The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

BOV's Betty Foster Passes Away at 62

3 min read
Courtesy of Marty Morrison
Courtesy of Marty Morrison


University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors member and UMW alumna, Elizabeth “Betty” Ferguson Foster passed away from complications with rectal cancer on December 12, 2009.
Foster, who died at her home in Free Union, Va., was 62-years-old.

Governor Mark Warner appointed Foster to her position on the Board of Visitors in 2005. Governor Kaine re-appointed her for a second term last July, when it appeared her cancer was in remission.

Foster’s time on the Board of Visitors spanned four presidents. Nanalou Sauder, rector of the Board of Visitors, said that Foster “showed quiet leadership and steadiness especially after the unfortunate departure of Dr. Frawley.”

Foster’s tenure on the 12-member board was dominated by the search for a new president.

“Betty Foster was very much a part of Mary Washington getting over Frawley,” Sauder said.

A graduate of the UMW Class of 1969, Foster had specific interest in the student body. She served as chair of the Student Affairs Committee and was deeply involved with the Centennial Campaign.
Mary Rigsby, professor of English and the Board of Visitors faculty representative described Foster as, “a very caring member who always put the students first.”

The Board of Visitors and the Foster family have set up the Elizabeth Ferguson Foster ’69 Memorial Scholarship in her memory. Once endowed, this scholarship will be available to students who need financial assistance and display good academics.

Foster received her Bachelor of Science degree from UMW. She went on to work for IBM and was active in the Richmond community where she lived. Foster was a member of the Maymont Foundation Board as well as the Medical College of Virginia Auxiliary. She is survived by her husband Charles Foster and two daughters.

McDonnell Names Replacement

Last Thursday, Governor Bob McDonnell named Mary Jones Berry as Foster’s replacement.

Mary Jones Berry, soon to fill Foster’s seat on the Board of Visitors, served on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors from 1984 to 1988. Berry “will be able to bring expertise to our board,” said Mary Corbin, clerk of the Board of Visitors.

Berry, a professional engineer, paved the way for women in her field. She was the first woman registered as a professional engineer by the Commonwealth of Virginia. She also was the first woman ever selected to the State Board of Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Land Architects.

In 2002, Berry received the distinguished Engineer of the Year award from the District of Columbia Council of Engineering and Architectural Societies.

“You have to have thick skin…It’s ok to cuss, but you can never cry,” Berry said to the young women of UMW soon to enter the workforce.

Once at UMW, Berry hopes to encourage careers in science and improve relations between UMW and Richmond to develop budget prospects. “I want to do what I can to help,” Berry said.

Berry hopes to continue the involvement with the student body that was Foster’s top priority.

Of interacting with Foster, Mary Corbin said, “You could not know Betty without feeling she was your friend.”