UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman and UC President Michael V. Drake at the June 4 ceremony christening Michael Drake Drive

Credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

A June 4 ceremony honoring UC President Michael V. Drake (right) included campus and community leaders, such as UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gillman (left).

In recognition of his leadership during an era of unprecedented growth, the University of California, Irvine has honored Chancellor Emeritus Michael V. Drake, M.D., by christening a major entry road to the campus in his name.

Michael Drake Drive is replacing a stretch of Bison Avenue beginning at the intersection of California Avenue and ending at Ring Road, near the center of campus. The renaming was made possible with the Orange County Fire Authority and the City of Irvine.

Drake received this supreme tribute at a June 4 event attended by campus and community leaders. He is the current president of the University of California system and served as UCI’s chancellor from 2005 to 2014.

With this recognition, UCI continues its tradition of naming campus locations after its former top leaders. Drake joins former UCI Chancellors Daniel Aldrich, Jack Peltason, Laurel Wilkening and Ralph Cicerone in having a campus locale bear his name. UCI is distinctive among American universities in that it has bestowed this elite honor by naming in perpetuity campus locations after its chancellors – ranging from roads and a baseball field to a park and a rose garden.

Workers carry the Michael Drake street sign
Michael Drake Drive is the southern entrance to UCI and the main thoroughfare from the 73 freeway onto campus and major connector to the growing health sciences campus
Credit: Steve Zylius / UCI

“I’m incredibly humbled to be honored in this way on the University of California at Irvine campus,” said President Drake. “My family and I called UCI home for nearly a decade, and this means so much to us. UCI holds a very special place in our lives, and I’m so grateful to be remembered alongside my predecessors in such a meaningful way.”

“For decades to come, as visitors and members of our community enter campus, they will be reminded of the contributions Michael Drake made to our advancement,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “He was not only the architect of UCI’s rise to national and global prominence, but he set the standard in his commitment to the power of higher education to increase social mobility.”

Bison Avenue is the southern entrance to UCI and the main thoroughfare from the 73 freeway onto campus. It’s the major connector to the growing health sciences campus, which includes research and clinical buildings that are part of UCI Health and the Susan & Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences. The road leads to the academic core of campus between research buildings for the School of Physical Sciences and the School of Biological Sciences.

Campus leaders chose to rename Bison Avenue in recognition of Drake because it symbolizes his standing as a physician and a member of the elite National Academy of Medicine. It also personifies his commitment to the health sciences, both at UCI and within the UC system, where he served as the UC vice president of health affairs before coming to the Irvine campus.

Serendipitously, Michael Drake Drive will intersect with East Peltason Drive, which was named in 1997 after Chancellor Emeritus Jack Peltason. Drake and Peltason also both served as UC presidents.

Map showing Michael Drake Drive

An era of unprecedented growth

Drake oversaw the creation of the first new public law school in California in over 40 years and led the launch of programs in public health, pharmaceutical sciences and nursing, as well as the formation of the School of Education.

Under his watch, UCI added more than 5 million square feet of new construction, including the nearly 500,000-square-foot UCI Douglas Hospital and the 275,000-square-foot Student Center. The campus also received nationwide acclaim for its environmental sustainability and, at the time, boasted 11 buildings that had earned LEED Platinum certification, the highest possible.

A champion of diversity and dialogue, Drake helped develop and launch the UCI School of Medicine’s innovative Program in Medical Education for the Latino Community, which aims to improve healthcare for Latinos. PRIME-LC remains the template for medical education programs focused on underserved communities.

During his tenure, UCI rose from the mid-teens to one of the nation’s top 10 public universities in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. In addition to claiming the top spot on Sierra magazine’s list of the “Coolest Schools” for improving energy efficiency and sustainability, UCI was deemed by Times Higher Education in 2012 and again in 2013 the No. 1 university in the country – and the fifth worldwide – under 50 years old.

And in one of his last acts as UCI chancellor, Drake presented the UCI Medal to President Barack Obama before his memorable 2014 commencement address in front of 40,000 students, family members, faculty, staff and supporters at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Michael and Brenda Drake received the UCI Medal in 2017.

The private naming ceremony for Michael Drake Drive was held across from the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. On June 5, Drake was the keynote speaker at the UCI School of Medicine’s commencement ceremony.