A Legacy of Giving: Jay Last ’51

“Rochester changed my life.” –Jay Last ’51

A Legacy of Giving: Jay Last ’51

Jay Last ’51 is a Silicon Valley pioneer, distinguished art collector, and author. As an early leader in the development of semiconductors, he helped usher in the computer revolution. His keen interest in design and form led him to collect African art, making him part of the first generation of Westerners devoted to the continent’s visual art traditions.

Last’s legacy of support for the University is as profound as his passion for science and art. Over many years, he has supported our faculty and students through innovative gifts that helped establish key programs in the Arts, Sciences & Engineering. His critical early support made possible the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program, the new Language Center in the Frederick Douglass Building, and fellowships for junior faculty in the humanities, in addition to annual support for River Campus Libraries.

In the video and text that follow, Last talks about his passion for making Rochester “ever better.”

“One of the things I’ve thought a lot about is the responsibilities of a citizen in a country where someone is looking more beyond his own personal interests and trying to contribute to a broader society.

I started thinking of how fortunate I was to have gotten an education at Rochester and I said that I will give Rochester what they gave me, in tuition every year. And I’ve done that for the rest of my life . . . I’ve exceeded that by now.

I feel so pleased with how Rochester changed my life.

When I was in high school I didn’t know if I was going to have the chance to go to college. So I said, at I least I have a couple of skills that can keep me going! And I applied to Rochester, and I applied for the Bausch and Lomb scholarship. I was so confident that I didn’t apply any place else or for anything else. I don’t know what my back-up would have been if I didn’t get in, but I did.

I feel a real debt to Rochester.

Most people want to contribute to a success, I want to contribute to building something that makes it a success. Things I’ve liked to do are the hardest to raise money for. I don’t want to ever be involved in contributing to building a building and having my name on it. That seems to be something, one of the easier things to raise money for. But, repairing the boiler room is a difficult thing to raise money for. Or all the windows are leaking.

I’m very happy the see my funds used to make the place run better.

People are motivated just by the fact that they have to have a problem facing them. And the worst thing that can happen is they get the problem solved because then they have to go out and find a new cause.

I’ve seen Rochester steadily expand its activities and grow into a world-class institution. I feel that some of these projects that I’m doing may be helping to broaden and expand it, to have Rochester continue on this great move forward. I want to continue to support this growth, and solidify it and make it sound as possible.” –Jay Last ’51

Help Art and Science Thrive
If art and science have inspired you and made your life richer, please consider supporting them here at the University. For more information, contact Stephen A. Dare, senior associate vice president for University Advancement, at (585) 275-7530.

Watch this additional video in which Last talks about the intersection of art and science.

Jay Last is a member of the George Eastman Circle, the University’s leadership annual giving society, and a founding member of the Wilson Society, the University’s planned giving society.

—Kristine Thompson, October 2017