Chances are, if you knew that one of the top university museums in America — one unparalleled in its vast global art collections — existed in your city, you would do everything you could to help it thrive. Jay Last and Deborah Last ’60 are counting on it.
The couple just gave $1 million and pledged $14 million more as a matching challenge to the Fowler Museum at UCLA. “Many people don’t realize what a treasure the Fowler Museum at UCLA is,” says Jay Last. “Those of us who believe in preserving art and culture must do everything we can to sustain and grow it. Deborah and I hope that our gift will inspire other donors to give to this cultural gem in Los Angeles.”
A Man of Many Interests
Trained as a physicist, Jay Last is one of the eight founders, known as the “fathers of Silicon Valley,” of Fairchild Semiconductor Corporation. He also founded and is president of Hillcrest Press, a publisher of books dealing with California art, ethnic art, and graphic art. It’s a long way from Silicon Valley to Africa, but the Lasts have helped UCLA shorten the distance figuratively with nearly $40 million in total gifts and pledges — including gifts of valuable art — to the Fowler Museum. Last has been collecting African art since 1961, and among his gifts to the Fowler is a collection of more than 300 artworks made by the Lega peoples of Central Africa.
If the idea of a man of science devoting much of his life to collecting art sounds like the makings of an interesting story, that’s because it is. And Last has written it. In 2015, he published African Art and Silicon Chips: A Life in Science and Art, which illuminates the connections among his entrepreneurial, adventurous, and art-connoisseur spirits.
Discovering the World at UCLA
The Lasts’ matching challenge is intended to attract new donors who will join them in supporting one of L.A.’s most valuable assets. The Fowler is unique in that it brings the diversity and richness of the world to UCLA and to the people of Los Angeles. For example, “People who have never even heard of Timor can come to the Fowler and see how its colorful textiles are this Southeast Asian island’s primary vehicles of cultural expression,” says Marla C. Berns, Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA.
Contributions will support the Fowler’s pioneering global arts programming and its efforts to make the museum’s world-class collections accessible for teaching and research, to build a stellar curatorial team, and to grow a robust endowment.
Published June 2016