The Fowler Museum at UCLA has received a $1 million gift and a pledge to match up to an additional $14 million in donations from long-standing supporters Jay and Deborah Last.

The Lasts have made many important gifts of art, helped fund the construction of the Fowler’s building on the UCLA campus, provided generous annual support, and endowed the Museum’s position of Curator of African Arts. Their most recent gift and matching challenge is intended to attract new donors who will join with them in supporting the Fowler Museum.

“Many people don’t realize what a valuable asset the Fowler Museum at UCLA is,” Jay Last said. “Those of us who believe in preserving world arts and cultures must do everything we can to sustain and grow the Museum. Deborah and I hope that our gift will inspire other donors to give to this cultural gem in Los Angeles.”

With the Last’s generous matching commitment, the Fowler looks to raise in excess of $28 million, $14 million from the Lasts and $14 million from donors whose gifts qualify for the match.

Trained as a physicist with a Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 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 arts. In 2015, Last published “African Art and Silicon Chips: A Life in Science and Art,” which illuminates the connections among his entrepreneurial, adventurous and art-connoisseur interests. He is also a founder of the Archaeological Conservancy. Deborah Last holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from UCLA and a master’s in print journalism from USC.

Jay Last has a lifelong interest in the arts of Africa and has been a collector of art from West and Central Africa since 1961. His major collection of more than 300 artworks from the Lega peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been gifted to the Fowler Museum and is one of the finest in the world.

“Jay and Deborah Last have generously donated more than 660 works of art to the Fowler Museum since 1973, and can be counted among the Museum’s most loyal patrons,” said Marla Berns, the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum. “The Fowler is committed to programming that opens pathways to understanding the world in all of its diversity as well as its shared humanity. Our role is to use the arts to educate and inspire our UCLA community and people of all ages in Los Angeles and beyond. Jay and Deborah believe strongly in the Fowler’s mission and have provided this financial commitment to see the Museum thrive and to help secure its future.”

The Last gift and all contributions to the matching challenge will support the Fowler’s pioneering global arts programming and outreach along with 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.

The 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.


Opening May 8, the exhibition, “The Collector and the Dealer: Gifts of African Art from Jay T. Last and Merton D. Simpson” will explore how the decades-long friendship of two individuals — the late New York-based, African art dealer Merton D. Simpson and collector, physicist and Fowler patron Jay Last — created a lasting impact on the growth and development of the Fowler Museum’s African collection through very generous gifts of art.