Dr. Luther Hilton Foster Jr. was born March 21, 1913, on the campus of St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, VA., where his father was an administrator. His parents were Luther Hilton Foster Sr. and Daisy Poole Foster. He earned his undergraduate degrees from Virginia State College in 1932 and from Hampton in 1934. He received a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University in 1936 and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago in 1941 and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1951.
Foster’s many accomplishments as the fourth president of Tuskegee included the organization of the College of Arts and Sciences, the elimination of several vocational programs, and the development of engineering programs. He served as president for 28 years (1953-1981).
Prior to being named president in 1953, Foster was a budget officer at Howard University for four years, then came to Tuskegee to serve as business manager in 1941. While in Tuskegee, Dr. Foster was an active member of St. Andrews Church, a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Sigma Pi Phi Boule, Phi Delta Kappa, Society for Values in Higher Education, and Tuskegee Airmen.
Dr. Foster retired from Tuskegee Institute in 1981. During his tenure at Tuskegee, Dr. Foster often shared wisdom such as this… “The Institute’s role in higher education increasingly must reflect great dynamism, professional leadership, innovative style, and a solid base in its rich traditions and deep concern for people. The successes of Tuskegee, often under trying circumstances, are rooted in the Institute’s commitment to human dignity. Our operational style seeks to elicit from others high expectations and committed service for the common good. Every Tuskegee task is the work of a team, fluid in its composition for the needs of the immediate challenge, and always undergirded by the strength that surges from the joint effort.”
He was elected to the Alabama Academy of Honors and served on the Board of Sears Roebuck, Norton Simon, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, March of Dimes, the American Association of Colleges, the Academy for Educational Development, the Joint Committee for Political and Economic Studies, the UNCF, and the Institute for Church Administration Management.
Recipient of the Star of Africa (Liberia) in 1958, Foster’s distinguished career was acknowledged with honorary degrees from Adams State (Colorado) College, The University of Liberia, Virginia State College, The University of Michigan, Colby College, the University of Alabama, Loyola University of Chicago and Northeastern University. He received the Alumni Award from Hampton University in 1954.
Foster died of a heart attack on Sunday, November 27, 1994, at the South Fulton County Medical Center, Atlanta, Georgia, while returning to his home in Alexandria, Virginia. He was 81 years old. He was survived by his wife of 53 years, Vera Chandler Foster; his mother, Daisy P., of Petersburg, Va.; a daughter Adrienne Foster Williams of Iselin, N.J.; a son, L. Hilton, of Washington; two sisters, Virginia Hendrick of Petersburg and Mary Allen Burleigh of Clarksburg, W. Va., and five grandchildren.
Friends and colleagues lauded Dr. Foster’s work ethic, his generosity, and “the power of his human spirit” by describing him as a “highly principled man . . . a man for his time.” In 2002, Foster was honored by Tuskegee President Benjamin F. Payton and the Board of Trustees for his foresight, wisdom, and service when it unanimously decided to dedicate and name a major academic facility on Tuskegee’s campus in Foster’s honor.
The Engineering Building, home to the engineering programs Foster launched during his tenure and the primary home of the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Physical Sciences was named “Luther H. Foster Hall” on October 19, 2002.