Art Patrons Create New Exhibitions Endowment at Manetti Shrem Museum

Museum front
The Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

The art scene at the University of California, Davis, just got even better.

In their first major commitment to UC Davis, philanthropists Kellie and Jeff Hepper ’79 have pledged $1 million to create the Hepper Family Exhibition Fund, an endowed gift to support the core exhibition work of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art.

This is the largest gift made to the museum by an alumnus, and it will help create public exhibitions and exhibition-related programming for all to enjoy at the Manetti Shrem Museum.

“Kellie and Jeff Hepper embody the spirit of UC Davis: They are serious about playful creativity, and it shows in their wonderful contemporary art collection,” said Rachel Teagle, founding director of the Manetti Shrem Museum.

Couple standing in front of painting at museum.
Philanthropists Jeff Hepper ’79 and Kellie Hepper have pledged $1 million to create the Hepper Family Exhibition Fund at the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. They are standing in front of “Salads, Sandwiches and Desserts, 1962” by Wayne Thiebaud as they attend a past exhibition “Wayne Thiebaud: 1958-1968.” (Courtesy photo)

“They are dedicated to the student experience, and their gift empowers the museum to deliver joyful art experiences to our students for generations to come,” she added.

The Heppers, who split their time between Houston and Southern California, are avid art enthusiasts with an extensive collection that includes pieces by UC Davis Professor Emeritus Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol and Mary Heilmann. With art playing such an important role in their lives, they wanted it to have a similar impact for the community of Davis.

“Art can add so much dimension and joy to people’s lives,” said Kellie Hepper, who graduated from UCLA in 1979 with a degree in art history. “Going to museums and seeing artwork makes people happy, so I just hope our gift will help encourage people to come see the exhibits and for everyone to have a little part of art in their lives.”

Jeff Hepper graduated from UC Davis in 1979, and went on to have a distinguished 30-year career in the oil business. The couple began collecting contemporary art after his retirement in 2009, and it has become one of their favorite activities to do together, along with discovering new museums.

When asked about their favorite artist at the Manetti Shrem Museum, Kellie Hepper answered, “Wayne Thiebaud, definitely. In fact, his work is one of the main reasons why we became so passionate about the Manetti Shrem Museum. When I stepped inside the first Thiebaud exhibition there, the colors and images of food made it such a happy experience.”

Good news for all Thiebaud fans — the museum has launched a comprehensive website for its new exhibition, “Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation,” that can be explored by the public while the museum remains temporarily closed.

The Manetti Shrem Museum online and in person

  • On May 3, the Manetti Shrem launched the Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation digital companion website.
  • The site offers a closer look at the exhibition with:
    • Video interviews with artists
    • Essays by curators
    • Images and sketches by featured artists
  • The Manetti Shrem Museum reopens to the public on June 3 with timed tickets.
    • Diverse roster of four new exhibits running through Nov. 12
    • Reserve free timed tickets at
    • Limited gallery capacity in each designated time slot

Reignited connection

When the Heppers visited the Manetti Shrem Museum, they had not been to Davis for a long time. They fell in love with the museum during that first visit, and it played a large part in re-connecting them to campus.

“I’m very passionate about the Manetti Shrem Museum. I think it’s wonderful not only for the students but for the whole community of Davis and surrounding areas,” Kellie Hepper added. In 2018, she became a member of the Manetti Shrem Advisory Board.

In recent years, the couple has built close ties to UC Davis by visiting campus and hosting regional UC Davis alumni events at their home in Houston. Jeff Hepper is also a member of the Regional Campaign Committee for Houston.

Their gift is also a significant contribution to the university’s $2 billion comprehensive fundraising campaign, “Expect Greater: From UC Davis, for the world.”

“We are extremely grateful to our donors for their commitment to supporting UC Davis,” said Shaun Keister, vice chancellor of Development and Alumni Relations. “In the five years since it opened, the Manetti Shrem Museum has secured its place in the heart of our campus community. Jeff and Kellie’s gift will help us continue to expand its reach and establish our museum as a primary art destination in California.”

Media Resources

Media Contacts:

  • Laura Compton, Manetti Shrem Museum of Art, 530-304-9517,
  • Karen Nikos Rose, News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,

Primary Category