Facebook Skip to main content

About Michael G. Foster

Gift Transforms the UW Business School

mgfoster_headshotThe Foster Foundation in Seattle brought their total contributions to the University of Washington Business School to $50 million with a new gift of $36.5 million in 2007. To honor this gift and the life of the Foster Foundation’s co-founder Michael G. Foster, the University of Washington’s Board of Regents renamed the UW Business School the Michael G. Foster School of Business on Sept. 20, 2007.

Story of Michael G. Foster
The Foster legacy began with Albert O. Foster, a 1928 graduate of the UW Business School, who founded the investment firm of Foster & Marshall — Seattle’s first locally-owned brokerage to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. He and his wife Evelyn, also a UW graduate, were also leading figures in the cultural life of the city, giving generously of their time and resources to the Seattle Opera and Seattle Art Museum. A.O. Foster passed away in 1986; his wife Evelyn in 2002.

Michael G. Foster, born in 1937, graduated from Roosevelt High School and attended the University of Washington before starting his business career with Dominick & Dominick, a bond firm in New York. Eventually he returned to Seattle and joined Foster & Marshall, becoming president in 1971. At the time, the company was a traditional stocks and bonds sales house. Shortly after assuming leadership, Foster had a near-fatal auto accident during a fishing trip to Alaska. The lengthy process of recuperation, which included five operations and months spent in a body cast, gave him plenty of time to reflect on the future of the firm.

In later life, Foster would tell a local reporter this forced confinement was a “real plus,” allowing him to map out a new, aggressive strategy for the company by greatly expanding the range of its financial products and services. His vision was to make Foster & Marshall the biggest and best investment firm in the Northwest. And he would do just that.

Michael G. Foster’s Leadership Style and Ethic

Under Michael Foster’s leadership, the firm’s gross revenues would grow tenfold over the next decade as operations expanded to more than 50 offices in five states. Foster surrounded himself with good people and was a true believer in the strength of a team approach to management, while never losing sight of the need for a chief executive to set a clear direction and to lead by example in terms of setting impeccable standards for ethical conduct. While known for his brilliance with numbers and his remarkable market timing and strategy, Michael Foster was also known as a man who never sought the spotlight for himself, who was kind and compassionate, and who gave generously of himself to family, friends, and the community.

Philanthropy and The Foster Foundation

After selling Foster & Marshall to Shearson/American Express in 1982, Michael and his father and mother would establish The Foster Foundation in 1984 — which gives to a wide array of causes, such as education, the arts, health and human services.  Michael Foster would go on to found another successful firm, Foster, Paulsell & Baker, but much of his energy for the remainder of his life would be focused on the philanthropic work of the foundation. One of the first major gifts of The Foster Foundation was $3 million in 1990 to help build a new business library for the UW Business School that would carry the name of Albert O. and Evelyn W. Foster.