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Centennial bids bye to UApresents director

JACOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Ken Foster receives an award from the Mexican Consulate of Tucson for his work advocating diversity Friday at one of his going away parties. Foster leaves his position for a job in San Francisco.
By Julie Wetmore
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, September 29, 2003

The curtain fell for the last time on a successful career as staff and community members said goodbye to their director at Centennial Hall last Friday.

The event was one of many bittersweet farewells for Ken Foster, executive director of UApresents.

Ed Brown, director of operations for UApresents and future interim director joked while delivering a speech at the party. "By the time it's all said and done, Ken will have more than his share of farewells," he said.

Foster has worked at the UA for the past nine years, recruiting music, theatre and dance artists to perform on campus for the community and university students.

He also served on a search committee for the provost and on diversity committees.

He will be leaving shortly for the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, where he will have the opportunity to work in a larger, more diverse city.

Making the move to San Francisco will not only enable Foster to showcase performing arts, but visual arts, film and video, as well.

"It's a more diverse place to live with more contemporary art, which I really love," said Foster.

Foster referred to himself many times during the party as a "privileged white man," and when things got tough, he kept going. He never gave up or took things for granted.

He was quick to recognize the contributions of his staff.

"They are an amazing array of really exciting people," Foster said. "If there's anything I've accomplished it's because they did it."

Staff members had nothing but positive comments about Foster's personality, work and dedication to the program.

"Ken has been a joy. He has allowed us to look up, find up and be up. He has allowed a great deal of freedom and support to his staff and is leaving the community a wonderful legacy," said Amanda Place, the director of development.

"I'm saddened but also happy that he has a new challenge," said Bea Brown, the program director for education in the equal opportunity office. "He will be missed."

Ed Brown said goodbye to "my friend, my boss, and my mentor." He said, "I cherish the opportunity I've had to work with the best."

Back in 1995, before Foster, the program had an operating budget of $1.2 million (only 10 percent coming from the UA) and sold 50,000 tickets.

By 2001, the figures had jumped to $8.8 million with 170,000 patrons annually.

"This was completely due to Ken's vision of what could, should and would become," said Brown.

Foster's passion, energy and commitment created a mutual beneficial partnership between the community, university and younger students, he added.

Foster began the practice of giving out student discounts on ticket sales, and he tried to inspire students at the university to stress the importance of the arts.

"I will miss that level of interaction with students," said Foster.

Despite losing their leader, UApresents remains optimistic about the coming season.

"The line-up looks terrific this year," said Joel Aalberts, marketing specialist for UApresents, "There is something for everyone."

Though the next season of UApresents is already booked, the department is not hard-pressed to find a replacement for Foster, said Aalberts. A search committee will eventually be organized and the process of applications and interviews will begin.

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