, is no accident: The building’s third floor features a glass facade overlooking the garden, offering students a view of the garden and the plants they are studying, and inviting ample natural light into the work environment.
“My gift is a natural extension to the Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden and complements the work being done on plant conservation and environmental sciences in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology and the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability,” La Kretz said. “This gift also supports important research in plant biodiversity, biology and botany, which are important themes in my philanthropy and are critical for the future of our planet.”
La Kretz’s gift will finance the renovation of the building’s entrances, a first-floor botanical teaching lab and conservation research laboratories on the third floor. Subsequent projects will be determined later depending on the recommendations of the master plan for the building and the remaining funds from the gift.
“Morton La Kretz’s generosity will enable the Botany Building to fulfill its potential as a world-class scientific research and education facility, empowering faculty and students to accomplish great things in the decades to come,” said Victoria Sork, UCLA’s dean of life sciences. “We are incredibly grateful to him for this transformative gift, which underscores his longstanding commitment to conservation and environmental research.”
La Kretz’s gift is part of the $4.2 billion UCLA Centennial Campaign, which is scheduled to conclude in December 2019 during UCLA’s 100th anniversary year. He has made several other major gifts to UCLA over the past 16 years, including lead gifts toward the construction of La Kretz Hall, which houses UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability; and to the creation of the La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, which is administered by IoES and located in the Santa Monica Mountains. In addition, his philanthropy has enabled UCLA to complete major revitalization projects in the botanical garden, including construction of a new north entrance and visitor center.