By Andrew Devine President
When I went to meet President Kate Foster one morning in April, I thought it would be the start of her day. To the contrary, when I entered her office at 8:30 a.m., she was already in the middle of an important phone.
President Foster later explained that she doesn’t have a “typical” day at UMF. Many of her days days are busy from start to finish, that no two days are the same.
However, one day that stood out for President Foster was March 27, when she announced her upcoming departure from UMF.
Foster joined the UMF administration in 2012, as she said, on a risk. “You never could have expected, from my background, that I would be a college president,” stated Foster. “Farmington gave me an opportunity that was so profoundly moving and meaningful for me in my career, in what I care about, in pressuring the mission of higher public education, that I will always feel a debt of gratitude that I never think you could have for another place.”
In her time in Farmington, Foster has become an integral part of the community, from everyday student activities to major achievements towards advancing the institution. “Being present and being visible is a big part of being the president,” Foster explained in describing her responsibilities over the years. That, as well as being at the front of the mission of the university.
“You realize the promise of an institution. That’s the role.” Further explaining the complexity of her position, Foster continued, “How that manifests, how you play that out, the specific elements of that, that’s what varies every day.”
President Foster acknowledged that her role made her a “cheerleader-from-the- side” towards the university, and how she is widely known to be the most enthusiastic Beaver fan at any UMF sporting event.
None of this came without challenge. President Foster recognized the burden that available resources has on higher education. Funds, time and people are all essential yet scarce in bettering the institution.
This obstacle has been formative on the job for President Foster. “Knowing the essence of who you are, a self-reflection, that I think is really important, that helps you to know which challenges to go after, and which are the ones that are not your make.”
With all this reminiscing, reflection, and nostalgia for her time spent in Western Maine, President Foster had a few remaining remarks on her place in the community and what her successor should expect.
Foster started by noting, “For the person who’s coming to sit in this chair, there is an expectation.” Foster lists the indisputable responsibilities of the head of the administration. Most importantly, the last qualification she lists is that “there is an expectation that the president is someone who cares about the people here.”
There will be things President Foster misses about UMF, from Merrill’s views, to Downtown Farmington, to walking to the office. Undoubtedly, President Foster understands the impact that the UMF community has had in her time here.
In her announcement to the public that she would be departing from UMF following this school year, President Foster noted the support, warmth, and comradery felt by the people of UMF, and credited that to her enjoyment and success as president.
In concluding the interview, both of us with a warm feeling in our chests and fighting a happy tear, President Foster expressed her gratefulness for the UMF community, “I hope the support came from knowing how much I love this place, and maybe that I was all of those things that I described about this place. That the match was good, and there was a fit here that was real.”