This issue: Summer 2019

Jim Foster: 39 years

Dean, College of Behavioral & Health Sciences, Emeritus 1980-2019

In the 39 years Jim Foster worked at George Fox, he served in almost every administrative role in academics, from department chair to interim provost. He was dean, at one time or another, over every faculty area at the university.

What kept him at George Fox for nearly four decades, however, had little to do with administrative power and everything to do with students. At his core, Foster is a teacher, and it’s the classroom experience he’ll miss most as he calls it a career this summer.

“I love teaching, and on the few occasions when I did not teach in a semester I felt like I was disconnected from what the university is all about,” he says. “I think I am a teacher at heart and could never quite leave it behind.”

As much as he enjoyed his tenure, however, he knew this was the time to step aside. “When you find yourself teaching the children of the first students you taught it is affirming, since their parents wanted their children to have the same experience, but it is also a reminder about how much time has passed. Time to retire.”

Known for his quick wit and humor, Foster often used both to keep his students engaged in the material – or, in one instance, to keep them from failing. Such was the case when one particular student was in jeopardy of flunking because he didn’t meet the class’s participation requirement.

“One year I instituted a policy that if students missed a certain number of classes they would not pass the class,” he recalls. “I had one student who kept missing class, and finally toward the end of the semester he missed again, dropping below the minimum number of attendance days. So, I took the whole class to his dorm and got him out of bed.”

The literal wake-up call was just one instance in which Foster endeared himself to his students. He also took the time to get to know them outside the classroom, as he did on a number of Juniors Abroad trips. “On one trip with Jim I recall hearing a lot of laughter coming from the first floor,” President Robin Baker recalls. “I went down and found Jim playing a card game with the students called ‘President.’ It was clear students had embraced him as both a leader and part of the group.”

Foster says his favorite class to teach was Human Development because, unlike some subjects, “it relates to everyone in the class” and “is all about them, from the beginning of their lives to wherever they are in development.”

As for what he’s most looking forward to in retirement, Foster is quick to answer: “Flexibility. Monday mornings. Traveling with my wife during the off-season – something we could not do with an academic schedule. And I plan to continue to write novels.”

After all, Foster’s “George Fox Book” – 39 years in the making – has already been written.

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