Most current Bowdoin students had not yet been born when Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster came to Bowdoin in the fall of 1996.
Today from 4:30 to 8 p.m. in Thorne Hall, students, faculty, staff and guests will celebrate the myriad contributions that Foster has made to the Bowdoin community during his 23 years at the College. Foster will retire at the end of the academic year.
“[Foster] has helped shape the experience of a huge number of Bowdoin students over a really long period of time and helped launch them into really interesting lives after Bowdoin,” said President Clayton Rose. “There are very few people who work here [who will leave] the kind of legacy that Tim has left.”
Dean of Students Janet Lohmann, who will replace Foster as dean of student affairs, said that Foster’s record at the College displays a steadfast commitment to diversity and inclusion. During his time as dean of student affairs, Foster oversaw the establishment of the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good and of the College House System, and he hired a director of multicultural life, a dean for diversity and inclusion and a director of religious and spiritual life.
He has done it all, Lohmann said, by bringing a remarkable commitment to the job.
“This is a man who makes himself available at all hours on all days to ensure the health, wellness and safety of our students,” she said. “He lives close to campus. He’s committed to being here in every way, shape and form.”
When asked about Foster’s biggest accomplishments during his time at Bowdoin, Denise Shannon, executive assistant to the dean of student affairs, joked that she knew how Foster himself would respond.
“I know what he would say, which is hiring good people,” Shannon said. “He and I have worked on many searches for managers and people within the department, and it’s very, very important to get good people. That can be defined many ways, obviously, but definitely a hallmark of his is hiring good people.”
Shannon, who is involved in planning Foster’s retirement party, was struck by the strength and breadth of connections he has formed.
“He really has made a difference in so many people’s lives, and they follow up with him … It’s exciting to see people come back down the road and be like, ‘Thank you for giving me this opportunity to make changes in my life that at the time I wouldn’t have made,’ and that happens quite a bit,” Shannon said. “It’s amazing. He has such connections … He is a counsel, mentor and friend to many, many people.”
Lohmann echoed this sentiment, commenting on Foster’s relational-oriented approach to his work.
“He knows he needs to lead the division, but he is also an incredible partner in trying to think through what it is we as a division want to do,” Lohmann said. “It’s important for him that across all the ways in which he engages at the College, relationships are core to who he is and what he does.”
Lohmann thought these relationships were a key part of the impact Foster has made during his time at the College.
“He is thoughtful, and I think that’s his legacy—the power of the relationships that he’s created through his kindness,” she said.
In recent years, Foster has prioritized improvements to on-campus housing for upperclass students.
“He has really been pushing and been on the building committees and spending a lot of time and energy [on them] because he feels very strongly about students having quality, safe housing that’s on campus—he feels really strongly about the residential model,” Shannon said. “That’s obviously something that’s really important, that’s where you spend a big part of your time—you need to have a good place to go home to. That’s your home while you’re here.”
Donald Borkowski, director of capital projects, has worked with Foster on the Campus Planning and Design Committee and on Residential Life housing projects. In an email to the Orient, he wrote that Foster advocated on behalf of students to make sure their residential needs were met, and that he played an important role in taking action on conversations about the need for new upperclass housing.
“[Foster] was great at getting everyone engaged and involved in the process and decision making,” Borkowski wrote. “He made sure everyone’s voice was heard.”